When Your Childs Adoption Story Changes: Nothing But the Facts or is It Nothing are the Facts?
Elana, born in Russia, was told "We really don't know why your birth family couldn't care for you.""
Katie, adopted from China, cherishes an item from a birth parent: a red note that was enclosed with her blanket.
Peter grew up celebrating his birthday on July 7th He believed that the reason for his adoption was due to poverty in Guatemala. .
There is nothing new about finding "new" adoption information-the kind that turns your life upside down and changes basic life facts. Professionally and personally, as adoptee, adoptive mother, social worker I've learned a single truth: everything changes in adoption.
Sometimes the changes are in a child's levels of understanding which evolves with age. For example, the day a child realizes that prior to being adopted he or she lived somewhere else (or many places) and with birth family and caretakers.
But sometimes new information emerges. The new information may be personal and specific for your child. Other times the information affects all the children adopted from an entire country.
Adopting internationally used to mean that children and their adoptive parents would rarely have any birth parent information at the time of adoption and no chance for any information or contact in the future. Birth parents were blank spaces on a form and lived thousands of miles away.
Not the case today when instead families are involved with one or more of the following:
? Internet list-serves where personal information is shared about particular cities, orphanages and social conditions
? DNA testing to determine if children have biological relatives within the adoption community living in other cities, states or countries
? Private detectives who can be hired by adult adoptees or adoptive families and gather information about birth families, foster families and/or orphanages where children lived.
? Independent translations of adoption-related documents that reveal information not disclosed or known by adoption agencies or facilitators
? Search and reunions (e.g., adult Korean adoptees-now opening up to many other countries---see resource list)
? Homeland tours
Any one of these trends has the ability to unearth or change information which can completely alter a child's life story. Suddenly the parents' previously stated "We don't know why" or "We don't have any information" is no longer true.
Thanks largely to the Internet, adoptive families can choose to seek out specific facts and information which may answer questions for their child. (The debate is fast and furious as to whether or not this is a good idea or whether or not information should be sought out only at the request and lead of an adoptee or whether it is the parent(s) role to seek out information.
Corinne Rayburn, LCSW, LMFT, a therapist who has worked with hundreds of adoptive families, always tells parents, "Our search is for [the] truth, as best as we can ascertain.""
So what happens when you discover the reason for your child's adoption is because the birth mother drank too much? Or that a note believed to be from a birth parent actually contains the warm wishes of an orphanage director who fabricated the same note for all children living in a particular orphanage? What do you do when learning your daughter's birthday is actually six months before the one she was given or that your son still has 3 siblings living with the birth parents in Guatemala? Life just got more complicated.
If your child is still little, then you are the one to make the emotional adjustment. But how do you handle new information when your child is eight or nine? What about conflicting information? Suddenly everything that you (and your child) believed to be true-is either only partially true or completely false. What can your child believe or trust about his story now?
Here are some suggestions for handling situations about new or changing information:
? First of all, as the grownup, it's your job to come to terms with whatever you learn. Deal with your emotions. Even as you read this article, plan on having a crisis occur at some point in your child's life. Plan for it by expecting your child to seek information and also to question the accuracy of it all-especially if some of it has turned out to be incorrect.
? Predict and prepare accordingly. How might my child handle this? Is this potentially traumatic information? Will these 'life facts' have traumatic impact on my child? Follow your gut instincts and remember that you are the expert on your child.
? Separate your feelings from your child's. Remember that your child has his/her own feelings and reactions. We parents should sort through ours so that we don't project them onto our children. For example, our children might have anger about something that saddens us and we have to be ready to react to their feelings. Or, they might be much less impacted than we anticipate.
We need to honor and validate their feelings and having sorted through our own first will make this much easier.
? Do your homework. Find out if the information you do have is absolutely accurate. What is the proof? If there is a possible nuance due to translation? If so, proceed cautiously and conservatively.
Discuss the impact of translation and explain why new or changed information has emerged. Possible phrases to use are
"According to the papers" or
"Sometimes the words in one language don't mean the same in another language?."
Expect all involved to go through a grieving process when new information emerges or previous information proves to be untrue. Your child has just 'lost' a chunk of their life foundation and a belief and a piece of identity they have had. It is an emotional jolt. Expect regression. Give your child as much control as possible and remember: the following
? Have faith that time heals. At some point this new information will get smoothly integrated into your child's psyche and story. It's a lifelong process.
? Not healing soon enough? Maybe it's time to connect with a competent adoption/trauma child therapist. Even if you just need a short-term piece of work.
? Add a new page to the lifebook to reflect the truth and honor it as the source where all known information will be shared (at age-appropriate times). Acknowledge the change of information. Here are a few examples:
"We thought you were born on June 22nd 2001. Now the doctor tests show that you are six months older. Wow. That's a big change. So we talked and talked about what to do. You decided you wanted to keep the same birthday."
"Sometimes people say or do things to make someone else feel better. Even with adoption information. Your Orphanage Director gave us a note that was supposed to be from your Chinese Mother. But now we know that the Director gave every U.S. family the same note. That's too bad. I wish your note had really been from your birthmother."
