Why Adoptees and Foster Kids Must Guard Their Hearts

Why Can't Adoptees and Foster Kids Trust Others?

Because we adoptees and foster kids once swam in the rip tides of f trauma(s), we either share our hearts with everyone or shut our deep feelings off from those who love us most.

Drs. David Brodzinsky and Marshall Schechter say that the foundation for feeling safe depends on our ability to trust. “Trust allows an infant to feel he can depend on his own behavior as well as that of his caregivers. Without trust, he may grow up doubting his own self-worth, and doubting the motives of everyone he meets.”1

T.R.U.S.T. The commodity we long for but few of us possess. Reflecting on Brodzinsky and Schechter’s comments about the need for trust both in self and caregivers, do you think it possible that one half of the equation—learning to trust others —could be missing from our personal trust equations? Do you suppose it’s possible that when we were separated from our first family, no matter our age, that we couldn’t trust anyone but ourselves?

Emily tests everyone in her life all the time, to prove to herself whether or not they can be trusted. The tests are never fair and she doesn’t tell people they are being tested. When they fail, she is secretly glad because it proves her theory that no one can really care for her.

We get stuck!

Erik Erikson, a German-born American psychoanalyst, was abandoned by his father before birth. Interestingly enough, some say he was almost obsessed with his theory of development (is it any wonder?), which postulates eight stages of development each characterized by a crisis that needs to be resolved. Here’s how it works:

At the point of crisis the child is faced with a choice between coping in an adaptive or maladaptive way. Only as each crisis is resolved, which involves an evolution in personality, does the person have the strength to deal with the next stage of development. If a person does not resolve the conflict, he or she will confront and struggle with it later in life.2  In other words, if we don’t get it the first time around, we must go back and learn it.

Some of us already possess trust or may have revisited and resolved the conflict, but others may still have to face it someday. Crystal says she has always had a nagging suspicion that everyone in the world has something in them that makes them able to understand each other, to know what is really going on in relationships, and to give and receive love. “I have imagined that I don’t have these abilities because I am adopted and missed the developmental stage where most people get blessed with these gifts.”

If we never came through this crisis of trust as infants, do you think that means we will remain infants emotionally for the rest of our lives? Do we have to stay stuck?

Absolutely not!

Trust can be learned. If we haven’t learned it from our initial caregiver (our first mother or adoptive parents), we can learn it from others who have successfully passed through that stage of development and moved on toward maturity.

Trust Can Be Learned

Authors and professors of psychiatry Malcolm L. West and Adrienne E. Sheldon-Keller say, “The securely attached adult can acknowledge felt distress in a modulated way and turn to supportive and trusted relationships for comfort. Particularly during periods of emotional upset, comfort often needs to be expressed in concrete attachment behaviors that reassure the individual. Put simply, felt security at these times has a lot to do with having someone available who will respond to our feelings and even take supportive action. The special warmth that often accompanies attachment comes just from these tangible reassurances that one is understood.”3

Now let’s translate this into adoptee terms and see how trust can be developed.

THROUGH A NO-RISK CONFIDANTE

Connie Dawson has a rewarding trust relationship. She says, “I don’t share deep feelings with anyone unless I deem them to be a no-risk confidante. I can talk with other adoptees about adoption issues, but only to a point.  If I want to go to a newly discovered place in myself that is related to adoption, I test out whether the other person can go there too. I am fortunate to have a fellow-traveler adoptee for a close friend. I’ve told him, with tears in my eyes, that I can tell him things I haven’t told anyone else—because he is willing to plumb his depths too. In my experience, this is a very rare experience. We have an intimate relationship of a precious kind.”

IN CLINICAL SETTINGS

The term “transference” is a clinical term and refers to the unconscious transfer of experience from one interpersonal context to another. In transference, we relive past relationships in current situations. They are repeated over and over, and this can be especially true when we are in counseling. For example, we might unconsciously view our therapist as our father or mother and act accordingly. If we had a poor relationship with our fathers or mothers, we can work through those negative feelings with the right therapist who has good boundaries and thus establish trust.

The late Dirck Brown, Ed.D., founder and first executive director for Post Adoption Center for Education and Research (PACER), board member of the International Soundex Reunion Registry, former president of the American Adoption Congress, and author of Clinical Practice in Adoption says, “I spent about four years in analysis and let me tell you, transference is a wonderful experience —I’ve seldom felt closer to anyone in my life than my analyst, John.”

