Fred Rogers talks about
"For most adoptive parents, the process of adoption involves working on the resolution of their own feelings -- feelings of "failure" at not having borne a child, or recognizing that their child has a history that they may not know outside of the adopted family."
|Being adopted into a caring family can be a very special "love story." But adoption can be difficult to talk about, since it involves one of child's deepest needs: the sense of security in belonging to a family that will always take care of him or her.|
Talking about Adoption
Each child has unique ways of dealing with being adopted, and those ways can change as children grow. Some children talk a lot about being adopted and they ask a lot of questions. Other children are quite quiet about it.
Some people tell "the story of when you were adopted" as they're rocking their infants or when they're snuggling with their toddler. Of course, infants and toddlers don't understand a lot of what's being said, nevertheless they're hearing about their history in a natural way.
Some parents worry that if they don't talk about adoption with their adopted child early on, someone else may reveal it to their child and that could raise even more concerns for him or her. In fact, a child could feel betrayed and wonder if adoption might be something shameful or something to hide if he or she hears such an important thing from someone other than family.
“It’s not your fault…”
As children grow, they try to make their own sense of why they were adopted. During the preschool years, as they work on controlling their own "bad" behavior, adopted children sometimes wonder if their birthparents didn't keep them because they were "bad" or because they cried a lot. Those children need a lot of assurance from adults that what they’re thinking just isn't true. It's better to say, "Your birthmother and birthfather just weren't able to take care of any baby at all," rather than saying, "Your birthmother and birthfather couldn't take care of you." In other words, there was nothing wrong with your child in particular; it was the birthparents' inability to provide care that prompted the adoption. If children are left to their own fantasies and think they were abandoned because they were bad, their next unspoken question to their adoptive parents might be, "How bad do I have to be before you give me away, too?"
Children need to hear there were probably many reasons why their birthparents couldn't take care of a child, but that those reasons all have to do with the grownups. You may want to ask your child why he or she thinks some birthparents can't care for a baby, so you can correct any misconceptions and maybe find out more about what your child really wants to know.
Adoption Is for Always
There are wonderful things about being adopted into a loving family; nevertheless, children feel that adoption also means loss -- loss of relationships with people they didn't even know, people who were a significant part of their history. Some children have said to their adoptive mother, "I'm sad that I didn't grow in your tummy." Adoptive mothers can let them know that they're sad about that, too, (if in fact, they are) but that they're also very glad that “you’re growing in our family!"
Many families nowadays avoid saying "You were chosen" because that could imply that those adopted children to live up to certain expectations if they are to remainchosen. Parents may think they're helping their child feel secure by believing they are "chosen" but oddly enough, that can have just the opposite effect. They need to hear, "You are special, not because you're adopted, but just because you're you. No matter what, you will always be part of our family. Adoption is for keeps."
Parents’ Feelings about Adoption
For most adoptive parents, the process of adoption involves working on the resolution of their own feelings -- feelings of "failure" at not having borne a child, or recognizing that their child has a history that they may not know outside of the adopted family. While some people deal with many of those feelings as they went through the adoption process, it might surprise them to find some of those same feelings surfacing again and again.
One of the most difficult things for adoptive parents to hear from their adopted
child is, "You're not my real mother. I don't have to listen to you!" When
children say such things, they may be reacting out of their hurt, their longing, or
their fear of their unknown past. The interesting thing is that that's a natural
reaction for any child when a parent says "no" to something he or she wants!
Almost all children, whether they were adopted or not, fantasize that their "real" parents were kind and loving perfect people who surely would have let them do anything they want. Children need to hear, "I am not your birthparent, but I’m your real parent who loves you and takes care of you!" Though our children may protest our limits and rules, they will feel much more secure when they know their
parents are standing firm.
As the years go on and their children develop in many ways, parents often find that it helps to know some general things about child development so they don't have to attribute every "challenge" in the family to the adoption.