Validating The Profound Wound of Adoptive Moms

Validation of The Adoptive Mom's Profound Wound

Moms, when you considered adopting, you wanted nothing more than to become a safe haven of love for your child, but instead, without either you nor your child desiring it, unresolved adoptee anger bonded you together in a seemingly impossible situation.

It was that way for my mom and me. She wanted to pour love into me from day one when my maternal grandmother brought me home on adoption day. After Dad held me and declared that “you were so tiny, I could hold you in the palm of one hand,” he handed me off to mom.

Immediately, my ten-day old body arched and cried bloody murder. I’m sure mom was aghast. How could she pour love into this defiant child? She had no idea that I was trying to communicate in the only way I knew that I just lost the love of my life–my birth mom. 

It’s likely that you’ve heard no one talk about this tumultuous, anger-driven relationship between many moms and adopted kids. Without pointing a finger, consider being an adoption agency professional arranging an adoption. Would you not put the upcoming adoption in jeopardy if you shared the possibility of an adversarial relationship between mom and child? And, how could you comfort naive parents who are now experiencing it in real time? 

What message have adoptive and foster parents received? Because there was likely no affirmation of the possibility of this kind of relationship developing, parents were terrified of adoptee anger, for they can’t spank it away, teach it away, woo it away, or love it away. 

And, adoptees fear their tiger-like anger originates from a hidden character flaw, possibly from a missing generation. If they hear others talking about “the bad gene,” they’re secretly paranoid.

This transparency is new territory,  just being plowed as you read this book. I’m  an old adoptee, finally free from anger’s choking grip, and ready to announce that this painful situation between moms and kids is not impossible to heal. 

As you may know, I’m a veteran in the world of adoption and as an author, I thought I’d written every book I ever wanted to. However, radical things began happening in my life that seem worthy to share. 

Alien thoughts flooded my mind, but at the same time, the last two years have been almost like waking up from surgery, where you vaguely hear the recovery room nurse’s voice in the distance. 

Maybe my brain chemistry changed. You hear all these things in adoption circles about how the brain is damaged by trauma, and yet can heal. So I rummaged through all my books about the brain..in vain.

Let me give examples of the unexplainable thought reversals. 

Junk Became Treasure

One day I thought about mom’s wedding rings. Why? I carried them for 53 years without a thought, from geographical move to geographical move, and considered them pieces of junk. Tarnished beyond belief, with all the diamonds missing, I wondered why I hadn’t thrown them away.

However, now I quickly pawed through my messy and overcrowded jewelry box to see if they were still there. Oh, my goodness, they were, lying beneath my custom jewelry.

Why would I be searching for my late mom’s wedding rings when we had a tumultuous relationship? And, yet, the thoughts kept coming. What was it like on the evening that Mom and Dad were engaged?  Did Dad get down on his knee to propose? And, was she the blushing, soon-to-be bride, dreaming of a house, children, and happiness forever? 

With hands shaking, I put the rings on my tarnished rings on my finger and ran into my husband Bob’s office to show them off, like a kid. Just a month ago, while eating pizza at our favorite restaurant, he pulled out a small box. He’d gotten them refurbished without my knowledge. I wear them to this day.

Not only did my junk become treasure, but my painful memories became pleasant.

Painful Memories Became Pleasant

As I shared earlier, the relationship between mom and me was stressful beyond belief for most of my growing up years. Being in her presence was like running long, manicured fingernails over a black board.

But suddenly, is this turn of events inside me, the negativity disappeared and I saw mom’s care for me in a new light. I could smell her best-in-town apple pie, feel her hands gently rubbing oil on my asthmatic chest, and see her carry for Dinny Dinwit, my cat.

The change in memories went all the way back to adoption day.  When the caseworker brought me through the front door, she couldn’t help but fall in love. It was at that moment that one of her rarest gifts surfaced—her non-abandoning heart.

She would reverse the script of abandonment to one of safety and belonging. She would love this baby with every fiber of her being.

And so, over the span of a lifetime, mom gifted me, even though I didn’t realize it until it was too late.

Mom dropped over dead of a heart attack when I was only 36. Because she and dad were in Florida, we rushed to Dad’s side. I’ll never forget how they loaded her casket into the jet three days later.