THROUGH FRIENDSHIPS

I have learned trust through my friend and colleague.  We met at a women’s support group and the moment I saw her, I knew I would love her. 

She and I live very different lifestyles, but we love each other just as we are. We are no longer in the group but our friendship has continued for more than twenty years. Just yesterday we were talking about the mystery and joy of our relationship, and Vicky observed, “You know, trust is a delicate gift we far too often give when it’s not deserved. When we do this, we inevitably get burned, and this restarts the cycle of not being able to trust. Our friendship is unique but not at all surprising. God has taken each of us along very different paths but he has brought us to the same place: his safe presence. I think trust is recognition of the familiar — knowing that we are truly a part of One.”

WITH MENTORS

I also feel safe with the beautiful senior women who have mentored me over the years. At each stage of life and with every move, there has been someone older and wiser than me to help me find the right path.

Rosemary Jensen, Founder of Raffiki, took me under her wing when I was a new teaching leader in her organization. Even though we don’t see each other anymore, the relationship has continued through correspondence. I will never forget one time right after my birth mother rejected me. Rosemary knew nothing about it, yet in the mail one day I got a note from her that said, “I’ve been thinking about you. What is going on in your life? How is your writing going?”

IN SMALL GROUPS

Bob and I are members of a small group that meets weekly for study and friendship. In the beginning, we all had our best foot forward, but as one person got real, then another, people were freed up to be themselves and share without fear of judgment. It’s a guilt-free zone for each person and they have become like family to us.

Risk but Beware of Toxic People

It’s reality that not all people are trustworthy and we need to always keep that in mind, especially when we are needy. Trust is not something we ought to dole out like ice cream on a hot summer day to anyone who comes along. Yet because many of us have emotional vulnerabilities and such a deep need for connection, we sometimes throw all caution to the wind and launch into relationships that tear down instead of build up.

Author Lillian Glass, Ph.D., describes the results of a relationship with such a person. She says, “A toxic person is someone who seeks to destroy you.  A toxic person:

  • Robs you of your self-esteem and dignity and poisons the essence of who you are.
  • Wears down your resistance and thus can make you mentally or physically ill.
  •  Not life-supporting. They see only the negative in you.
  • Jealous and envious–ot happy to see you succeed. In fact,they get hostile whenever you do well.
  • Sabotages your efforts to lead a happy and productive life.”4

After we’ve been burned a few times by toxic relationships, we long for the wisdom and courage to listen to the signals of our bodies and souls. However, more times than we care to remember, we don’t recognize or heed the warning signs and find ourselves in relationships with emotionally unhealthy people, in undesirable circumstances, or in commitments for which we have neither the time nor the energy.

Remember that Trust Must Be Earned

Some of us also become enmeshed in toxic situations and relationships when we share too much too soon. We don’t put out the necessary “feelers” or “testers” to see how the other person will react to private information. We dive in the deep end of the pool when we haven’t taken beginning swimming lessons.

Richard Curtis describes such an experience. He says, “About a year after my reunion with my siblings in Cleveland I was visiting my two half-sisters. While waiting for dinner to be prepared I had an opportunity to spend some time with the middle sister with whom I hadn’t had much communication. She asked several questions about my growing-up years as well as my adult life.

“Feeling more comfortable with her, I proceeded to reveal personal stories about my experiences in my adoptive home, my broken relationships with spouses, recovery from addictions, and strained relationships with my own children.

“She became silent, explaining that my behavior was much like her ex-husband’s, with whom she has a volatile relationship”

“Oh-oh, Richard, I said to myself. Too much sharing!”

“Since that conversation I’ve sensed a coolness, a backing away, a judgmental, rejecting attitude toward me. I continue to correspond only with my other sister who has accepted me unconditionally.”

Richard’s painful experiences underscore the truth that trust must be earned.

Three Characteristics of Safe People

Wouldn’t it be great if every safe, trustworthy person wore a sign on his or her back that said so? That might qualify as an adoptee fantasy of the highest order! However, there are certain characteristics that define safe people, and once we learn them we’re much more likely to make wise decisions regarding with whom we share our deepest selves.

