“Other than helping you find your birth family sooner, is there anything you believe your adoptive mom could have done to decrease the amount of anger and resentment you felt towards her?”
This is a very valuable question I was asked by an adoptive mom who wants to know more so she can have some input on her adoptive children. I COMMEND her for asking!
*She would have let me blossom into my own person and not try to mold me and shape me to be like her. I was nothing like her. We had no similarities and I didn’t like the same things she did, but she didn’t give me options other than the things she wanted me to do. An example is ballet. Ballet is beautiful, but I hated it. I never wanted to take it. One example of many.
*She always made me feel guilty about even asking about my first mother. I never even spoke of my biological father or the fact that I may have siblings. If she made me feel bad about wanting to know more about my first mother, of course she would do the same about the rest. This made me feel extremely alone. It hurt me deeply that I couldn’t speak freely about my feelings. This has created lifelong pain for me.
*Talking about my first family shouldn’t be a secret. They are a part of me, why the “hush hush” attitude? How do you think it makes a child feel when you hide a part of them? It’s no wonder I had low self-esteem my whole life. She never spoke about them, unless I brought it up. Then I was made to feel guilty.
*I wasn’t allowed to express love for my first family. This hurt me deeply.
*She told me I was a gift. I understand in the Christian world, everyone refers to babies as “Gifts from God”. That’s all find and dandy but adoptees can find this very offensive as if we are something of monetary value. Yes, I believe babies are a gift from God, but please avoid saying this to your adoptive child. It can cause more harm than good.
*Counselors were sought my entire life, beginning at age 6. I found out I was adopted at age 5. The original trauma of being separated from my biological mother never was mentioned? It was the root of my issues but growing up being made to feel guilty and that I should just be grateful for someone wanting me when my own mother didn’t I was never able to feel comfortable to voice my true feelings. Don’t ignore this very critical fact that could have a major impact on your child’s behavior. Being separated from your biological mother at the beginning of life is the biggest trauma your child will ever face. Read Nancy Newton Verriers book, “The Primal Wound”.
*Please don’t ignore your child when they speak of their first family. This is their way of opening up. NEVER make it about YOU and YOUR feelings. It’s not about you. It’s about them and they need to feel comfortable without being shamed for the curiousity of their first family and their feelings need validated. This is CRITICAL to the healing process.
*Adoptees need to heal from the trauma they have gone through. So do kids in foster care. You can’t erase their history. Please don’t try. Not discussing all the details about their first family is erasing their history. Please bring it up, and make it an open topic of conversations. This is one of the biggest hurts of my life is having to keep my feelings a secret. Adoptive parents say, “Sally never talks about her biological family, and she says she loves being adopted.” More than likely Sally is not a teenager yet, and hasen’t fully grasped what adoption means. Children are going to be slower at identifying true feelings, and learning that they can talk about their first family. As the adult and adoptive parent you should start these conversations. I WISH MY ADOPTIVE MOTHER SAID, “It’s okay to love your first family and have a sad heart you aren’t with them!”.
*Never speak for the first family. A better life is just a different life. A child can’t comprehend how you “LOVE” something and you “Give it away”. This is very confusing to a child. I never could comprehend this and I am just figuring out today the truth. What I wish my adoptive mom said is, “Your first mother wasn’t able to take care of you so she placed you up for adoption to a family that could take care of you.” None of the nonsense about a “Better Life” or “She loved you so much.” No one truly knows how she felt. So stop trying to answer questions for her. It only makes it worse!
*If she was a $2 crack whore or a satanic cult leader it doesn’t matter, SHE IS STILL OUR MOTHER! Please do not make the child feel bad about the way their first families were. We are ALL HUMAN. WE ALL FALL SHORT. Abusing a child is never okay, and of course there are many cases where the best interest of the child is to be taken to a safe place. No matter how horrible the biological family is, any time a child is taken from it’s mother a trauma occours. But if you make the child feel guilty about wanting to know their first family they will feel bad about themselves. I feel that honesty at age appropriate times is critical. “Your first mother was very sick and not able to care for you so she reached out to someone who could, that’s why we adopted you.” OR if she didn’t reach out to someone that could, and the child was taken then leave that part out. “You were in an unsafe environment and you were moved to a safe place.” That is a perfect statement vs. sharing she was a satanic cult leader or a crack whore. If the child was abused, then you could share the child was abused but details about the abuse can be shared if the child grows into an adult and asks the details on his or her own. I don’t’ feel secrets should be kept but I do feel a******This is being honest but protecting the child at the same time. Think of wanting to protect the child, you wouldn’t want them to know all your deepest darkest mistakes would you? When they are old enough and start asking details then share what you know but when they are at young tender ages they don’t need to know the negative things about their first families. I got to a point where I fought everyone to find out the TRUTH. But if I ever had my adoptive parents sit down and explain to me all they knew at an appropriate age, then I would have known much sooner. But please know I didn’t love my birth mother any less no matter what kind of person she was. I NEEDED TO MEET HER AND SEE FOR MYSELF! I put in my testimony, “They say the grass isn’t always greener on the other side, and I agree. But I needed to see for myself!”.
*When you adopt a child please know you adopt the first family as well. If you go into adopting thinking your child has a blank slate, you are very mistaken. ALL CHILDREN HAVE A HISTORY. Our history is a part of us and will always be. Please acknowledge this.
*Always acknowledge your child’s feelings. Good and bad they deserve validation.
*Don’t expect to lie to me and for me to be happy with that. My adoptive mother lied to me my entire life. “When we get enough money for an attorney to get the sealed records opened we will try to search for your birth family, but right now we don’t have enough money.” I always hung onto that hope, and all of a sudden one day “POOF” she knows my birth mothers name. I was angry at her for along time for this. Yes, she didn’t have to tell me at all but she would have to live with that. It is wrong to hold someones history from them!
*Any time a child is severed from their biological roots this can cause major identity issues. Please be prepared to connect all the dots for your child, and to assist them in whatever way possible so they can put all the pieces to their puzzle together. If you have to get on board with adoptee rights do it. It will mean so much to your child!!! They deserve to know ALL the answers to their history.
*Remember your history is not their history. No matter how bad you want it to be, it’s not and it’s not the same. They have a different family tree. Their ancestors come from a different place. This needs to be acknowledged. Never ignored. It should never be a secret. If they see this is important to the adoptive family they will see its okay to talk about it. You can never erase someone’s history. [HIS] Story- [HER] Story. Just because you adopt a baby this doesn’t mean their history is erased. Every child no matter what the age has a history. It is WRONG to try to erase it.
*Open adoption has a set of issues of it’s own. I don’t write much about it because I haven’t experienced it. I believe you truly have to experience something to be able to know how it feels. Maybe that’s why I have so much to say about how it feels to be adopted? But what I have heard others bring up is that children in an open adoption can have many issues related to wondering why their first family is in their life, but they can’t take care of them? This causes a whole set of abandonment & rejection issues of their own aside from the original trauma of abandonment. I feel open adoption takes the “wondering” issue away but the original trauma of being abandoned by your own mother is still there. This is the root issue of dysfunction and can cause a lot of grief and loss issues unless it is handled in an appropriate way. Again, read Nancy Newton Verrier, “The Primal Wound”.
*Denying the truth and all the issues that can come with adoption and pretending that just because the child isn’t speaking about their issues, doesn’t mean they are not there. I always felt a total divided sense of loyalty to both families. This was heart breaking, and I was never able to express these true feelings until I got older. Just because your adoptive child says they love being adopted and they appear to feel great about their experience doesn’t mean they don’t have some deep seeded issues there. Remember, any time a mother and a child is separated a trauma occurs- No matter WHY they were separated. Younger children are not able to fully grasp what adoption means, this doesn’t mean they don’t wonder, or have emotional issues related to being adopted.