With regards to tough issues such as alcoholism, parental drug abuse, mental health issues, criminal activities or incarceration know that these issues are nothing new to many of the folks adopting children via the US foster care system.
There are established ways based on your child's age and development to discuss a complicated birth and early life history. For several detailed example of ways to phrase and reframe difficult issues refer to my book Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child (pages 46-59). Jayne Schooler and Betsy Keefer also have an excellent book called Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child. Her book contains many reframes offered for different developmental stages.
As you continue on this journey, consider the following:
? Allow children to experience their emotions. Normalize what they are feeling. Sometimes you have to sit back and watch without trying to fix or minimize their feelings.
? Remember that children are resilient and will get through whatever they are experiencing.
? Denial can be a wonderful thing. We all have our own schedule of healing and processing.
? Congratulate yourself for having the courage to help your children find their truth!
By Beth O'Malley, M.Ed. Copyright ©2005 by Beth O'Malley Additional Resources
Karen's Adoption Links
Birth Parent Contact list:
International Birth Search Issues list:
Sister Far list:
International Adoption Search Website
Ms. O'Malley is an adoptee, adoptive mom, adoption social worker, and the author of Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child. Sign up for free lifebook lessons and a monthly newsletter at http://www.adoptionlifebooks.com/signup.htm
Visit her website at http://www.adoptionlifebooks.com
Some Thoughts on Counseling Goals for ADHD
What should the goals for counseling be when the patient has Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder? Every therapist will have their own opinions, but I'll give you some of my thoughts. First, it is important to teach the child or teen with ADHD how to recognize problems and how to solve problems.
How to Create an Emotional Bond with Your Child
One of the most powerful tools that parents have for raising their children is the natural emotional bond that exists between them and their child. Children who feel close to their parents will have a strong desire to obey them.
Intro to Medications for ADD ADHD
The most common medications used in the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder are stimulant medications. Anti-depressant medications, and even anti-convulsant medications, are sometimes used as well, though this is less common.
Reading Activities Parents Can Use For Their Children
Using 14 "at" Flashcards To Teach Reading:This exercise helps your child increase the speed with which she reads the words she has a grip on so far. Write each of the words flat, chat, brat, spat, splat, and drat on a separate index card.
Discipline on My Mind
I look out of the window as I am writing this. It is home time and mums are collecting their children from the local primary school.
There's a phrase that's become popular over the past few years that fills me with wonder. That phrase is "quality time.
Watch Your Language! - How Parents Can Help Kids Help Themselves
'I felt great until I walked into the classroom - then it all went wrong!'No, this wasn't a teacher talking! It was a high school student on the day of an important exam.She needed a good grade in a particular subject to qualify for a place at college, so she had worked hard and psyched herself up for success.
Children are People, Not Machines
When growing up, my father frequently reminded me to "pay attention to the details." That saying became very real to me in the area of parenting.
Are Parents Trying Too Hard?
One of the implications of the current trend toward smaller families is that we now have a generation of parents who are willing to go to enormous lengths to give their children a good start in life.In the rush to ensure that children have a maximum amount of experiences many parents ferry children from one lesson to another after school and on weekends.
When Parents Disagree
Moms and dads, are there times you think that parenting would be easier if you didn't have to make family decisions? Having a partner that is not in agreement with your parenting ideas or discipline approaches is more than just frustrating. It can be a cause of division in even the best of relationships.
Using Diet, Counseling, and Attend to Overcome ADHD
When it comes to the treatment of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder or with problems of Attention, Impulse Control, Over-Activity, or Learning Problems in "the real world," there are a number of approaches to treatment that may work well. The information in this series has either been gleaned from research on Attention Deficit Disorder - which I'll refer to as ADD or ADD, or it is from my own experience in a clinical setting.
Potty Training Battle of the Wills
Some children practically potty train themselves, while others struggle and resist against the potty. Potty training should never turn into the battle of the wills.
Why Modern Moms Are Going Back to the Basics - The Evolution of the Cloth Diaper
Having a baby is one of the most exciting times of your life. It is also one of the most stressful.
Children, Entitlement and God
"Setting the alarm on Sunday mornings is inhuman?..
Winning The Whining War
Jason Meridith's two-year old son whines when he wants more juice. Brenda Kreuger's eight-year old daughter whines about having to take piano lessons.
Raising Strong Daughters
When my daughter was born, I must admit there was a distinctly different feeling to it. Part of me was thrilled, but part of me was unsure of how to deal with a gender I still couldn't quite understand.
Teach Your Child About Money
What are we teaching our children about money? Hopefully something!I remember when I was growing up, our family did not discuss money. Money was a taboo subject, discussed by the parents and handled by the father.
Patterns For Plus Size Children
Plus size children and overweight children need patterns and clothing that fit THEIR "larger than average" measurements. Sadly, neither ready made clothing nor commercial patterns address the real issue of children's measurements.
Public Schools Can Cripple Your Childrens Ability To Read
For many adults, reading a book or newspaper seems effortless. Yet reading effortlessly comes from constant use of basic skills learned at an early age.
How to Get Your Children Brand Free
Those of you that have children know what an excursion to the local mall or supermarket can be like. If you're not careful, this simple trip can easily become a wallet draining experience.
|home | site map|