  1. THEY REQUIRE A TWO-DIMENSIONAL RELATIONSHIP.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand to be in any kind of conversation or relationship in which one person dominates. It absolutely drives me nuts! After the conversation is over, I feel like I’ve been bound, gagged, and shoved in a corner.

These are the kind of people I befriended before I learned about trust. I was a co-dependent, thinking I could rescue them and help them by not sharing my thoughts, but just listening.

That’s far from the kind of relationship we’re looking for. There has to be a natural give and take, kind of like playing a graceful game of tennis. One shares and then the other responds in a continual, flowing manner.

A key to this kind of relationship is what David Augsburger calls “equal hearing.”  I love this..(I love this)…

EQUAL HEARING

I will claim

my right

to be

equally heard.

If I yield

my right to speak,

if I do not claim my time for sharing,

if I do not express what I want in equality,

I am squandering

my privilege of

personhood.

I will respect

your right

to be

equally heard.

You are you.

I want

to hear you.

If I usurp

your right to speak,

if I use up

your time for conversing,

if I do not listen

for what you want in

equality,

I am stifling

your privilege of personhood.5

If we’ve located someone who’s not a dominator, but equally as interested in us as he is in himself, we can look for the second characteristic, which is a nonjudgmental attitude.

2. THEY’RE NOT JUDGMENTAL.

Don’t you hate having someone point his or her long, bony finger at you and tell you what you should or shouldn’t be doing? 

I love the saying: “If you can spot it, you got it.”

It has helped me immensely to learn about the psychological dynamic of projection. My layman’s understanding of it is that if someone says something judgmental about me, they’re really saying that is how they feel about themselves. Try that next time someone throws a judgmental thought at you. It diffuses your reaction so that you can respond responsibly and not emotionally.

It is my belief that we are all of equal worth and are on a horizontal playing field. One of the most effective ways I can spot people who judge are those who give unsolicited advice or counsel. Yes, they may be well-intentioned and even knowledgeable. However, unsolicited counsel is nothing more than a glorified put-down.

Augsburger created a diagram about relationships that I have made myself accountable to for years, and it has literally changed my life. It has helped me sidestep judgers as well as keep my own attitudes and behavior on track. Notice as you review the diagram that “talking with” is the correct way of relating to others.

Talking down

Blaming

Scolding

Judging

Belittling

Instructing

Supervising

Equal Mutual

give and Talking with hearing and

take being heard

Yielding

Ingratiating

Groveling

Apologizing

Placating

Talking up 6

Once we’ve weeded out judgmental, self-appointed counselors from our lives, we can put out feelers by observing the reactions of others to our words and feelings. Safe people desire to build up, to reassure us that they care enough about us to invest something of themselves in our lives through words and actions.

3. THEY EDIFY THROUGH WORDS AND ACTIONS.

Here are some attitudes and actions of people who build up:

  • They accept us as we are—they don’t try to “fix” us.
  • They recognize our potential.
  • They believe in us and tell us so.
  • They encourage us to “aim high.”

As we apply what we’ve learned in this chapter to our lives, we will gradually gain the ability to identity safe people and then develop relationships with them.

OUR CHOICE

To begin searching for safe people, put out feelers, and take a risk.

We must guard our hearts through discernment and simultaneously learn the art of gradual self-disclosure. We need to find a healthy balance between the two, and that will occur as we learn to trust ourselves.

HOW TO BEGIN

  • Assess current relationships. Are they safe or toxic?
  • List whom you might feel safe with. Whom do you admire? If you are in a support group, whom do you feel drawn to?
  • Reach out. After you have identified a new person, invite him or her for coffee. It feels scary to take a risk, but go for it….guarding your heart as you go.

PS–Of course, the safest person you can ever talk to is a fellow adoptee or foster kid. We can “read” one another from a distance:-)…,AND…the last place we will ever be safe in any relationship is the internet.

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Why One Adopted Person Is Thankful for Tough Times

Seeing Growth in the Midst of Suffering

“For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8: 38-39).

As children of God, we are all in the wonderful process of being healed by our Great Physician, Jesus. His healing can be evidenced in a new-found appreciation for life, as we learn to enjoy Him.

