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Unveiling Adoption

January 29, 2014

Girl smiling next to luminous pink lighting tubesThe concept of a “Veil of Secrecy” is a common construct in the world of adoption. It refers to that knowledge divide that separates an adoptee from the people and facts of his biological history. In a previous blog “Who Do You Think You Are?” we’ve discussed the powerful reasons that justify an adoptee’s rights to have access to his information, Original Birth Certificate, etc. As adoptive parents, we understand the valuable role adoption plays in our own and our children’s lives. We believe in it and as coaches we work hard to improve the day-to-day journeys of adopted families.

Today, let’s examine another “Veil,” the veil of blind positivity through which some adoptive parents view their child’s adoption. We highlight this point of view because it dismisses or ignores the “costs” of adoption and acknowledges only the benefits. Early on, the adoptee gets the message: only happy conversations about adoption are encouraged. Any talks that veer into the pain are quickly redirected to focus on the benefits. It’s the equivalent of telling a suffering person not to cry, as if the shuttering of the feeling makes it go away. But stuffing feelings causes them to fester, to remain unresolved and prevents healthy change. Obviously this benefits no one in the family.

Adopted children experience 360° of emotion. All are very real, valid and deserve recognition and are worthy of expression. Yes, adoption created huge plusses for children. And yes, they love their families and glad to be part of their families. But the reality is, while their child’s entry into their family is one of the highest points of parents’ lives, for the child, it is a coin with two sides. One radiates a glow of benefits: a permanent, loving, safe, and stable family. The other side casts a darker shadow: the loss of his place in his birth family, the pain of “rejection,” the shame that follows suit, the questioning why they were adopted. They also hold some dark emotions: sadness, regret, shame, loss, feeling rejected or abandoned.

As adoptive parents, we must teach our children that we welcome all of their thoughts and feelings about being adopted. Give both their happy and sad thoughts/feelings an equally encouraging, kind and empathetic ear. Show children that you are strong enough to see, hold and support their shadow sides, that you can be a safe harbor where they can be authentic and truthful about what they safe feeling and thinking. Otherwise, they may mistakenly believe they must hide their true feelings behind a mask of false joy.

The idea for this blog grew from a young adult’s review of the book, ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families. While it is clearly aimed at younger children when he read ABC, he commented that

“A lot of the books read to him were about parents loving their adoptive child -- nice -- but rarely touched on his feelings about the why, the wondering, the questioning.”

In recent years, adult adoptees have become vocal and have worked hard to educate professional, parents and the world at large about what it is actually like to live as an adoptee. Now the stresses of adoption are more recognized and better understood. Parents can act on this additional knowledge by being intentional about the conversations they encourage within their families. Choose books that tell the complete story no only books that are exclusively positive in their point of view. Your child will benefit immensely. #adoptiveparenting

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