Mom gifted me with the non-abandoning heart over the years by living by these legacy markers:

  • I will do everything possible to connect with my child
  • I will still love her even when she rejects me
  • I will love unconditionally, knowing her back story
  • I will love her even though I am afraid
  • I will love her by telling her the truth about her back story.
  • I will keep loving her even though I receive no love in return.
  • I will go to my grave knowing I’ve done my absolute best for her.

That rare gift of a non-abandoning heart can be illustrated by this story about a forest ranger who was surveying the results of a forest fire in California. 

All the mighty redwoods were but an ash heap.  Kicking his way through the ashes, he came upon a mysterious clump, which he kicked to the side. Immediately, baby chicks scurried out from their dead mama’s body.

What a mom she was. She refused to leave her offspring even though fire raged around her.  She accomplished her life’s mission and legacy of gifting her babies with a non-abandoning heart.

What a mom she was to those scurrying chicks…and what a mom my mom was to me.

And so, moms, I offer the truths that brought me freedom, not claiming exclusive rights or guaranteed positive outcomes, but simply with the hope that you will be encouraged to press on.

This post is a wake-up, hope-drenched, revolutionary strategy for healing the adversarial relationships between adoptees and moms. 

Without a doubt, your level of fatigue is off the charts and I don’t want you to feel like these 20 strategies are one more thing you must do. Far from it. Read a few pages, or even just one, even if you have to seclude yourself from screaming kids in the bathroom.

I promise to meet you there but I must warn you that this book will not be a feel-good read. No warm fuzzies or heart-shaped emojis. No steaming bedtime tea and cookies. After all, you’re desperate for hope, right? And, I’m desperate to give it.

Let’s lay the historical groundwork from the world of adoption that will enable us to be thrilled about participating in such pioneering work with your adopted child. 

Adoptees love the seminal work of  Nancy Verrier in her best-selling book THE PRIMAL WOUND: Understanding the Adopted Child. Verrier’s wisdom teaches that without acknowledging and validating deep wounds, healing can’t begin. 

Since publication more than twenty years ago, many adoptees have dog-eared it’s pages, quoted it, and carried it around, like a security blanket. 

And, rightly so. This indeed, is the adoptee’s “aha book.” In essence, it says, “Yes, it hurts like hell to lose your first family. Yes, you have a right to be angry. Yes, your cry is  heard.”

However, twenty years later, many adoptees are stuck in the validation phase of healing. The majority are stuck in tumultuous relationships, rage, and passive hate. We don’t know if there’s any next steps that we may take to be free of our painful past.

The majority of people in the world of adoption give kudos to Ms. Verrier, including me. But, it’s time to move on toward healing for your adopted child and your relationship with him/her. 

It’s time for you to have your own “aha book,” don’t you think? Time to have your deep wounds validated, time to bring you into contact with other moms with similar experiences, and time to gain hope that your child can heal from the adversarial relationship with you….which by the way, you don’t deserve. But, we’ll talk more about those dynamics in next posts.

Validating the Profound Mom Wound 

Not only must you understand the depth of your child’s wound, but also your own. Rejection from your own beloved child hurts. I don’t pretend to understand, but I do know what it feels like to be rejected by your first mom. 

Not only did she send me away after birth, not wanting to know anything about me, but she rejected me twenty years ago when we were reunited. What began as a fairy-tale reunion ended in gut-wrenching rejection.

When I think about you and your challenging calling as a mom, I remember the story of little Jessica McClure, who fell headlong down an abandoned well shaft in Midland, Texas.  The shaft was only eight inches in diameter and twenty-two feet deep. 

Can you imagine how Jessica’s parents must have reacted? Maybe they couldn’t eat, or refused to? Maybe they slept outside by the excavation site? Maybe out-of-control emotions drove them to a huge dose of valium, or several swigs of whisky?

Finally, after fifteen hours, a highly-trained worker gained access into the shaft, untangled Jessica,  and put her in the arms of her waiting parents, who sobbed uncontrollably, as did a vigilant country. 

Is this not reminiscent of your story too, moms? Your child fell into a deep hole when she lost her first family. You can barely stand to think about what was happening in that hole. If only you could take her place in the hole. You’d gladly offer.

Just like Jessican’s parents, the incredibly frustrating part is that you can’t do anything to help your child. She’s inaccessible. She’s “lost” to you. 

Could it be that this a place in your heart that’s so humbled by your child’s pre-adoption suffering that produces such helplessness that you don’t know quite where to turn or what to do with yourselves? Could this be your primal wound?