*Help your child create a keep sake box or chest with information about their first family. Every detail you can think or and any information you have been given. This will mean so much to them when they are older. Letters, pictures, cards, keep sakes, documentation of their birth, medical history, Original Birth Certificate, anything you can get your hands on about their history. I know of an adoptive mother who kept a baby blanket and some letters her adoptive childs first mother gave her to give to her child. The child found out about this later when she met her first mother, and nothing was ever given to her. This sent her in immediate rage and anger and she was left very upset. If the biological family sends things for this child, open adoption or not, do not take it and never give it to the person it belongs to. This is wrong!
*Never EVER lie to your child. We spend our whole lives with our parents telling us “Lying is never okay!” Guess what.. In adoption its not okay either!
*Realized Birthdays may be very difficult. “Birth” day. Imagine the trauma that happened that day? Some adoptees have a very difficult time celebrating. Others may not. I experience an inconsolable grief on that day. It’s very difficult to handle and I am forced to smile and put on a happy face for those around me. It’s grueling. It’s a day I despise.
*I wish my adoptive mom would have gotten some extensive therapy before adopting me. She was unable to have children of her own, and instead of grieve her loss, she adopted. This caused me great pain growing up because she has some severe deep rooted emotional issues due to her loss from not being able to have her own children, and I had to pay for that. Her root issues of infertility were they cause of much of her dysfunctional behaviors and addictions. Her feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness interfered with her parenting causing me to feel even more abandoned and rejected than I already did.
*I believe all adoptive parents should read The Primal Wound, Nancy Newton Verrier. I can’t share this enough!
*It would mean the world to adoptees if their adoptive parents jumped on the bandwagon and helped them get access to their Original Birth Certificates. This would have meant everything to me, but I have never received one bit of support from my adoptive parents and this has caused a great division between us. I can’t talk to them about my first family who is part of me. This causes more pain and I will never understand how you can adopt a child and expect them to forget their first family. This is so not right.
*Always realize that adoption is not a natural situation. What is natural is a child being raised by their very own flesh and blood and biological family. Our reactions to an unnatural situation are very normal for a not normal situation. Never make your adoptive child feel guilty for wanting to know more about where they come from. For wanting to know all the details about their first mother who carried them for 9 months, for wanting to know their siblings and who their father is. If you make them feel guilty in any way they will shut down. They will repress everything and it will come out in other ways. Anger, rage, low self-esteem, their relationships, how they parent their children, etc. Please let them share openly and freely about their first family and any questions they may have.
*Don’t be surprised when your adoptive child feels robbed of so much. I feel that because people and an industry CHOSE what they wanted for my life, I have lost more than they could ever comprehend. Relationships robbed, and so many family memories, and holidays never to be replaced. This is a loss, and it deserves acknowledgement. It’s a REAL LOSS so please don’t ignore that it’s there.
*Reunion should be between the adoptee and the biological families. They should be able to reunite without their adoptive families smothering them. They will have so much missed and time to make up for. Give them their space, and trust that everything will be okay.
*Money doesn’t take away the fact we lost so much. I would have rather been dirt poor with my biological family then be with strangers that denied me the right to love my first family or acknowledge their existence.
*I feel adoptive parents need to get therapy for any insecurity they may have about their adoptive child meeting their first families. Your issues are not our issues. Please get help. Reality is , if you have done an outstanding job raising your adoptive child, you will have nothing to worry about.
Love is not all we need. We need the answers to our history. ALL OF IT. You have the choice to join that fight or we will do it alone. I say “Fight” because so many people are still against adoptees discovering the truth to their history, and states are still closed records.
Visit The Adoptee Right’s Coalition and help figure out how you can help get on board.
Keep reading adoptee blogs. If you are an adoptive parent or potential adoptive parent and you have made it this far I commend you!
I am sure I can think of more, but these are the things that come to my mind based on my experience. I hope and pray that adoptive parents or potential adoptive parents somewhere out there can read this and open their hearts and understand a little better.
Are you adopted? What can you add?