How Can I Keep My Adopted Child Safe From Mean People?

How To Advocate for Your Adopted Child Amidst Insensitive Remarks

The following chart may come in handy over the holidays, as you will be attending family and public gatherings, where well-intentioned individuals might know your child is adopted, but are nervous about what to say to connect with your family or child.

We all get nervous in different situations, but when nervousness concerns the topic of adoption and your child, hurtful remarks are often made, not necessarily out of a desire to hurt, but a desire to connect.

Sometimes, People Are Downright Mean

On the other hand, sometimes mean people intend to hurt. I’ve heard such comments to adoptees as:

  • Why don’t you go back to where they grow bananas?
  • Where are your real parents?
  • Your first mom didn’t love you.
  • Look at your chink eyes.
  • Why is your skin different than your parents?
  • You don’t really belong anywhere.
  • Bastard!
  • You’re an illegitimate child.

You can not only advocate for your child by giving adoption-sensitive answers after the comment is made, but you can also educate the uneducated.

Your child will not only love you for your advocacy, but will trust you increasingly in tough times.

Explanation of the Heart Language Chart

I’m sharing a list here of:

  • The core desire to connect with the child (why the person wants to connect)
  • The well-intentioned that often follows the desire
  • How many adopted and foster kids may translate the well-intentioned statement
  • What is the heart language of the adoptee (what really connects with him/her).

This chart is drawn from my book, 20 THINGS ADOPTIVE PARENTS NEED TO SUCCEED (Available on this site).

Remember that I’m speaking from my own adoptee voice, not for every adoptee or foster child.

THE HEART LANGUAGE OF ADOPTED AND FOSTER CHILDREN

Desire to Connect with Child Well-Intentioned But Insensitive Statement How Many Adopted & Foster Kids Might Translate HEART language–Words that Connect with Adoptee
Child will not feel rejected; cast good light on first mother. Your birth mother loved you SO much that she gave you to us! “Love is what got rid of me. Why would I want your love?” Your birth parents weren’t able/ready to parent ANY child at that time.
Create a sense of being wanted. You are a chosen child!

(Every other parent is stuck with kid…we picked you out.”)

I might have been chosen, but first I was given away.” You have 2 sets of parents, one who gave you birth and another that gave you home(s) and love.
Instill attitude  of thanksgiving for being adopted. Accentuate the Positive!(Count your blessings…. count them one by one…) “Only say nice things about adoption.” Everything in life is filled with pain and pleasure. That includes being adopted.
Describe parentage Illegitimate “I am a mistake.” You are God’s idea.
Create self-esteem You are special! “That makes me feel different in a yucky way.” You were born special—a unique weaving together of nature and nurture with incredible potential. PS…It is fine to tell child he/she is special…just not in the context of being adopted or fostered.
Foster sense of belonging We love you JUST LIKE our own! “If I’m not your own, then whose am I?” What would our family be without you?
Desire for child to not talk about first family. Dead silence! “Why don’t you ever talk about my birth parents? They must be really bad…and I must be, too, because I came from them.” We love your birth parents and are so grateful for their contribution to your life.
Religious lady’s discomfort with child’s adoption. Well, we’re ALL adopted.  “Why do you say everyone’s adopted? Everyone isn’t adopted.” I would love to hear your adoption story.

I highly recommend this workbook for training your children how to respond in a healthy way to unhealthy remarks by setting boundaries: W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook. Order here: .  Wise Up! Powerbook: Marilyn Schoettle: 9780971173200: Amazon.com: Books

There is also a book for children in foster care: Order here: https://adoptionsupport.org/store

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Adopted and Foster Kids Are A Gift to One Another

A Gift Only Adopted and Foster Kids Can Give

It’s a gift adoptive parents can’t give, birth parents can’t give, or adoption professionals can’t give. Only other adoptees can give it to one another.

I’ll never forget sitting next to an adoptive mom at an adoption carnival where I was speaking. At the end of the day the time came for the children and teens to come on stage and show the parents an adoption art project they had been working on.

When all the kids were in place one of the therapists yelled, “Who’s adopted here?” Everyone’s hands flew up and squeals of delight burst forth from the little ones.

“Me!” they yelled in unison.

The mom leaned over and said, “I’ve never seen that expression on my daughter’s face. Look at her! When she said ‘me,’ her face absolutely glowed!”

Something unique happened to her daughter that day. What was it? Was it the excitement of being with kids the same age? Was it a sense of pride about her artwork or love of the spotlight? I don’t believe so. I believe it was because she had been given a gift that was brand new to her—the gift of fellow adoptee friendships.

The psychological drive that makes this gift so special is that it involves our basic need for connection. Drs. Brodzinsky and Schechter, adoption specialists with 30 years of combined experience, say that connection to an adoptee is like food to a starving man.

For those adopted at infancy or a young age, any connection to our heritage helps satisfy that need. Ancestry.com has helped make those connections. Original birth certificates. A name or photo of our parents. An adoption story that included our birth parents. A reunion with our birth parents.

