Seeing the return of THIS IS US was epic, but I’m worried about Randall.
In the last episode before the holidays, we were given a peek at Rebecca’s memory problems and it was confirmed in this new season that she indeed is suffering from dementia, possibly Alzheimers.
Randall, played by Sterling Brown, captures the essence of the adoptee personality.
Randall was the first to notice memory problems in Rebecca and you could tell before the holidays that he was deeply concerned about her. That is so typical of many adoptees–because of the trauma we’ve been through, we have an extremely tender heart for those that are hurting.
As the episode unfolded, not only did we see his tender heart but also the extremes he went to in order to gain entrance with a specialist. The doc said he texted her 48 times? And, when he returned home to his own family, the were totally relaxed, in fact sleeping, when he kissed them goodnight.
After kissing them goodnight, he went downstairs to get a drink of water. As he did, the scary figure appeared to him.
Was it a hallucination? We don’t know. All we know is that he commanded it to flee.
But the following scenes left me worried about Randall, as they showed earlier break downs that he had.
That’s the reality of being adoptee, at least from my perspective. I”ve been hospitalized for depression twice and even lost touch with reality once.
I fear Randall is going down that old painful past. What can we fellow adoptees do to help him?
Self–acceptance is seemingly unattainable for many adoptees and foster kids and adoptive parents can’t understand what more they can do. There is something I’ve discovered that may be valuable to parents in dealing with the dilemma of fostering self-worth and self acceptance in your adopted kiddos.
Of course, the following is my voice only. I’m not speaking for all adoptees. I do hope this is a help to you.
It’s important to state that many adopted/foster kids thrive and self-esteem and self-acceptance come easy. They excel and if you ask them about adoption, they’d probably say, “It’s no big deal to me.”
However, for many, including myself, find self-esteem and self-acceptance is a winding and treacherous path toward growth and maturity. How can we ever feel good about ourselves if we’ve suffered serious depression, multiple addictions, or unplanned pregnancies?
The majority of adoptees I’ve interviewed over the years have non-existent self worth. They’d never tell you, but they often believe, even subconsciously, that their lives are a mistake. This occurs with infant adoption and the challenge comes in learning that they are “the unplanned good” in the lives of the first and adoptive parents.
Foster care kids often believe there’s something inherently wrong with them. If not, why would their first home and parents be taken away? Why would they experience multiple placements if this were not true? Why would so many fostering families find them undesirable? The challenge for older children is self-acceptance–to learn that even though they are acting out their trauma pain in the family setting, it won’t always be that way. It won’t always hurt this bad.
Here are some ideas for building self-acceptance and worth within your child:
Teach the lifeline of an adoptee.
This is key for an adoptee’s identity. Many think their lives began by mistake but actually their lives began in the heart of God the Father. God is the only one that create life. He created everything we see-including you.
In addition, He created you in his image–body, soul, and spirit. Because he created you, he has a special plan for your life. He will help you..
Parents may want to have the child make this verse on a card or plaque:
My life bean not on adoption day, not on my birthday, not at conception. My life began in the very heart of God.
Here is a visual to teach this truth:
2. Share the effects of trauma on their development.
Adopted children must understand that their struggles and sometimes slowness are because they are children of trauma. Just because an adoptee doesn’t thrive and goes under once in awhile doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with him/her. That is where you can nip shame in the bud, parents. Shame shouts, “There’s something wrong with y.o.u.”
You may want to share this illustration of trauma with your child. Have him/her imagine what it’s like to hear the smoke alarm suddenly blare in the dead of night. What is the reaction? We throw off the covers, jump out of bed, run through the dark in search of the on/off button. When the alarm is turned off, life is peaceful again and you can go back to sleep.
When you suffer trauma as a baby/child/teen, the alarm is still going off in your brain. No one has shut it off, and so you have difficulties. We and your counselor will find effective ways to help you turn off the noise in your brain.
3. Assure them that wasted years and brokenness can be redeemed.
It doesn’t take a Rhodes Scholar to learn the different stages of child development. The theory is that none of us can move to the next step of development until the prior one is completed.
You will need help from an adoption-competent therapist to know your child’s “emotional age.” This is what must be identified. Then, you can identify the stage that hasn’t been completed and work on it with professional help.
Because of various factors in my adopted life, I didn’t move on the developmental chart. My parents must have looked for growth and development at different stages and ages, but often what they saw was the same thing–I was stuck in my development due to pre-and post-birth trauma, but also RAD.
It would be tempting to look back with regret and condemnation, chiding myself for not getting my act together before now.
But, far from being guilt-ridden, I can sense layer after layer of shame rolling off me, like waves. I rest on the promise from the *Bible that says, “He makes up for the years the locusts have eaten.”
