Mention November and most folks think of Thanksgiving. For us here at GIFT—Growing Intentional Families Together—November brings thoughts of National Adoption Month and our gratitude for the blessing of family. Here are some ways to celebrate adoption.
“National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. This annual, one-day event has made the dreams of thousands of children come true by working with policymakers, practitioners and advocates to finalize adoptions and create and celebrate adoptive families.
In total, National Adoption Day helped nearly 50,000 children move from foster care to a forever family. Communities across the county celebrate the This year the National Adoption Day Coalition expects 4,500 children in foster care to be adopted on National Adoption Day, on November 22, 2014.” They are sponsoring various events
FIRST EVER WORLDWIDE CELEBRATION OF ADOPTION
On Nov.9, 2014 post a photo of yourself, your family and your friends with the hands up smiley face with the hashtag:
It is appropriate that we celebrate National Adoption Month during this season of Thanksgiving. As parents, we have been entrusted with the privilege to raise children born to other women. We love and nurture them with an awareness that our greatest joy: their presence in our families--began in significant loss for them. This year while giving thanks for your many blessings, remember the birth parents who made such a commitment of faith in us. Continue your education as high AQ--Adoption-attuned--families. Deepen your understanding of the unique needs that adoption creates in a family. Live and love with an eye to the joy of the present moment and a heart filled with empathy, kindness and respect. Books offer a great resource to adoptive families for strategies, a sense of community or a great read for the children. These authors write about the journey that is adoption and as a National Adoption Month Special, the kindle versions will be available for $.99. We invite you to explore these books. (Excerpts from Amazon)
Finalist, 2014 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, Parenting/Family
In this week’s blog, we continue last week's exploration of Difficult Conversations in the context of adoption. GIFT—Growing Intentional Families Together—is pleased to include another important voice from the wider adoption community. Beth O’Malley M.Ed. She is a lifebook expert. Her life experience as both adoptee and adoptive parent infuses her writings with compassion, and understanding of the adoption journey . Sign up for her free newsletter at www.adoptionlifebooks.com copyright 2014 Beth has written three books. (See the links at the end of this post.)
How to Talk about Difficult Topics
Whether it's rape, suicide, drug abuse, mental health, prostitution, or robbing banks--- if it involved the birth parent, then it's part of the child's story. So do you create a lifebook page detailing the grown up situation and read?
You may have known about “this part” of the birth parents' history. Ugh. How to tell your child or a child on your caseload?
At what age to tell them and what words to use ?
Take a deep breath.
Step 1. Start with age appropriate discussion outside of the lifebook. You build the foundation by helping them understanding the topic. Just not in relation to them.
The topic is raised impersonally. Maybe there is a teaching moment that occurs. Maybe a bank was robbed in a nearby town. Great news.(Your son's bio dad was a bank robber)
This gives you an organic opening to talk about "ta da” —robbing banks. You can wonder out loud "Gee, I wonder what would make someone decide to do something like that?" Perhaps think out loud if there is some grown up problem like drug abuse or gambling that might bring a person to do something so dangerous.
Step 2. Talk about the bank robber as a person. That person made a really bad decision that could change his life or his family's life. But making a bad decision doesn't make him a bad person. (It doesn't make him Mother Teresa either) Maybe his parents didn't teach him about right and wrong. Maybe they taught him how to steal.
You can stop at whatever point feels right and you have planted the seed.
If your child was placed at a young age, then you'll have a number of years to build and work the foundation. By the time, you feel the child is ready and able to hear this on a more personal level----- you are not trying to explain suicide/criminal activities/drug abuse etc all in one breath.
Then you can add the lifebook page in more detail (assuming you child is older and not planning to share with the general public.)
Let’s review: The best way to start discussion on tough topics is by
1. Fact Check
Before you go ahead and present a situation as the child's truth, make sure you investigate. Locate other sources (for example if only the birth mother reported the situation). Can you talk with other birth relatives to verify? Is there a social worker or court official who might know some unwritten details? What about a police report?
2. Google It.
Google your child's birth name. Google the bio parents and sibling names, if known. If it was a front-page-news story, locate what is on the internet. Assume your child or their friend is an avid Googler.
3. Who else knows what?
If you want your child to trust you, the last thing you want is for them to learn important history from someone else. If the adoptees' birth circumstances are well known (for whatever reason) in your family or the community, then you want to stay ahead of the information. You might be sharing information younger than you had planned.
4. What is the right age?
My simple, not knowing your child answer, is that you lay the foundation starting when they enter school--- around 1st grade.
It's time to get specific around age 9 or 10. Even as young as 8. This is not easy. I started tough talks with my daughter when she was around 8. The topic had to be revisited and eventually became just another piece of life. I repeat it is not easy, but there are huge benefits to avoiding secrets!
5. For US Fost-Adopt Families
At age 18, they can read their own case records. Yes, parts are redacted, but they will have enough information to clearly see what happened. A lonely way to learn about one's life's beginnings.
