At every meeting we get asked the question, “How can I tell with my child when something is an adoption issue and when is it just a pre-teen/teenage/age issue?”
The answer every time, is that any issue can become an “adoption issue.”
Adoptees identify as adoptees. The way we came to be a part of our forever families is at the core of who we are as people. We have “adoptee lenses”- we see the world and ourselves in a certain way because of our adoption. Therefore, the average pre-teen/teenage/age issue has the potential to be a culmination of identity, self-esteem and attachment issues that are directly rooted in our being adopted.
Any feelings of loss, unfairness, anger or confusion can lead us to a path where buried emotions around our adoption, have the opportunity to surface. For example, children may have an outburst or an “over-reaction” to a simple request from their parents, or from regular discipline. This is an opportunity to have an adoption conversation with your child. Ask your child why they are angry or upset, or lead them into a conversation in a non-threatening way. For example, my mom used to ask me a series of questions, that had nothing to do with why I was angry, starting with “are you mad because the table is brown?” I would say “no” and roll my eyes. Then she would ask “are you mad because the sky is blue?”, and again I would reply “no” and roll my eyes. Then she would ask “are you mad at me?”…and I would become quiet…or she would ask “are you mad are your birthmom?” and usually she would ask the right questions and we would talk about them. Sometimes I would become angrier when she asked the right questions. Often times, children do not know how to articulate their feelings, or lack the courage to truly share how they are feeling. In my opinion, it is the responsibility of the parent to create a safe environment for their child where open communication can be nurtured. I know this is easier said than done, but don’t take things personally. A lot of times, we are just testing your boundaries. Adopted children often have incredible emotional intelligence and are often very strong willed. This is due to the adaptation adoptees must make an early age to their adopted families. We will resist you, but we need you to raise to the occasion and combat our insecurity, fear, anxiety, sadness, grief and rage with unwavering, steadfast, unconditional love.
Any time you have resistance with your child, it is an opportunity to have an adoption conversation and more importantly an opportunity to show them you love them and they are a part of your forever family.
The greatest gift my mom gave me was the freedom not be angry anymore. She disarmed by anger, filled a heart that was so full of loss with unconditional love. My mom has amazing empathy. When I hurt, she sat with me. When I felt loss, she grieved with me. When I triumphed, she celebrated with me. When I was afraid to love, she loved me. When I was angry about being placed for adoption, she understood completely.
Empathize with your children. Stand in their shoes. Try and see through their “adoptee lenses”, and you will be able to give them incredible freedom, like the one my mom gave me.