Webster’s defines appreciation like this: “To be grateful for; to value highly; to place a high estimate on; to be fully aware of; to prize; to exercise wise judgment, delicate perception, and keen insight in realizing the worth of something.”

This appreciation is like a scar, for it grows in the very place that pain once lived. Pain that was self-inflicted or caused by another. It’s like the gold that comes forth from the refining process, or the beautiful rose blossom that bursts for from the thorn-laden stem. Like Job after his suffering, we may confess, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you” (42:5).

As this writer took time to look back over the years, there came a new desire to praise God for the trials.

See if you identify with any of these:

  • I didn’t appreciate the acceptance of Christ until I had been utterly rejected.
  • I didn’t appreciate His strength until I allowed myself to become weak.
  • I didn’t appreciate His loyalty until another betrayed me.
  • I didn’t appreciate His grace until I fell flat on my face.
  • I didn’t appreciate family living close by until they moved far away.
  • I didn’t appreciate the Lord’s belief in me until I knew the sting of persecution.
  • I didn’t appreciate the Light of the Lord’s countenance until I sat in darkness.
  • I didn’t appreciate the little things in life until I looked death straight in the face.
  • I didn’t appreciate the healing Balm of Gilead until I had been deeply wounded.
  • I didn’t appreciate the comforting shoulder of a friend until my heart had been broken.
  • I didn’t appreciate the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit until I felt totally abandoned.
  • I didn’t appreciate intimacy with God until I spent time in the desert.
  • I didn’t appreciate the hope of heaven until I buried a loved one.
  • I didn’t appreciate the privilege of prayer until I had no one to whom I could turn.
  • I didn’t appreciate Jesus as Lord until my life became unmanageable.
  • I didn’t appreciate Jesus as Life until I came to the absolute end of my own resources.

Helping Adopted Kids Think Freely About Their Birth Parents

I Shouldn't Tell Mom How Often I Think About My First Mom

I have yet to meet an adoptee who can honestly claim to have never thought about his or her birth mother, especially on birthdays.

It’s no wonder. Just think about how intimately we were united with the woman who gave us birth! What a connection we had for at least nine months. An inseparable bond. As inseparable as tea from hot water. As inseparable as a bud from the stem of a flower. As inseparable as the ocean from the sand.

Renowned author John Bowlby says that the mother is the hub of life.1

Author and physician Peter Nathananielsz says that much of the way our bodies work is molded and solidified during our time in the womb and that there are critical periods during prenatal development when our cells and organs decide how they will behave for the rest of our lives.2 Just think…at the very moment of conception, our entire genetic code was established that determined our sex and the color of our hair and eyes. At three weeks we had a beating heart, and at forty days detectable brain waves.

Perhaps even more fascinating is a phenomenon that goes on between a mother and her unborn child that absolutely boggled my mind when I learned about it.

Our First Conversations with Her

Who do you think was the first person with whom you had a conversation?

Would you believe it was your birth mother?

And, where and when do you think it might have happened?

This is the mind-boggling part —in the womb!

Dr. Thomas Verny says that during the last three months of pregnancy, and especially the last two, we are mature enough physically and intellectually to send and receive fairly sophisticated messages to and from our mothers. Our mothers set the pace, provide the cues, and actually mold our responses.3

What messages did we get from our birth mothers? I believe it all depended on her attitude toward us. If we heard, “I love you and am so glad you’re a part of me. I will do all that I can to help you develop into the person you were created to be. I can’t wait to see you. I will welcome you into the world in a way more wonderful than you can possibly imagine,” our response was certainly positive. We would have thrived on it. “Oh, Mommy,” our little pre-verbal minds might have “said,” “I love you so much and I can’t wait to be born so that I can nurse at your breasts and be held in your arms.”

On the other hand, what if we heard, “I don’t want you. I don’t even like you. In fact, I think of you as an ‘it,’ and frankly, I can’t wait to get rid of you. I wish I could”?

Our little minds may have responded like this: “All alone. All alone. Hurts so bad. No one will ever take care of me. I must ‘buck up’ and be strong so I can survive. Be strong. Be strong. Tense up. Be on guard so I won’t be tortured like this again.”

