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Navigating First-Day-School Emotions with Adopted and Foster Kids

Why Parents Don't Need to Be Scared of Adoptee and Foster Kid Emotions

Parents, this is a learning curve not only for your child, but also for you.

Standing before you, as school begins anew for your child, you have the privilege of learning to reflect the strong emotions of your child and then teach him how to navigate them.

Even if your child is doing extremely well and you send him/her off with a smiling face,  there are always triggers that parents and teachers must keep in mind for the first day of school.


Adoptees have a hard time entering new places.

It is wise for parents and teachers to be aware of this unspoken reality when anticipating a new school year.

Remember our back story and you will gain understanding. This understanding pertains to babies, young kids, teens, adults, and even old ladies.

Many of us were whisked away after birth. Others were removed from existing families by social services and placed (oftentimes, multiples placements) into a foster family.

Here is how we may feel entering a new place:

  • Alarmed, like hearing the blast of the smoke alarm when sound asleep
  • Fear, like want to run and bolt the other way from smiling faces and open doors
  •  Traumatized, like our hearts racing out of our chests while our palms sweat
  • Unworthy, our mouths are dry, like cotton.
  • Withdrawal, like the only safe place is found in withdrawing and welcoming shut-down.
  • Quiet, like going to our personal “safe place” inwardly.
  • Broken-hearted, like knowing others want us to succeed and faking a smile

Parents, you must accept the facts that:

  • You are powerless to change the repercussions of your child’s past
  • You ARE responsible to teach your child how to recognize the unsafe feelings and to regulate his own feelings. We will talk more about this at the end of this post.


Take a step backward to adoption day. No matter how old the child, it is trauma city. The person we were the most intimately related to–our first moms–suddenly disappeared after birth, or else if later in life, she was taken away from us by the police, drugs, or death.

Let me assure you that we still love our first mommas.  She is our DNA. Her womb was our soft place. Her face was what we longed to see for nine months. And, we love her even if she has fried us as babies in a skillet. Our arms will always reach for her.

Moms and Dads through adoption, you are just as important. I believe in God’s sovereign plan for each person’s life. It is no mistake your child was born and it is no mistake that you are this child’s parents.

However, when we come to you, you are strangers…no matter how much you love us.

What comes to mind immediately is the popular advertisement of a grandparent with shingles welcoming a grandchild. Instead of the grand parent’s face, technology imposes the face of a fox.

For the non-adopted person to get a feel for what this dynamic, imagine a bride and groom on the night of their honeymoon. They fall asleep in one another’s arms, but upon awakening, they are shocked to see that a stranger is in bed with them instead of the spouse.

Accept the sovereignty of God here, parents. God can and will do anything to bring glory to Himself and good to His children.


When child is demonstrating either melt-down emotions or “melt-in” emotions, don’t run from them. Embrace them as an opportunity to teach your child how to deal with his painful past and move and grow into his future.

Here’s how to teach the basics to your child:

  1. Parent identifies emotional present….you’re feeling angry…..and it’s okay
  2. Assurance of parental presence: I want you to know that I am right here with you.
  3. Remind child of past trauma: Remember that you’ve been through a lot of hard stuff.
  4. Parent gives verbal reminder of the past and present. That kind of stuff isn’t happening now, though. 
  5. Parent reiterates safety: Now you are here with me and I will keep you safe.


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How One Adoptee Discovered Her Jewish Name

Is it  possible for an adoptee to discover Jewish roots as well as her Jewish name?

It can happen…and for me, it was in a most unusual and unexpected way.

Let me explain?

A few years ago, Bob and I traveled with nearly 30 people from Friends of Israel, both Australians and US, to the land of Israel.

Prior to leaving, genealogist-cousin Sharon reminded me that our family came from the Tribe of Dan. Even though she told me many times in the past, it went over my head. I wasn’t interested. It seemed like a dry bit of history.

But, now that we were going to  Israel, to the area where the Tribe of Dan lived, I was on a mission!

Our articulate tour guide, Tito, was with us every step of the way…teaching the history of his beloved country…from the Garden of Gethsemane to the huge field to the Jordan River.

On the third day of the trip, everyone piled into the large tour bus, as the intercom blasted the words of “Jerusalem,” a song sung by the Hoppers. Here is the link in case you want to get in the mood.

How appropriate!

Our day was going to be spent in the golden city, the city where Jesus walked.

Everyone was psyched for the trip.

Suddenly, our bus driver pulled off to  a side road and stopped.

For the first time in Tito’s  30-year career as a guide, his bus couldn’t gain entrance to the city.

Did you get that?

First time in 30 years.

The streets were packed, for it was the day of the Six Day War commemoration, also called the June War or the Third Arab-Israeli War. It occurred from June 5-10 1967, when Israel captured the Sinai Peninsula, Gaza Strip, West Bank, Old City of Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

Our revised destination? The grave site of David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister and Minister of Defense of Israel.

How could a day at a gravesite compare to walking the cobblestone streets of Jerusalem?” I asked myself.

Nonetheless, Tito began with confidence, standing on a hill and teaching about common Jewish names that begin with “Green.”

Then, he spouted off words like “Greenburg, Greenstein, Green whatever……”

Fireworks exploded in my brain…

My grandmother’s name, Myrtle Daisy Greenlees, came to mind.

I ran to Tito and told him what I’d discovered.

“Is it on your mother’s side?” he asked.

(The Jewish tie always has to come from the mother’s side.)

“Yes!” I said, like a kindergartener who’d just been given an ice-cream cone.

Tito wrapped his arms around me and said, “Welcome to the family.”

Thus, looking back, finding my Jewish name at the gravesite of David Ben Gurion  was a divine appointment that far outweighed the visit to Jerusalem that day.