If we were foster kids and adopted at an older age because of troubled parents, that need for connection may manifest in an unexplainable loyalty based on vestiges of fantasy of what life might have been like had we had nurturing parents and remained in their home.

Many times this connection with our birth families is not an option. International adoptions often make it impossible. Sealed records keep vital information irretrievable.

Nonetheless, our friendships with one another are simply amazing!

 The Amazing Gift

By being in the presence of fellow adoptees, we discover:

  • We Are Like Family. Linda says that knowing adoptees has created a wonderful bond because there is a kind of “sisterhood” and “brotherhood” amongst us that has filled some of the void of not knowing her heritage.
  • We Are Drawn to One Another. Gary said that his young daughter seemed to gravitate to other adoptees in her preschool class. Of course she didn’t know they were adoptees, but there was that pull.
  • We Have a Unique Emotional Language. Sherry says that adoptees can “read” each other from just a few words or their body language, which she says makes adoptees feel like they belong to each other.
  • We are like Triple-Chocolate Cake. I never had an adoptee friend until I was forty-five. Her name is Jody Moreen. We spent hours in our favorite little tea room sipping spiced tea and “talking adoption.” Life doesn’t get much better than that!

Looking back, I can say that not having a fellow adoptee for a friend was like going through life and having missed triple-chocolate cake!

If your adopted child doesn’t have fellow adoptee friends, start searching!

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 Copyright Sherrie Eldridge, 2006. Based on Sherrie’s second book, Twenty Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make (JKP, 2014).


What Are The Special Needs of Adopted Kids?

The Special Needs of Adopted Children

Adopted children have special needs that adoptive, first, and foster parents must learn  in order to become their child’s #1 cheerleader.

Use this list as needed and as age-appropriate for discussing special needs with your child. You might say, “An adopted person wrote a list of her special needs. Would you be interested in seeing it? I’m curious if you identify with any of the needs that are mentioned.”

Remember, with young children, keep it simple-rephrase into kid speak, and stick with the words: SAD, MAD, GLAD ANGRY.

Scripture verses are included for those who want them.

EMOTIONAL NEEDS:

  • I need help in recognizing my adoption loss and grieving it. (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
  • I need to be assured that my birth parents’ decision not to parent me had nothing to do with anything defective in me. (Proverbs 34:5)
  • 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. (Genesis 50:20)
  • I need permission to express all my adoption feelings and fantasies. (Psalm 62.8)

EDUCATIONAL NEEDS:

  • I need to be taught that adoption is both wonderful and painful, presenting lifelong challenges for everyone involved. (Ezekiel 17:10a, Romans 11:24)
  • I need to know my adoption story first, then my birth story and birth family. (Isaiah 43:26)
  • I need to be taught healthy ways for getting my special needs met. (Philippians 4:12)
  • I need to be prepared for hurtful things others may say about adoption and about me as an adoptee. (John 1:11)

VALIDATION NEEDS:

  • I need validation of my dual-heritage (biological and adoptive). (Psalm 139:16b)
  • I need to be assured often that I am welcome and worthy. (Isaiah 43:4, Zephaniah 3:17)
  • 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. (Proverbs 23:10)

PARENTAL NEEDS:

  • 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. (II Corinthians 12:15)
  • I need parents who are willing to put aside preconceived notions about adoption and be educated about the realities of adoption and the special needs adoptive families face. (Proverbs 23:12, Proverbs 3: 13-14, Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • I need my adoptive and birth parents to have a non-competitive attitude. Without this, I will struggle with loyalty issues. (Psalm 127:3)

RELATIONAL NEEDS:

  • I need friendships with other adoptees. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  • I need to taught that there is a time to consider searching for my birth family, and a time to give up searching. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • I need to be reminded that if I am rejected by my birth family, the rejection is symptomatic of their dysfunction, not mine. (John 1:11)

SPIRITUAL NEEDS:

  • I need to be taught that my life narrative began before I was born and that my life is not a mistake. (Jeremiah 1:5a, Ephesians 1:11)
  • I need to be taught in this broken, hurting world, loving families are formed through adoption as well as birth. (Psalm 68:6)
  • I need to be taught that I have intrinsic, immutable value as a human being.
  • I need to be taught that any two people can make love but only God can create life. He created my life and I’m not a mistake.  (John 1:3)

Your greatest challenge as a parent is to first identify the special need that has arisen and then to help your child verbalize it. This gives him some sense of mastery and control over something that feels out of his control. Helping your child heal is largely centered on honest, productive dialogue between you and your child.

Once you as a parent gain such a depth of understanding of your child’s special needs, you will be able to give him the support he needs not only now but throughout all of life. His special needs, in turn, will become deep wells of personal strength and empathy within him as he grows older.

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This list may be reproduced, only when credit is given to the author and the book: Copyright, 1999, Sherrie Eldridge, Random House Publishers-TWENTY THINGS ADOPTED KIDS WISH THEIR ADOPTIVE PARENTS KNEW.

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