This kind of message to us would be unimaginably painful. Author Judith Viorst likens it to being doused with oil and set on fire.4

But it’s a subconscious pain. Dr. Arthur Janov says that this kind of pain is “not like a pinch where we yell ‘ouch,’ shake our fingers, and in a few minutes get over it. Instead, it’s like being pinched so hard you cannot feel it, so that the pain goes on forever because it is continually being processed below the level of conscious awareness. It doesn’t mean it is not there doing its damage — it just means that it is too much to feel.”5

Some of us can identify with those negative conversations, and many of them are still playing in our heads even though they were communicated so many years ago. Some of us feel at a cellular level that we need her love and welcoming attitude in order to survive. If we experienced a transracial adoption, this may escalate as we hit the teen years. Every time we look in the mirror, we wonder who we look like. Whom did my skin color come from?

I know for a fact that I didn’t have my birth mother’s love from day one, yet by grace, I am a survivor. As my husband always says, “From some people you learn what to do and from others you learn what not to do.”

Whatever the case, whether conversations with our birth mothers were positive or painful, prenatal experiences are encoded in our bodies, souls, and spirits, resulting in questions and thoughts that pop into our minds, often unexpectedly, throughout our lives.

Our First Thoughts about Her

Folks who aren’t adopted are often amazed at how early some of us think about our birth mothers, especially when I tell the story about the adopted girl who asked her mom prior to her third birthday party if her “lady” was coming. The mother asked what lady she was talking about. Her daughter answered, “The lady I grew inside. It’s my birthday, isn’t it?”7

Cheri Freeman thought about her origins at an early age also. She told herself stories at age three or four about how her birth parents missed her and how happy they would be to finally meet her.

Joe Soll says that from the moment he knew he was adopted at age four, there has never been a day that he hasn’t thought about his birth mom.

Frieda Moore found comfort when hurting by imagining her birth mother coming to find and rescue her, taking her home to live with her forever.

Pam Hasegawa, a fifty-nine-year-old adoptee advocate, says that when she had the lead in a play, she remembers thinking, “If she could only see me now! Would she be proud of me?”

Where did those positive attitudes come from? Could they have begun in the womb?

And what about those of us who have negative attitudes? Laurie, even as a young child, worried that her birth mother must be struggling and depressed. Others of us didn’t begin to think about our birth mothers until we hit puberty and shot up to six feet tall even though both our adoptive parents were short. Shirley Reynolds says that when she became a teen, she realized that she looked much different than her adoptive family. This propelled her into a fantasy world where her mother would be dark-haired and petite, like Shirley. And of course, she would be beautiful!

If we are of mixed race, we look at our skin color and wonder what race our birth mother is. Is she Indian or Scottish?

Some adoptees claim to never think about their birth mothers. Sally says that she feels guilty because she doesn’t think about hers, knowing that so many other adoptees do.

Sally is not alone. Many don’t think about their birth mothers for various reasons, but the reason may possibly be shame. Shame is that awful feeling, not that we have done something wrong, but that something is inherently wrong with us as a person. In adoptee language, “My life is a mistake.”

How about hearing your adoptive mother talk derogatively about the twenty-one-year-old down the street who was unmarried and pregnant, raving about how much shame she brought to her family? Connie Dawson heard this message at the tender age of ten as her mother delivered a veiled message that Connie herself was shameful and shouldn’t be “bad,” like her birth mother was. Or how about Sue who struggles with a haunting belief that something dreadful must lurk within her, which if found out by her adoptive parents, would cause them to bolt from her?

Or, how about being a black child with white parents and hearing others ask why your parents adopted a black child. How about when you’re only six years old and people come up to your mom at the grocery store and ask how she fixes your Afro-American hair? Or, if you’re a black teen and you walk into a convenience store with your white parent, you can’t experience “white privilege” even though your mom is white. Others look suspiciously at you instead.

Her Lifelong Impact

Whether positive or negative, and whether we like it or not, our birth mothers are a forever part of us. How we choose to respond to that reality will deeply influence the course of our lives.