In summary, I recommend make sure what you say is true, as much as possible. Google relevant names and events on a regular basis. Rethink who in your family might have information that could leak to the younger generation. Does everyone you know, or the child knows, already have this part of their story? Then arm your child with information.
As for age, I told my child hard truths around age 8 and then reworked and revisited the conversation over time. I recommend no later than age 9 or 10. I don't think it's a good idea to wait until they are about to turn 13, even 12.
Kids know more than we think.
Here are links to buy Beth’s books.
Welcome to another installment of The Adoption Blog Carnival, a smorgasbord of adoption conversations from several bloggers. Check them all out. Each one has a useful tidbit that you'll be glad to know. We are please to participate in this group effort to support adoptive families. #adoptiveparenting
Whether you are in an Open Adoption or not, you will enjoy reading Bumber's Bumblings blog about her first post-placement visit with her child’s birth mother. Not surprisingly, both mom’s approached the visit with a mixture of excitement, curiosity and uneasiness. How did it turn out in reality? Read I Thought I Would Be Sad - Open Adoption to find out
Leslie, a blogger deeply steeped in her Christian faith writes Waiting on a Word She shared her personal “miracle” in The Long and Winding Road to Asheville, a post filled with startling incidences of things happening not only how she dreamed, but also as she needed them to fall into place. A termination process that typically takes years, was completed in under five months. In a dizzyingly rapid timeline, the foster child they loved so much became their son. If you’ve ever been discouraged by the snail’s pace that is the adoption process, you will rejoice in Leslie’s experience.
Schumm Explosion blogs practical reminders in Adoption Tax Return “A quick look at the adoption tax return and how it has effected our family. Make sure if you adopted in 2013 that you file for it on your taxes.” Who couldn’t use a financial break? Read their post to learn about several things you can do to take advantage of legitimate tax relief.
This RAD Mom talks about The Big Picture and how families and the relationship dynamics change when adoptions occur. I especially liked this quote which focuses on sustaining our family's light of hope and nurturing. “"When your wife is triggered, the first thing you should do is hug her. Your child will not want to be part of a family that he feels like he can destroy. Your marriage needs to be first." While the road to connection may be like a roller-coaster, with heart-pounding highs and lows, we know the results are worth the turmoil.
Growing Intentional Families Together blog post Unveiling Adoption invites parents to pull back the veil on adoption—not the veil of secrecy which is increasingly more transparent in the era of Open Adoption--but the veil that clouds adoptive families from seeing and validating the challenges as well as the blessings which adoption brings.
Suzanne, who blogs at Surpassing Greatness shares a limp-in-your-throat conversation with her young son. New understanding in my boy from China reflects their deeply held faith as she celebrates her son’s deepening understanding of God and their Christian faith.
Adoption is a journey for all involved. #adoptionblogcarnival
GIFT is collaborating this week with fellow travelers on their journey of adoptive life. Enjoy reading the various perspectives. Tell us how their message connected with your experience of life in an adoptive family. Please let us bloggers hear from you. What posts connect, hit a nerve or miss the mark?
The Weinrich Family Adoption Blog page highlights how a single word can shape us. Single Word:
The film Closure is a “documentary about a trans-racial adoptee who finds her birth mother, and meets the rest of a family who didn't know she existed, including her birth father. A story about identity, the complexities of trans-racial adoption, and most importantly, CLOSURE.” Read the review by Bumber's Bumblings
This Rad Mom shared her thoughts on viewing a classic family movie (Swiss Family Robinson) with her son whose life has been touched by trauma. Her insights remind us to be vigilant in monitoring how our kids respond to seemingly innocent experiences. Be a perpetual detective when it comes to identifying triggers that reactivate trauma for our kids.
GIFT’s blog post was selected for inclusion in the Adoption Blog Carnival. It focused on the complex and often conflicted emotions that adopted kids feel about holidays and other life celebrations. Revisit When Holidays Are Marred by Memories of Past Pain
Made in China, with Loveshares an honest recounting of her return trip from China, two new babies in tow. Good thing she packed her sense of humor and positive outlook. She needed it—almost as much as she needs a bit of sleep now as she juggles two new babies in addition to her other two kids.
Thanks to Weinrich Family Adoption Blog for organizing this exchange. Like what you read? Use #adoptionblogcarnival when sharing via Facebook and Twitter.
As 2013 draws to a close, it is natural to reflect on the year and to consider the lessons learned, the challenges met, and those that still remain. As you set your intentions for 2014, frame goals for body, mind, and spirit. Make connection a high priority. Carve space for self-care. Model a commitment to learn something every day. Establish individual goals as well as your goal for your family.
Does the mere thought of another item added to your “Do List” make your heart race and your knees weak? Do you feel overwhelmed and under-supported? How does the reality of your family life compare with the dream you had when you originally became a family? Are you feeling capable and excited about the New Year?
Or, do you yearn for some relief, some assistance, a sounding board, a neutral friend to listen and encourage you? The coaches at GIFT Family Services stand ready to be that resource. We are as near as your telephone or computer. Contact us today and begin the New Year with optimism and an ally. We too are adoptive parents. We understand the challenges, the commitment, and the rewards. Contact us today.