The graphic shows what adoptive and foster parents long to communicate to their children. The problem is that the word "special" doesn't translate to the adoptee's heart. Sherrie shows parents how to make the connection.

An Adoptee’s Translation of “You Are Special”

“You’re special!”

I know you,  parents. There aren’t enough words in the English language to describe the depth of love you feel for your kids. Over the top. You can’t say enough.

And,  we adoptees love it too, except in certain situations.

You have no way of knowing that this might be an irritant to your child, so pretend you are a fly on the wall of  an imaginary room, filled with adoptees of all ages and stages.

Suddenly, someone asks, “How do you feel about being called ‘special’?”

How Various Adoptees Translate “Special”

One young adoptee stands to her feet and screams, “I love it!” and smiles from ear to ear.

Another says, “I remember raising my hand in elementary school and telling everyone that I was adopted. Later on the playground the kids made fun of me by saying stuff like, ‘Your mom didn’t want you so she threw you away.’  I ran into the school crying and was found by teacher who told me that being adopted made me special because my parents chose me. That was little comfort– it was more like a burden because I didn’t feel special.”

Then, other adoptees chimed in and translated what the phrase means to them:

  • Others have high expectations of me.
  • We must prove our worth by excelling.
  • We’re not like everyone else in the family…we are different.
  • Perform!
  • Be perfect.
  • Conform conform conform!
  • It’s not okay to just be myself

Whenever I teach this point during a training, many parents get upset. “Why can’t we tell our children they’re special?”

Please hear me, friends.

You can….just don’t tie it to our adoption.

That’s the only caution.

When It’s Okay to Say Special

So, you might say or do:

  • I love you to pieces….you are so special to me.
  • You are such a special girl, dude.
  • Bear hugs before bed.
  • Fun words before bed.
  • Silly stories: With our grandchildren, we had a time before bed that was for “silly stories.” We all got under the covers of our big bed and one person started telling a story…then the next had to add on to it. Or, try sentences that rhyme. It is so fun and the affection demonstrates they are special.

Here are five ways to show your kids they are special (ideas from Traci Little writing for Tommy Nelson blog:

  1. Create a “Mama and Me” Journal
  2. Date your kids.
  3. Make time to read to them.
  4. Love them where they’re at.
  5. Create a special love sign or handshake for each child.

That’s it, parents.

Just a little insight for you from the heart of one adoptee. Of course, I don’t speak for all.



You might also want to check out:

Six Small Ways to Make Each of Your Kids Feel Special





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