Bringing hearts together
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Talk the Talk: Adoption Talk!
Don't get me wrong: In 22+ years of parenting, I usually like it when my kids are reluctant to be away from me, even for a minute. Admittedly, it makes me feel good that they'd rather be with me than not. But yes, there are times now and then when its difficult to try to leave the house - or even the room - and the fussing, "Don't gooooooo!", hanging on my legs, and "When will you be back" are not heart warming.
I just finished a book that is a great read for every adoptive parent: Sherrie Eldridge's Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. She discusses, among many other things, separation anxiety. Sometimes in adopted children, these feelings are more intense and need to be acknowledged a little differently, and acknowledging the fear before offering reassurance is a key process.
"I don't want to go on the field trip today" may not actually be about the field trip. (Now, may be about the field trip, depending on the destination...every one of my children has uttered those words the morning of the 3rd grade field trip to the landfill. And I don't blame them!)
Back in the day, parents meant well, but didn't have to tools to communicate the best way possible - especially with painful feelings. Difficult subjects & feelings were usually avoided (remember completely closed adoption?). Parents didn't understand their own innermost feelings and worries and then were unable to help children acknowledge theirs. The response to the field trip apprehension may have been, "Why not? There's nothing to be afraid of. Of course you'll go!" But this didn't really offer confidence and minimized feelings of fear/anxiety. But today we are more aware of the importance of validating feelings without trying to "'fix it' ("there's nothing to be afraid of") or 'push through it' anyway ("of course you'll go!"). Sometimes just a simple affirmation provides the comfort - and courage - for kids to leave the nest, even briefly, and return again successful, empowered, and happy..."I know it scares you to be away from me sometimes. But I promise, I'll be here right when you get home. I'm confident you'll be alright. And I can't wait to hear about your adventure!"
Today as parents we know how important it is to simply validate feelings at times, especially feelings of loss and grief that impact a child's security and self esteem. Offering a simple "That must be painful" or "I understand that worries you..." can open the door to further communication and processing the feelings and worries. We have to make sure as parents that we have fully processing our own feelings about adoption, too...jealousy, loss, anger, fear of birth parents...
One thing I have learned from a beloved school psychologist, is rather than force a conversation, or keep pushing to have a conversation I may feel is necessary, sometimes the best approach is to "throw a pebble". Pebbles are statements thrown out (lovingly!) that may or may not produce an immediate response or conversation. "I wonder if your amazing art ability comes from your birth mother?". The child is then able response as they wish - when they wish.
Children are different in how they process adoption. As long as parents establish an open atmosphere for communication, and have laid the groundwork that adoption is positive, they do not need to be concerned for children who ask few questions. But they do need to be aware that some statements may be blanketing larger concerns. And inevitably, these conversations come up randomly - in the car, at bedtime, or even the morning of a field trip. Some conversations last less than a minute, and others may go on for quite awhile. Sieze the moment and listen. Talk. Hug. And be prepared - and grateful - for the moments. No matter what the subject matter - adoption or otherwise - as long as we create opportunities for conversation, or sieze them when they come, we are doing right by our children!