Just like Jessica’s hours in the shaft, your child suffered prior to adoption. It may be the orphanage workers who tied her down with ropes onto her bed because she was a “wiggly one.” It may be the suffering of a toddler fried in hot oil by his mother. Or, the pre-birth suffering inflicted by a drug-addicted mom.

Even though many moms may know the particulars of their child’s pre-adoption sufferings, there is still that deep agony in your hearts for the unknown-to-you trauma your child experienced. The part that may shut off access to your child’s heart.

After all, what would they say about the accident to a young child? Would they act like it never happened and that everything was fine now that they had her home again? Would they ask her directly what it was like to hardly be able to breathe in that dark hole? 

Those thoughts have likely entered your mind also. How can I connect meaningfully with such a wounded child?

Thus, we’ve thanked Verrier for her contribution to adoption literature, we’ve verbalized your profound wound as a mom, and now we must push on to the exciting part–the next steps. Next blog!

I love you, moms, and am in your corner.

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The Deadly Secret of Adoptive and Foster Moms

What Adoptive Moms Can Do Instead of Cracking UP

What do many adoptive and foster moms suffer intensely from that they keep secret? What causes them to push themselves to the hilt, unable to think of anything but caring for their child while never caring for themselves?

The answer is Compassion Fatigue, which is a state of extreme distress and preoccupation with the suffering of their adopted children. It is now being called a secondary trauma stress disorder.

This is no small thing. A friend once said that her physician warned that she’d die if she didn’t start taking care of herself.

The first thing that comes to mind when I read the words “Compassion Fatigue” is PTSD–the horrific psychological trauma soldiers experience during and after battle. Adoptive and foster moms aren’t on duty overseas, but they’re at home, battling for the welfare of their adopted and foster kids. They’d do anything for those kids, including being rejected repeatedly by them. They just want their children to thrive, discover, and enjoy the life purpose for which they were created.

Is it really any wonder that adoptive moms suffer from Compassion Fatigue? Research proves that adoptive parents invest more time and financial resources in their children compared to biological parents. The study, by sociologists at Indiana University Bloomington and the University of Connecticut, found that two-parent adoptive parents not only spend more money on their children, but they invest more time, such as reading to them, talking with their children about their problems or eating meals together.  Society often tells people that adoption isn’t normal,” said IUB Professor Brian Powell, who focuses on the sociology of the family. “When people make the decision that they want to have children and then use unusual means to have them, they compensate for the barriers.”   #hexometer-broken-link-repair-https://www.asanet.org/galleries/default-file/Feb07ASRAdoption.pdf.

With this is mind, with the raw reality being exposed, let’s take a close look at Compassion Fatigue, and then learn something new that may encourage beyond belief. You will also be able to take a test to see where you’re at in dealing with Compassion Fatigue.

What Really Causes Compassion Fatigue

What causes compassion fatigue is a boldfaced lie that the enemy of mom souls relentlessly whispers, “You are not enough. Not enough as a mom. Not enough to meet the needs of your adopted child.”

I know for a fact that my Mom (Retha) believed the lie. How could she not have upon learning that her daughter was a failure to thrive baby? How could she not have upon watching her best friend who was a nurse, bathe her baby? How many nights did she cry herself to sleep, wondering why she couldn’t me to eat formula? How many nights did she weep over my loose life style?

This is partly a spiritual battle, moms. If the enemy of your soul can keep you in fear that you’re not enough, discouragement is sure to follow.

Please read this illustration about discouragement: It was advertised that the devil was going to put up his tools for sale. On the day of the sale, the tools were placed for public inspection, each being marked with its sale price. They were a treacherous lot of implements–hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, pride. Laying apart from the rest was a harmless looking tool, very well worn but priced extremely high. What is the name of this tool, asked one of the shoppers. Ah, said the devil, that is discouragement.

When asked why he priced it so high, he said, “Oh, because it’s more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open and get into a man’s heart with that, and when I’m inside, I can make him do whatever I choose. It’s badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, but few people know it belongs to me.

The devil’s price for discouragement was so high that it was never sold… and, discouragement is still his tool today.

Please note that I’m not saying you have a spiritual problem–I’m saying that lies are often aimed at the most vulnerable part of you–your mothering.

What Characterizes Compassion Fatigue

 When a mom is suffering compassion fatigue, she can’t stop trying to help her child. It’s like banging her head against a brick wall. It hurts, but she can’t stop. This is called repetition compulsion.

