Adoption Tension

I had a wonderful conversation with my daughter on the long ride home from a recent activity this past weekend. She volunteered to work as a "counselor in training" at a local culture camp, something she has done several times in the past and really enjoys.

We talked about the ways she wanted my husband and I to support her. At one point I asked her if she had adopted friends who had expressed feelings of guilt about wanting to know their first families. She said she'd heard friends say they didn't talk about their first families because they believed it would hurt their adoptive parents.

As we talked further, I asked if she felt this was because their adoptive parents had set that tone, and had made her friends feel they couldn't speak openly. She replied that she didn't think that was the case. It was, she said, something any adoptee might feel.

I've always thought that speaking openly and ensuring that our children knew we wanted them to talk about their families would be enough to prevent the emotional pull that accompanies so many adopted people throughout their lives. That may not be the case, though, because the guilt may be the emotional tension, tug-of-war even, that is part of the experience of being adopted. And it may be something that an adoptive parent can't influence or resolve, simply acknowledge.

As I wonder how I can best support my kids through these feelings, I see no easy answers. But even if I can't resolve or remove what they may feel, I can provide comfort. And I can continue to confirm that our children's first parents are a welcome part of our family dialog, and welcome members of our family. With open communication, hopefully they'll keep talking.

Comments

suz said…
interesting post. i am just beginning to read about adoptees (having spent oodles of time reading about myself as a natural mom and adoption in general). i am trying to understand what my daughter may/is feeling so that i can properly support (and also realize that her feelings may have NOTHING to do with me).
My son, almost 9, I believe thinks a lot about his first mother and family. (My youngest daughter, 7-1/2, doesn't appear to have strong interest just yet.) When we have an appropriate moment, something on TV or just a question raised, I remind my children that loving their first families is a good thing and that it takes nothing away from me or their Dad. They can love both families as much or as little as they want. It's not an either or, it's a "both." We're here to answer questions as best we can and support them no matter what.

At birthdays, we light an extra candle to honor of that child's first mother because we know she's thinking about him or her, too.

That's all any of us can do. Allow our children the right to feel what they feel without direction (or approval) from us.
Mama Nabi said…
I am beginning to learn that lesson - as a mother, I can't always wipe away emotions like guilt, sadness, etc. but the key may be in that I will do my best to acknowledge, validate and comfort... many times, I see APs trying too hard to erase adoption pains, which sometimes end up backfiring.
Sue said…
Thanks for writing about this. I need to hear from more experienced AP's of older kids about this stuff. I feel like I am talking openly, and letting her express grief and ask questions but I really have to know my own feelings and make sure they don't mess things up because kids learn very early how to detect any kind of feeling they don't want to elicit from their parents and prevent it as best they can.

For instance, I already have to fight against the desire to defend myself as a parent who is doing things for her own good, when she gripes about the stuff she doesn't like and fantasizes that she could have gotten better AP's if she had a choice. I may never fully succeed in masking my emotions and keeping the air clear enough. I have too much of my own ego invested in this parenting gig.

I think it is a great approach to get a child to talk about how other kids might feel, as a way to get in the side door.

Also I have found that already, even with a very honest five year old who is seldom afraid to say what she thinks, most truths come out in the car when my back is to her!
Gwen said…
Great post! I believe it is so true. We cannot control how our kids will feel or percieve their adoption. We can only do our best to support them and let them know we are here and they can talk to us about anything at anytime. That is what I try to do anyway!
away2me said…
I think Gwen said what I intended to say. We can't control their emotions. All we can do is support them, encourage them and let them know that they are not hurting us by loving thier natural family.
Margie said…
Thanks, all - it's good for me to know you all are experiencing some of the same challenges. I find it's harder to let go than it is to talk about it - I really have to fight the urge to "make it all better." Our son, now a senior, has helped me most here. He's a very private kid, wants to solve his own problem. Our relationship, although always good, improved even more after he sat me down and essentially told me to back off unless asked to help - in much nicer terms, though. I'm trying - and it really is good for him, but boy it's hard sometimes to watch him struggle. But I gotta let go and let them both take charge. They're ready.

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