I previously published a blog based on the book, “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew.” (See July 1 2010) It has taken me a long time to get back to this book, but I am now ready to talk about the second thing on the list; “I need to be taught that I have special needs arising from adoption loss, of which I need not be ashamed.”
Instead of responding with my criticisms of the book, as I have done in the past. I just want to comment on what I have learned, and what I might use.
The definition the author proposes for adoption loss is: “Surely the adopted child has areas of strength and average ability like everyone else… and surely the adopted child has larger areas, or different areas, of emotional weakness than most people do.” Some of these areas of need a child might have include: “Depression. Rage. Bewilderment. Confusion about identity. Fear of loss. Shame. Lack of direction. Lack of emotional stamina. Low stress tolerance. Floating anxiety.”
Our Tony is three and a half, and so some of these issues may be based on his age. However what seems to be issues he is dealing with now are lack of emotional stamina and low stress tolerance. He does seem to have direction, and is able to get his needs met. However in his play he seems to become frustrated easily. And when he is frustrated, he begins to yell. He also gets frustrated more easily when he is tired. If I am talking about something related to adoption, or something related to his age and his having a nap or not, I don’t know.
The author quotes Dr. Foster Cline, well know pediatric doctor. "Nowadays I believe most adopted children have vulnerability. And the politically correct thing to say is that their genetics may be 'fragile.' All this has been proven to affect the developing neurons. Stress and substance abuse in pregnancy do not just cause psychological problems. They cause wiring or neurological problems."
The author has a list of possible special needs. Those that might apply to Tony are:
I need help in learning to deal with my fears of rejection—to learn that absence doesn’t mean abandonment, nor a closed door that I have done something wrong. Tony does have some separation issues, but he is making progress. He can now let his mother go, and wait a home with a different family member for her to return. In fact, he often prefers to stay at home, rather than go with my wife for foster visits, unless McDonalds is going to be involved. However in his nursery class at church, he still insists on being in the class with Sheri and the younger children, rather than moving on with the older children.
I need help in recognizing my adoption loss and grieving it. This one is an area I have difficulty with. How do I bring this up, as I may project a problem when there is not one?
I need to be assured that my birth parent’s decision not to parent me had nothing to do with anything defective in me. This is a true statement with regards to Tony. The courts intervened, and the parents fought against our adopting him.
I need to be taught that adoption is both wonderful and painful, presenting lifelong challenges for everyone involved. This is part of the exciting wonderful trip, but we know not everything is going to be easy.
I need to be prepared for hurtful things others may say about adoption and about me as an adoptee. This is an area Sheri and I both worry about. The worry is more perceived than real. What do people thing about us having adopted Tony? People don’t say anything to us, but we wonder what they really think at times. I mom says we’re too old; which may be true.
I need validation of my dual heritage (biological and adoptive). Our Ton is of Latino American descent. We relish the differences he has brought to our family.
I need to be assured often that I am welcome and worthy. I try to hug Tony everyday and let him know that I accept him for who he is. I know Sheri does the same.
I need to be reminded often by my adoptive parents that they delight in my biological differences and appreciate my birth family’s unique contribution to our family through me. Tony’s biological differences excite me. He is the only one in the family with curly hair. I love his hair and his complexion. Charity’s fiancé has curly hair, and the have the same name, Anthony. We call Charity’s boyfriend Anthony and our boy we call Tony. Tony is tall and skinny. He has a hard time keeping his pants up, and his mom has a hard time finding pants that fit him. But we love this about him.
I Need parents who are skillful at meeting their own emotional needs so that I can grow up with healthy role models and be free to focus on my development, rather than taking care of them. I hope we take care of our junk, and don’t lay it on any of our kids. Of course parents are just human, and we have cycles where we feel better about things, and not so good about things. We have times when as a couple we feel good about each other, and some times not so good. It is a struggle to not let that stuff get to the kids.
I need my adoptive and birth parent to have a noncompetitive attitude. Without this, I will struggle with loyalty issues. I hope I have never said anything bad about Tony’s parents. However I am also honest and when Tony asks, will tell him why the courts allowed us to adopt him.
I need friendships with other adoptees. We have never thought about this part of the question. There are other adopted children at our church, and we have pointed them out to Tony. We are still part of the foster system, and tony has relationships with this process. We are torn if it is good or bad for Tony to see other children come and go.
I need to be taught that my life narrative began before I was born and that my life is not a mistake. We teach this to tony every day. His favorite song is “I am a Child of God.” We are so grateful to his birth mother for allowing him to be born, so he can share this journey with us.
I need to be taught that in this broken, hurting world, loving families are formed through adoption as well as birth. We are so grateful to Tony for coming to our family. The world is not all hurting and broken. There are good things to see in the world. I hope to share these with Tony.
I need to be taught that I have intrinsic, immutable value as a human being. Tony is a child of God. God has sent him her. God has allowed us to parent him. Tony is of immutable value.
The author includes a list of things parents can do. She suggests the book, “Talking with Young Children about Adoption.” I have it from the library and will reading it shortly. She also suggests reading about art therapy. I studied art therapy in school, and Tony loves his art, whether it be play dough, water colors or drawing. He is able to express himself through his art.
The author’s conclusory statement for this chapter is, “Helping your child heal is largely centered on honest, productive dialogue between you and your child… His special needs… will become deep wells of personal strength and empathy within him as he grows older.