Adoption Matters. Listen and Learn about it

If you are an adoptive parent or if you hope to become one, adoption is likely on your mind frequently. So, when you read the title of this blog, “Adoption Matters. Talk about It” you can easily imagine yourself sharing your joy at being or becoming an adoptive parent.

As I remind you that November is National Adoption Month, you probably feel ready and willing to do your part to spread awareness about adoption. You might even already have in mind particular photos of your smiling family that would be  “perfect” for sharing on social media.

However, before you start posting and talking up adoption, pause to consider an alternative title for his blog: Adoption Matters. Listen and learn about It. Ask yourself what do I not yet know? Does what I currently know form a complete picture? How much do I know about perspectives beyond my own, like that of adoptees and birth parents?

How do these questions shift your ideas of what you want to say and how you can best support National Adoption Month?

Promoting a deeper understanding of adoption

Instead of simply promoting adoption, you can strive to build a deeper understanding of adoption for yourself and your friends, family, and community. You can add to the vast number of posts featuring smiling adoptive parents promoting adoption. But, what if you seek out, read, and uplift the words and stories of adult adoptees? What might you learn? What might others learn from your message?  How might it make you a better informed, more empathetic, and insightful parent? Your kids will benefit from this increased awareness.

Talking about National Adoption Month with your kids

Since National Adoption Month is well-publicized, your children will likely be exposed to some of the messaging, social media posts, and comments from family, friends, teachers, etc. Some of the messages that they will hear will likely make them feel on display, uncomfortable or distressed. These messages may stir powerful emotions and spark questions. all of which may generate a need for informed, empathetic guidance.

So choose to be proactive and discuss this within your family. Say something like, I watched this reel about adoption on Instagram. Have you been hearing stuff like that too? What do you think about that? More importantly, how do you feel about it? Be certain that your children know that you welcome their genuine thoughts and emotions so that they do not feel the need to sanitize their responses.

Why these adoption conversations and messages matter

This is important because many adult adoptees report that, when people talk to them about adoption,  it dredges up anxiety and feelings of being unseen and commodified. During National Adoption Month especially when the pro-adoption messaging tends to obscure, minimize, and deny the hard parts of adoption. The hyper-positive messaging ignores their losses and the truth of their lived expertise does not matter. As intentional Adoption Attuned Parents, we want to reassure them that we respect and value their voices because they are the ones with the fullest insight on what it means to be adopted.

When adoptive parents have the megaphone

So, when you choose to post on social media or talk about adoption this month, be intentional about the message you want to convey. Decide what you will mention. Be sure they reflect a nuanced picture of adoption—one that acknowledges the fundamental “Both-and-edness” of adoption. Uplift a point of view that acknowledges the benefits and the costs, that serves to raise adoption awareness, and refrains from glorifying adoption.

Why does talking about adoption matter?

Have a nuanced conversation with your children about adoption. This helps you validate the actual experience your children have. It acknowledges not only what adoption gave them, but also, what adoption took away. Sometimes these conversations may be uncomfortable and hard to hear. Perhaps they might even be painful for you. Still, you must learn what is truly in your child’s mind and in their heart. It is an essential way to be the source of comfort, strength, security, and support.

By the way, remember to resist the temptation to “fix” or minimize their discomfort, do not try to convince them that their feelings are wrong or disproportionate. Just listen. Empathize and be with them. What they need most is for you to listen and to be a compassionate witness to their words.

Keep in mind that because people generally think of adoption as totally benign — a real win/win for everybody, the conversation outside of our own families can be challenging. People often expect adopted children should be grateful to have been adopted and remain blind to the pain of losing their first families.

This minimizing of the hard parts of adoption and denial of their losses, can leave adoptees feeling as if the truth of their lived expertise does not matter. It is unsurprising then that many adult adoptees report that, while well-intended, this month dredges up anxiety and feelings of being unseen and commodified. Make an extra effort to remain attuned to your child this month.

Distinguish between adoption awareness and glorifying adoption

 As adoptive parents, we tend to think mostly about how adoption benefitted us, But it is essential for us to always counterbalance this evaluation that for our children adoption is much more complicated. This is why the distinction between messaging that raises adoption awareness and glorifying adoption matters.

Presenting a more accurate picture of adoption to the world beyond our families is a worthy effort. One that helps to debunk outdated myths, corrects factual inaccuracies and depicts the reality of the adoption experience. It alerts people to the effects of family separation, the adoptee’s need for emotional safety; truth and transparency; belonging and acceptance; and relational continuity.

Be an informed Adoption Attuned voice

Ideally,  such conversations must endure beyond the thirty days observing National Adoption Month but each of us can do our part. By the way, we have deliberately used the word observe rather than celebrate. Because adoption includes significant pain and losses along with the gains and benefits,  celebrate doesn’t fit the circumstance. Adoption is something that merits notice and awareness and therefore, we prefer to observe National Adoption Month instead of celebrate.

So this month, we encourage you to listen to adult adoptees. Read their books and blogs. Learn from them.  Share conversations with family, friends, and others outside of our community that present a well-rounded picture of adoption.

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