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In the last section, we discussed Trigger Times for Grief in Adopted Children. This has included birthdays, Mother’s Day, the recognition technique, moving, and the "control in a small way" technique.
Have you found, as I have, that adoptive parents often have to work through core issues related to their adoption experiences?
In this section, we will discuss Core Issues for Adoptive Parents. These core issues will include loss, shame, rejection and the acknowledgment technique.
How adoptive parents process the issues of loss, shame and rejection often affects how they handle adoption as a family system and how they communicate about adoption to their child. As you listen, think of your adoptive parent. How does he or she exhibit loss, shame and rejection, and how do you respond?
♦ Issue #1 - Loss
Also, sometimes when parents adopt older children, loss is a subtle part of the relationship for them as well. When parents adopt an older child, they lose the early years of development. Adoptive parents can’t always answer questions about first steps and first words and so on. They have also lost the ability to protect their child from the early pain of abuse and neglect.
Lily and Kirk were recent parents of their adopted son, Jesse, who was three months old. Kirk stated, "We have only just become parents at age 38. We’re ecstatic that we’ve got Jesse now, but we’ve realized that we don’t have a peer group of parents. The children of all our friends are teenagers. Who wants to run around with a couple with a fussy infant?"
Lily and Kirk were dealing with feelings of loss over a parent peer group due to how young Jesse was. I explained to Lily and Kirk that understanding the dynamics of loss could help them to recognize pain associated with adoption issues, offer support through that pain, and form healthy emotional attachments with Jesse. The Acknowledgement Technique I used with Lily and Kirk will be explained at the end of this section.
♦ Issue #2 - Shame
Lily stated, "For years I struggled with the issue of infertility. Our friends were having their second and third children, and I was left with empty arms…I began to believe that something was terribly wrong with me! I couldn’t decide if it was because I just didn’t deserve a child, or it was something that I did to create such a painful problem in our lives!"
I explained to Lily and Kirk that shame could impact how they communicated about adoption with Jesse when he was older.
Kirk stated, "I asked my mom for an old family heirloom for Jesse. It’s a crib that’s been in our family for generations, and it was always promised for the first grandchild. My mom refused! My sister, as it turns out, is expecting, and my mother stated, ‘the first biological grandchild should have the crib!’"
Rejection can impact the lives of adoptive parents regarding how the parent-child relationship is validated. When Kirk’s family failed to validate Kirk’s and Lily’s roles as the true parents, it felt like rejection. Likewise, when Kirk’s family failed to validate Jesse as a true member of the family, it felt like rejection.
To introduce Acknowledgment with Lily and Kirk, I stated, "Talking openly and freely about adoption as Jesse is growing up can help him to realize that it is okay to ask questions. Jesse can learn that it is okay to explore his feelings about being adopted." I also suggested that Lily and Kirk ask Jesse’s birth mother for a picture or a letter for Jesse, so that he could have it as a tie to his past. Just because Kirk’s family rejected Jesse’s adoption did not mean that Lily and Kirk would as well.
Lily asked, "Is it possible to talk about adoption too much?" How might you have responded? I stated, "You can decide how to create a balance between talking about adoption and living daily life. One way to do this is to ask yourself, ‘When was the last time we talked about adoption in this house?’ If you can’t remember, there is probably a need to address the adoption in some way."
Do you have a Lily or a Kirk who struggle with loss, shame or rejection in their adoption process? Might he or she benefit from hearing this section in your next session?
In this section, we have discussed Core Issues for Adoptive Parents. This has included loss, shame, rejection and the acceptance technique.
In the next section, we will discuss The First Four Suggestions of Telling. These will include Initiating, the Movie Technique, Using Positive Language, Telling the Truth and Allowing the Child to Express Anger Without Joining In.
Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References: