What I Wish My Adoptive Parents Had Done Differently
Ask Me Anything Column: Dishing out AdopTEA RealiTEA one article at a time via The Real Adoptea Moxie
ASK ME ANYTHING:
What I Wish My Adoptive Parents Had Done Differently
"I have an adopted daughter who is eleven, and she's struggling with being adopted. She has known she was adopted since she was six years old. I want to help her the best I can, and it hurts me to see her in despair. So I am seeking input from adult adoptees to understand the adoptee experience better.
So, what do you wish your adoptive parents had done differently? What should I do to bring her up as happy and healthy as possible? Thank you for any advice you can offer." - Melanie | Adoptive Mom
I appreciate you reaching out to seek advice on how to help your daughter best. While I am no therapist, I have suggestions for you to serve your daughter better based on my experiences as an adoptee.
COME TO TERMS WITH WHY YOU ADOPTED IF ANY ISSUES ARE BELOW THE SURFACE
I am unsure of your reason for adopting, but adopting should always be about the child's best interest, not filling a void in an adult's life, no matter the reason. Examine your motives for adoption, and if you have unresolved issues related to infertility or not being able to conceive a biological child, I suggest you get to the root of those issues and work on them right away. I have learned about countless adoptees (myself included) who have had to navigate filling a void for a biological child, which are shoes we can't possibly fill. If you do deal with this dynamic, I think it's essential that you get to the root of those issues before you can assist your daughter in her healing journey. It would help if you had your own therapist because any expectations you might have placed on your adopted child to replace a missing biological child need to be removed and resolved immediately. In return, this will help your relationship with your daughter, short-term and long-term. If you don't struggle with this, great. I am only including this because I have learned that many adoptive parents do, which gravely negatively impacts adoptees.
ALWAYS BE OPEN AND HONEST
No matter your daughter's age, it's crucial to be open to answering questions she might have and not be deceptive in the answers. Secrecy, lies and half-truths will only stall her healing. Please feel free to share the truth with her at age-appropriate times as gently as possible. No matter her age, being adopted is overwhelming. No matter how challenging the circumstances for the adoption, never lie to your daughter about anything. Also, understand that some adoptees have problems with authority, so always telling the truth and consistently following through in every aspect of your relationship with your daughter is essential.
ACCEPT LOVE ISN'T ENOUGH
Understand that all the Love you have to offer, and all the amount of stuff you want to provide for your daughter can never replace what she lost before she was adopted.
Consider Reading: When Love Isn't Enough or A House Full of Stuff.
ACCEPT HER PAIN IS HERE TO STAY
It's natural for parents to want their kids to live free of heartache, but when you adopted your daughter, you adopted her biological family and [ HER ] - Story before she came to you. You can't fix your daughter or take her pain away. The sooner you accept this, the better. The roller coaster ride of an adoptee's life is filled with a lot of emotional turmoil, and the more you support your daughter in learning, processing, and acknowledging her back story, the closer you will be.
Consider Reading: I'm Adopted, You Can't Fix Me or Take My Pain Away, Please Stop Trying.
RECOGNIZE IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU
Consider reading: It's Not About You: Understanding Adoptee Search, Reunion, and Open Adoption by Brooke Randolph.
If you have any information about her biological family, gather it and keep it in a safe place, especially legal documents. Then, make copies and give them to her in a folder when she is 18 years old, or even earlier if she asks. It's not right that our history is erased, and then we are denied access to our truth. Honesty and complete transparency are beautiful ways to support your daughter in Love and understanding. If you genuinely don’t have any information, help her find it if she seeks that path.
SUPPORT HER SEARCH & REUNION
If your daughter decides to search for her biological family, this part of her life is essential, no matter what she finds if she decides to look. You can either support her or not, but it is so much easier on adoptees when we do have the support of our adoptive parents and families. It's already hard enough being adopted. Please don't make us feel even more divided than many of us already feel we are. I would have given anything to have adoptive parents who wanted to help me.
LET HER LEAD THE WAY
Ultimately, your daughter should lead the way with her adoption story, search, and reunion. Yes, spark conversations, but if she isn't interested in talking about it, then let it be. Try another time, and eventually, she might open up, knowing that you are safe. Not all adoptees feel comfortable talking about their feelings about being adopted with their adoptive parents, so she should always be in the driver's seat with her wishes honored.
UNDERSTAND THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN RELINSHISHMENT TRAUMA, SEPARATION TRAUMA & ADOPTION TRAUMA.
Consider Reading: The Vital Contrast Between Relinquishment Trauma, Separation Trauma, and Adoption Trauma and Why We Should Know The Difference.