This mom may say, “If I try again, surely my child will respond.” And so, these moms operate out of fear. What if I can’t meet my child’s needs? Will he/she have to be sent away to residential care? What if my child keeps lying at school? Will she ever be able to graduate? What if my child is so miserable that he kills himself? What if my daughter won’t quit cutting?

My mom sat up til the wee hours of the night, waiting for me to return from “sketchy” dates. I can still see her slumping in the chair when I pushed the front door open, trying to hide wrinkled clothes. Perhaps she thought, “If I am here when she comes home one more time, maybe she’ll stop parking with her boyfriend and doing the unmentionable on county roads.”

In addition, moms may feel like a gerbil on a wheel, relentlessly spinning and going nowhere. Try, try, try, with no response. In fact, the child may regress. The baby keeps arching, the lying child delights in covering up and screams hateful words, and the sleeping-around teen now smokes marijuana. 

What Compounds Compassion Fatigue

What intensifies compassion fatigue is judgmental outsiders. They have not a clue of what moms is endure.

It’s the school counselor who declares the adopted child acts just fine at school. It’s the religious lady who gossips to other worshippers that the father has no problems parenting. It’s the goody-two-shoe fellow adoptive parent who says her kids never act like that.

It is shame that forces moms to not share their pain with anyone. There must be something wrong with me. I’m a mess of a mom.

And, with all this pressure, what is a mom to do?

The sad fact is that she isolates herself, usually with no support whatsoever.

This breaks my heart, moms. I have created a FB page just for you where you can encourage one another. @adoptedkidsrejectlove, or What Parents Can Do When Adopted Kids Reject Their Love.

What Calms Compassion Fatigue

  1. Learning About Your Child’s Longterm Memories

So, if a mom is being constantly rejected by her child, if all her efforts to help are like pouring into a bucket with a hole, she wonders if the foundation she’s trying to lay will ever set.

My backstory is that I had absolutely no warm memories of mom, nor of almost anything she did for me…until her dying day. Whenever I shared the process of how healing occurred for me, moms would ask, and rightly so, “What is it that made the change? How can I know that my son or daughter will have what you got?”

Even though mom didn’t understand what I’m about to share, she must have kept on. laying a foundation for me. What she didn’t know about, nor did I until recently, is that memories can be lost. Those are called long-term memories. They’re like a lost glove. You still own it, but you can’t use it.

Let’s get heady for a moment? Let’s discuss how long-term memories are made in your child’s brain. Longterm memories are like the hard drive on your computer. These memories have an actual physical presence in the brain–in the hippocampus. 

When a new long-term memory is being made, neurons make physical connections and synapses with each other, and encode information. For example, as a child, the smell of mom’s apple pie was encoded in my brain repeatedly, with each apple pie.

So, moms, take heart that your loving deeds are not lost. Your child’s brain makes them into memories and embeds them for further use. Is that not comforting?

Reflecting on my relationship with Mom, I can now smell her essence, like a fine, expensive perfume. Even though the bottle is empty, I can still distinguish the fine fragrance.

 If I would have been handed the full bottle of perfume as a kid or teen, I’d either grab it and throw it to the ground, stomp on it while screaming, or plug my nose and run in the opposite direction.

Was I just a character-flawed kid? Were the genes stacked against me? Was there no hope for me to someday be able to cherish the fragrance of the perfume?

Of course not. I was one kid whose brain was telling her to move and attack, to rage, and to shut the world out completely.

The second thing that will surely calm Compassion Fatigue is self-care–the thing you need the most, but usually ignore.

2. Practicing Self-Care (Honoring Yourself)

Moms, think years ahead to the day that your child will say goodbye and go off to college, marriage, or total independence.

Imagine him jumping into the car in trashy clothes, pulling out of the driveway, and non-chalantly waving goodbye. What words would you say? “Bye…take good care of yourself….I love you?”

How can you ever expect and hope that your child will take care of himself? Where is he going to master the skills of self-care? Are they even on his radar screen? And, what about the “love you” part? How can he love others when he can’t love you, when he absolutely rejects love?

It is entirely possible for self-care and love to be on his radar screen because self-care can be modeled by you in the midst of the chaos and brokenness. And, your loving mom actions will show him how to love others.

As important as it is to make sure you are learning about what your child will need from you, it is equally important to tune in to your own heart; learn to recognize your needs; take time to honor yourself.

 What Moms Can Do

  1. Rest! Can someone help you take a “mental health day?” A spouse or friend? I do this often and I stay in bed and watch something that I’ve loved, like Call the MidWife tv program.