Author Louise Kaplan says that in the death of a parent (which I believe can be likened to relinquishment), the dialogue between parent and child continues within the child and that the child remains attached in profound ways to that dialogue throughout life.8

When my dad died, one of his friends said to me, “You never lose your parents. They are always a part of you.” In my grief, I was rather skeptical, but since that time I have found it to be true. For instance, after every meal, Dad, in a mischievous way, picked up the unused silverware saying,

“This one’s clean!” We’d all laugh and say, “Yeah, Dad!” Over the years it became an endearing behavior, and in the years since his death, whenever I pick up clean silverware after a meal, I think of him and smile.

What about Our Birth Fathers?

We have examined a very important part of our existence —our birth mothers. But what about our birth fathers? Did they have no influence? Last time I checked the books on reproduction, it takes two to make a baby.

Thoughts about Our Birth Parents Are Innate

When I was almost finished with the final draft of this book I talked with a reunited birth father who adored his daughter but who had been rejected by her. His heart was breaking as he wept while telling me that he would do anything to have a meaningful father-daughter relationship.

Do many birth fathers feel the same way? Would they want a relationship with us if they had an opportunity? Do they feel the loss of us to the same degree that birth mothers usually do? As we do?

What if our birth fathers are rapists or serial murderers? Many of us were conceived in rape. How are we to tell our stories? How we to believe our lives are not a mistake?

As I’ve said, I believe that adoption can be likened to a big door. Over the top of the door is written “Birth Mother,” for our thoughts about her usually come first. It is often after we have gone through the adoption door that we find the words “Birth Father” written on the other side.

Ron Hilliard, of Palm Beach Heights, Florida, focused mainly on his birth mother and blocked out thoughts of his birth father because his father didn’t want to marry his mother and also urged her to have an abortion. Ron’s search for his birth mother ended in a cemetery and he is now looking at the back of the adoption door and wondering who his father is—and who he is as a result. This curiosity is being fueled by the fact that Ron has a fraternal twin brother who resembles his birth mother’s photos, while Ron doesn’t. This makes him wonder who he does resemble.

Some of us see the words “birth father” first on the adoption door.

Richard Curtis says that the loss of his birth father was the first loss of a male figure in his life, followed by the loss of his adoptive father when he was only five years old. As a result, Richard had no male role models and was left with what he terms a “father hunger” that he believes many adoptees experience.

Like Ron, Richard’s search for his birth father ended at a tombstone. However, after finding people who knew his father prior to his death, Richard can see that many of the choices and behaviors he has made in life closely parallel his birth fathers.

Crystal speaks of father hunger by calling it a “void” that colors her relationships with men and keeps her longing for a daddy even though she is forty years old. A friend recently asked her what she would do if she ever found him. To Crystal the answer was simple —“I’d quit my job, move in with him, and have him take care of me.” She then added, “I am joking… but not really.”

When our curiosity is aroused, our speculations about him increase. What kind of a person was/is he? Did he refuse any responsibility and abandon our birth mother, as in the case of Laurie? Out of deep hurt, she says she prejudged him as a jerk because he chose not to marry her mom or encourage her to keep her baby. She is actually happy that she doesn’t have to know him.

To Issie, her birth father is a non-issue. A few years ago she thought briefly about trying to locate him, but her fear of rejection was too strong. In addition, she has no proof, short of DNA, of who her father is.

Then there’s the nasty subject of incest. Sheila says that her birth father is her mother’s stepdad. She’s glad he died before she met her birth family because she doesn’t know how she would react to him. She’s accepted that he’s a part of her, yet she can’t comprehend his deplorable actions.

Dawn Saphir, twenty-seven, born in Seoul, Korea, and adopted at six months of age by a Caucasian family, says that based on what she’s learned of Korean culture at the time of her birth, she doesn’t have a lot of positive feelings about who her birth father may have been.

Some of our birth fathers may be completely ignorant of the fact that we even exist. How might our lives have been different had they been informed?

Karen says that she feels a great tenderness for the father who never knew about her. “He never had the chance to ‘give me up,’” she explains. “He never had the chance to know he was a father.”

Renee says that she had the amazing experience of finding her birth father recently and that the hardest part was discovering that he never even knew her birth mother was pregnant.

As I finish this section, I am reminded of my own birth father. When this chapter of the book was written originally, I had no idea of who he was, nor did I ever hope to know. My birth mother,  Elizabeth Lucini, refused to tell me his name.

I’ve always believed that if God wanted me to know who he is, it would be no problem…and want me to know, God did.