You may want to consider having your child make a drawing or collage of what “the locusts ate” in his life–the discouragement, the depressions, the temper tantrums, the running away.
Then, read what God does with those things. This may be a second drawing or collage. Gather old cards, newspaper clippings, buttons, photos, etc. White boards are a great idea also.
4. Reveal the beauty of late bloomers through another adoptee’s life.
You may want to share the following story about my late-blooming amaryllis.
Amaryllis plants are supposed to be incredibly beautiful, with showy blossoms that grow from a bulb that many people use for Christmas decorations. Keep this in mind, for the bulb the hubs brought home hardly fit the ideal description.
Frankly, my first impression was doubt–would the poor thing would ever blossom? Potted in a dark green plastic container, only its brownish bulb was visible. Oh, yes, it had soil around it, but it was bone dry.
After watering the poor thing, we watched for w.e.e.k.s. Nothing!
Why didn’t it hurry up and blossom? We wanted to see it “do it’s thing” when our family gathered for Christmas. We wanted them to see its beauty but it just wasn’t happening. Thus, Christmas came and went.
As the stalk became awkward and leggier, we thought maybe we should change its position on the coffee table so that it pointed toward the sun. There were minor changes, but nothing significant. Were we doing something wrong? Did our amaryllis not like it here?
One day, we saw signs of growth–the tips of the green stalk were turning pink and today, it is crimson red, with four blooms shaped like trumpets.
Include the thoughts of a fellow adoptee
Watching the development of the amaryllis reminds me of my development as an adopted person. When my adoptive grandmother brought 10-day old me through Mom and Dad’s front door, you certainly couldn’t see any blooms. After all, who can bloom after a traumatic loss? Who can sing when the heart is broken?
Parents, isn’t that how your adopted/foster children entered your family? They have lived in a proverbial dark green plastic pot that isn’t conducive to growth. In fact, the depth of their trauma renders them unlikely recipients of growth.
Perhaps, when they come through your doors with only a garbage bag to their possession or obvious black eyes from abuse, like the amaryllis, there isn’t much evident hope they’ll survive, yet alone thrive.
Sherrie’s letter to your child:
Please share this personal letter from me with your adopted child:
Dear fellow adoptee,
I love you and I haven’t even met you. It’s taken a lifetime for me to get through the trauma I endured when I lost my first family,
When I was growing up and even as an adult, there was little information for how to survive, and thrive, through the losses I’ve endured.
Things are different now, though, for you. Many parents are informed and there are many professionals to help you in developing into the person you were created to be.
Don’t worry that your development doesn’t line up with the non-adopted kids you know. They haven’t experienced the trauma you have. You have many hurdles to jump over that they never will.
And, yet as you jump, there is light and life ahead of you. Even if you turn out to be a late bloomer like me, it is simply okay.
I am cheering you on in your race of life. Be compassionate with yourself and trust that in due time, you will blossom as you never dreamed possible.,
I’m going to ask you to do something in regard to your adopted child’s anger that will likely seem crazy, but hang tight…it will make sense after you read the prescription for helping your child process misplaced anger and find healing from pre-adoption loss.
First, think about your reaction to your child’s outbursts, rages, and rejections. Do these scare you? Do you wonder if you’re doing something wrong as a mom? Do you feel helpless and hopeless about how to deal with it?
You’re not alone.
Let’s take a close look at the world of adoption literature for the last few decades and give accolades to Nancy Verrier for her best-seller, THE PRIMAL WOUND. If your adopted child is a teen or adult, he/she may carry the dog-eared book around for quick reference. Why? It’s a validation of not being crazy and proof that actual words can be wrapped around the deeper-than-death loss.
Ms. Verrier’s proposition states that if adoptees are validated concerning their loss, they will heal. That discovery came 20 years ago, yet the majority of adoptees who’ve read it are still stuck and unaware that healing from un-grieved adoption loss is a possibility.
Ms. Verrier took the adoption community a long way in the journey toward adoptee healing by teaching us the value of validation. She validated the wound, but there’s another validation that must follow on the heels of wound validation–the validation of adoptee anger.
Did you just gasp? Did you wonder if you misread what I just stated about validating your child’s anger? Did you look inside and question if you’d ever have the energy to withstand that additional pressure?
Those reactions are understandable. You may perceive I’m asking you to have an unexpected cream pie thrown in your face in addition to being rejected. No way.
Understand What Your Validation Says To Your Child
First, I’m asking you to understand what validation of your child’s anger means to him. For starters, it means this to many adoptees:
You’ve heard my cry.
You won’t leave me in my pain.
You are for me.
You’ve been traumatized…I am so sorry you had to experience that.
You won’t abandon me in a crisis.