Become an expert in adoptee grief, loss, abandonment, rejection, relinquishment trauma, and adoption trauma. Become familiar with developmental trauma from separation trauma. Research and listen to adult adoptees who are brave enough to share their stories. All these different areas impact each adoptee in different ways. It's up to you to learn as much as possible in all these areas, so you can help spark conversations with your daughter if she is willing to discuss. Help her find the words for her complicated feelings; the sooner you help her process grief, the better. I didn't start grieving healthily until I was in my late 30's. The alternative was substance abuse disorder for 27 years because I didn't know how to feel the pain from separation trauma, rejection, grief, loss, or big feelings that come with being adopted. Adoptee grief can last a lifetime; the sooner this is accepted, the sooner healing can begin.
HONOR THE FIRST FAMILY
Honor your daughter's first family as if they are your own. If you feel threatened by the biological family, I suggest you seek therapy on how to navigate this. It doesn’t matter if her biological mother was a two-dollar crack whore, or a homeless alcoholic on the streets. She is still her biological mother who brought her into the world, and chances are, she deserves a space at the table. It’s also essential we recognize all people can change. When abuse, neglect, or dangerous situations are reasons for the separation, these situations are more tricky to navigate, so I suggest seeking a therapist to guide this process.
SEEK AN ADOPTEE-COMPETENT THERAPIST
I suggest seeking a trauma-informed therapist familiar with the issues adoptees carry for yourself and your daughter. Some of the layers adoptees carry run deep and are rooted in trauma. Unfortunately, not everyone is equipped to assist in this area, but trained professionals can help. Here’s an Adoptee Therapist Directory.
LISTEN TO ADULT ADOPTEES
Adult adoptees hold a very valuable dynamic to the adoption constellation, and the adoption community almost always overlooks it. We host a variety of lived experiences, and many of us are sharing our stories to help future generations of adoptees. So please consider opening your heart to listening and learning, and please never stop. A great place to start is Adoptees On - A podcast where adoptees share their stories about their adoption experiences.
READ ADOPTEE-CENTRIC LITERATURE
Read books about adoption together. Then, your daughter may begin to ask questions. Here's a comprehensive list of adoptee-centric reading books. www.adopteereading.com
ADOPTEE-CENTRIC RECOMMENDED RESOURCES
Lastly, I have created a comprehensive list of Recommended Resources for everyone in the adoption constellation. I strongly encourage you to read each piece and absorb as much as possible. In time, you will learn different layers of the adoptee experience to understand your daughter better.
Again, thank you for asking such a valuable question.
For my fellow adoptees and subscribers, I would love to hear your thoughts on this question. A collaboration of adoptee voices will shine a light on some of the dark areas of adoption, so please chime in below in the comment section.
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Understanding is Love,
Pamela A. Karanova
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ASK ME ANYTHING COLUMN
Each month, all subscribers receive an “Ask Me Anything” newsletter — which will answer one or two adoptee-related questions from paid subscribers. Think: What adoptee healing tools have been the most valuable to you? How have you navigated the grief and loss process? What made you want to search for your biological family? How was your reunion once you searched? Do you regret searching? If you have a question for me, please email it to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Here are the two most recent questions:
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Here are a few articles I recommend reading:
100 Heartfelt Adoptee Quotes that Honor the Truth of Adoption by Pamela A. Karanova & 100 Adoptees Worldwide
100 Heartfelt Transracial Adoptee Quotes that Honor the Truth of Adoption by Pamela A. Karanova & 100 Transracial Adoptees Worldwide
What Are the Mental Health Effects of Being Adopted? By Therodora Blanchfield, AMFT
10 Things Adoptive Parents Should Know – An Adoptee’s Perspective by Cristina Romo
Understanding Why Adoptees Are At A Higher Risk for Suicide by Maureen McCauley | Light of Day Stories
Toward Preventing Adoption- Related Suicide by Mirah Riben
Relationship Between Adoption and Suicide Attempts: A Meta-Analysis
Reckoning with The Primal Wound Documentary with a 10% off coupon code (25 available) “adopteesconnect”
Still Grieving Adoptee Losses, What My Adoptive Parents Could Have Done Differently.
Thank you for writing this well researched and documented article. As a 74.5 year old adoptee, brought home from the hospital at 3 days old, and finding out about the addictions and trauma of adoption only 3-4 years ago I can say with some authority to this information would have been very helpful about 40 years ago when I was found. That said; I know that most, if not all, of it was not available in the early 80s when I was found. I now know that my APs should not have been parents at all. My ADad was a bully and my AMom never showed any affection or love whatsoever.