After 23 and Me and Ancestry.com, his military record surfaced. Even though he’s deceased, he leaves six siblings for me to find and meet.

The military records about my father were abhorrent and he left a family behind that was deeply wounded by his lifestyle.

More than anything, I am so happy to know who I am in Jesus Christ. That is where my identity is found. Without that foundation, I’m sure I’d be wondering if my life was a mistake and if I would turn out like him.

Our Dual Identity

If we were created from the very fiber of our birth parents’ physical and emotional beings, don’t you think our need to think about them would be innate? If we had in-utero conversations with our mother in the womb, wouldn’t you say it is natural for us to think about her as we are growing up and growing old? And if our birth father’s DNA helped determine the color of our hair and eyes, wouldn’t you say that he is just as much a part of us as our mother?

Wherever we are in the spectrum of perceptions about our birth parents, we must rest assured that our thoughts are normal. They are part of the fiber of our being. Part of the package of being adopted. It’s all about our identity… our dual identity.  Most of all, it’s about establishing an unshakeable identity by integrating all the parts of who we are—body, soul, and spirit.

So what must we do for ourselves? What healthy choice must we make to move closer toward who we were created toward an unshakeable identity?

THE ADOPTEE’S CHOICE

To give ourselves permission to think about and discuss openly our birth parents, especially to our adoptive parents.

Giving ourselves permission to let natural thoughts surface reminds me of when I am getting sick. I feel nausea and the urge to toss my cookies. I hate that more than anything, so I concentrate on something else so that I won’t. But when I finally let myself think about the possibility, up comes my lunch, followed by an incredible feeling of relief. A similar sensation often results when we allow ourselves to freely think about our birth parents. The urge to do so is really unstoppable.

Perhaps all these thoughts are new to you. You want to begin your process of making positive, life-transforming choices but don’t know how. The following section will help. (You’ll find such a section at the end of every chapter.)

HOW PARENTS CAN HELP ADOPTED CHILD 

Parents, I know you and the fact that you’re reading this shows your heart. You would do anything to help your child come to terms with his/her first family. Here’s what you can do:

    • Bring up the birth parents in conversation. “I wonder where you got that curly black hair. Do you think it could be from your birth mother?” This signals to your child that it’s okay to talk about the birth parents…in fact that you welcome the sharing of such thoughts.
    • Remind your child where his/her life really began--in the heart of God the Father. It didn’t begin at conception, nor at birth, nor on adoption day. It began in eternity past in the heart of the Father. “You are His idea!” Use the chart here to explain to your kiddo.
    • Always show respect and a loving attitude toward the birth parents, no matter what kind of shape they’re in. You see, there is a DNA bond in us to them and if you criticize them, you will be rejecting and criticizing us.

HOW ADOPTEES CAN BEGIN

    • Try free-association writing. Write whatever comes to mind about your birth parents. No one is ever going to see it, so be as free as possible. When you are done, look back and discern basic themes that run throughout your piece.
    • Make a drawing. Imagine “The Adoption Door,” and draw both the front and back sides. Label whose title is over the doorpost—birth mother or birth father. Then ask yourself, “Where am I in this scene? Am I a casual observer, am I moving closer toward it, or am I knocking on the door?” Then draw yourself in the picture.
    • Write a letter TO and FROM your birth mother and father. Experts say that this is one of the most effective tools for adoptees to get in touch with buried thoughts and feelings. Pay attention to your body language as you write. Find a trusted friend and read your letters out loud to him or her. Be aware of your emotions as you read and record them later at the bottom of the letters. Be sure to date them, too!
    • If you are in an open adoption, write a piece about what you think it might have been like to be parented by your birth parents. What struggles do you think may have added to your journey?
    • If your adoption was transracial and transcultural, can you identify specific questions or confusions about your parentage?

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This is Chapter 3 of 20 LIFE-TRANSFORMING CHOICES ADOPTEES NEED TO MAKE. (Copyright, JKP.com). You may purchase at Sherrie’s amazon author site: https://www.amazon.com/Sherrie-Eldridge/e/B001H6IXQY/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1

Here is the chart of where your child’s life truly began. Feel free to copy, but please give credit.

Sherrie Eldridge
Sherrie Eldridge is a multi-published author and an award-winning blogger.