Let me add here that your child is likely confused about his/her anger, for it seemingly can’t be controlled. It explodes without invitation, like a bomb.
Your child may think that “they are their anger.” They may conclude, “I’m just an angry person.” Or, they may wonder if it’s a character defect passed down from unknown biological generations, or even a spiritual generational curse.
Validate “Flung” Anger
What I’m asking you to do is validate your child’s anger even when it’s flung directly at you. In order to accomplish this, you must be self-regulated, and a gifted adoption-competent therapist can help you develop that skill.
Back to your child’s healing…for healing to occur from Nancy Verrier’s famous primal wound, a scab must form, which gradually becomes like a crusty umbrella protecting the wound.
Let’s agree that the scab for the primal wound is anger–a God-given emotion to protect and warn us that something needs attention. Does this concept not clarify the next step after validation of the wound?
When your child is healing, the scab will itch, but don’t let it get pulled off. In other words, your child may want to short-circuit your healthy validation of anger by throwing more rejection or or slipping into relapse. If this happens, don’t give up.
Another function of the scab is to create such an atmosphere for new growth. The scabby umbrella makes new skin feel safe and nurtured. This occurs where the wound once was.
As you incorporate your knowledge of the healing process, you’ll also need to provide regulating statements for your child. By regulating, I mean that you’ll validate the flung anger but then help your child bridge emotionally from the past hurt to his present-day reality. It’s basically teaching “that was then, but this is now.”
Here is a list of Adoption Competent Therapists from the Center for Adoption Education and Support. I think the world of them. https://adoptionsupport.org/member-types/adoption-competent-professionals/
Keep in mind as you help your child regulate his/her emotions that usually the core emotion is fear. The majority of adoptees look at life through a lens of fear. Fear of abandonment. Fear of rejection. Fear of being invisible. Fear of being thrown away.
Now, I’d like you to buckle your seatbelts and read some anger statements that my research proved true of many adoptees.
Hell, yes I’m angry. I have a right to be.
It’s not my fault.
My first mom kicked me to the side of the road and went on with life.
You are a loser.
Next, let’s turn the angry accusations into validation and regulation.
Turn Angry Accusations into Validating and Regulating Statements
The old axiom that “practice makes perfect” applies here. I’ve concocted these examples to help you practice your validations and regulating statements:
I HAVE A RIGHT TO BE ANGRY.
Yes, you certainly do have a right to be angry. You have experienced the greatest loss anyone ever could–the loss of your first parents in the parenting role. This all happened before I ever saw you and I want you to know that I understand and am here for you whenever you want to be angry about it.
2. IT’S NOT MY FAULT.
Of course, losing your first parents in the parenting role is not your fault. You had absolutely no “say” in the decision. You were an innocent child and your voice couldn’t even be heard. No wonder you’re angry about that. Remember though, that my voice for you will now will always be for the best possible outcome.
Moms, be sure to not tell your child that he/she was placed for adoption because the first mother loved her. Remember that your child, no matter how fancy the adoption ceremony and no matter the age of your child, sees the disappearance of the first mom as rejection, pure and simple.
To equate the first mother’s decision with love confuses your child about the possibility of even knowing what love is or how to receive it from others, including you.
3. MY FIRST MOM KICKED ME TO THE SIDE OF THE ROAD AND WENT ON WITH LIFE.
I can’t imagine what that felt like for you. Do you actually see her kicking you to the roadside? Where is the road? What does it look like? And, how did you respond when you were kicked to the side? Did you scream? Did you curl up in a ball? I just can’t fathom what you felt then. Right now, though, there is no road or anyone that will kick you to the side of the road. In fact, I’m at the side of your road now and I’m you’re number one cheerleader. I will never, ever abandon you.
4. YOU ARE A LOSER.
I know that is what you’re seeing. You see me as the mom you didn’t want, for all your body wanted was to be close to the mom you lost. I can’t imagine how mixed up inside you must be that I’m now your mom. I want to assure you that as your mom, I am willing for you to think I’m a loser if that will help you let go of that confusion and anger. Know that I will always love you no matter what you call me.
Moms, please know that when your child calls you a loser, he/she is really saying, “I am a loser.” That hatred is basically toward self.
When your child flings rejecting, hateful, and angry statements at you, imagine putting on a yellow rain slicker–your yellow rain slicker.
When the hurtful remarks come like pelting rain, they will have no power to hurt you. They will roll off you, like raindrops.
And so, looking back over the decades of adoption literature, thank you, Ms. Verrier for validation of the adoptee wound, but moms and adopted kids are moving on now–toward creating new growth beneath the scab of anger.
We now know that the secret ingredient for reversing misplaced anger is validation of “flung anger.”
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