2. Go on a Mom Retreat. What an incredible experience to be with those who parent in the trenches, like you, and with speakers that know where you’re at and what ministers most to you.

3. Asses the level of your compassion fatigue: Symptoms of Compassion fatigue are listed here by @stress.org (The American Institute of Stress):

– Affects many dimensions of your well-being

– Nervous system arousal (Sleep disturbance)

– Emotional intensity increases

– Cognitive ability decreases

– Behavior and judgment impaired

– Isolation and loss of morale

– Depression and PTSD (potentiate)

– Loss of self-worth and emotional modulation

– Identity, worldview, and spirituality impacted

– Beliefs and psychological needs-safety, trust, esteem, intimacy, and control

– Loss of hope and meaning=existential despair

– Anger toward perpetrators or causal even

4. Take a bubble bath.

5. Find an adoption-competent therapist. Check with Center for Adoption Support, or Heather Talbot Forbes.

6. Identify a sport that you really like and sign up for a class.

BTW–I can not only smell Mom’s best-in-town apple pie, but I can make a mean one myself.

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Why Some Adopted Kids See Their Adoptive Mom As An Enemy

What Adoptive Moms Can Do When Kids Reject

The mom I once hated, I now love. The mom I rejected, I now enjoy. The mom I thought was a loser is now my hero. 

Memories of her are like gentle ocean waves. I can smell her best-in-town apple pie, feel her hands rubbing oil on my asthmatic chest, and her tender care for my kitty named Dinny Dinwit.

This miracle is the result of a crisis of forgiveness that set me free from my painful past, including my contentious relationship with mom. The raucous anger that dwelt within me is tamed. 

Through gut-wrenching personal work, I’ve discovered the reason for our contentious relationship. 

The answer is complex, and I believe moms need to know what they can do when their adopted child rejects their love, and them. They also need to know that their adopted child can heal from pre-adoption trauma.

How I wish mom and I would have been exposed to these truths I’ve discovered lately. We would have been freed from the war between us and enjoyed an intimate parent/child relationship that only comes from tough self-examination.

I am fully aware that’s what moms of adopted kids want in the parent/child relationship and I long to share these truths with both adoptive moms and fellow adoptees so they can find healing…sooner, rather than later. Hopefully, after reading this post and those that will follow in the months to come:

  • You will understand why your child sees you as an enemy.
  • You will see that it is truly possible for your child to heal.
  • You will embrace the fact that you are enough as a mom.

Your Adopted Child Can’t See Your Face

When your child connects with you for the first time, he brings with him all the “faces” of other moms that were in your role prior to coming to you. So, if your child is a newborn, it is the first mom’s face. If a school-age child removed to foster care, the first mom’s face. If a teen coming from multiple failed placements, she sees all the mom faces before her.

Think about the popular ad on tv promoting adults getting vaccinated for whooping cough.  The setting shows devoted, loving grandparents holding a baby.  It all looks wonderful until  you see the startling  faces of the grandparents–they’re the faces of wolves.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling former moms “wolves.” Instead, maybe this is an example to remember when you try to understand your adopted child’s rejection of you. For many adoptees, we don’t see your loving face. We see a former mom saying “I don’t want you.”

This is called an unintentional relationship. In other words, things happen that you don’t want (child rejecting love and you) and over which you have no control. Your child sees you in a distorted way, reacting contrary to your heart’s desire to become a haven of love for the child whose safety has either disappeared or never existed.

The word non-intentional is defined by four words and I believe they may somewhat describe the true heart of your child:

  • Non-Intentional==”I never intended to reject your love.”
  • Unplanned==”I wasn’t planning on being hateful.”
  • Unpremeditated==”I can’t control my anger at you.”
  • Unconscious==”I have no idea the havoc I’m creating or how I’m hurting you.”

Yes, it is a bit scary to think about parenting a child in a non-intentional relationship, but you can do it.  You may have not signed up for a non-intentional relationship with your child, but you’re in it now and you can rise to the occasion. 

Try to identify the face/faces of former moms in your child’s behavior and help him learn to regulate–that was then…this is now. “Your first mother was mean to you, but that was then. I will always be here for you and keep you safe. This is now.”

Your Child Is Defending Himself Against More Abandonment

For years I’ve wondered why I perceived mom as my enemy. Why were we at cross purposes? Why did we have shouting matches before high school? Why did her words make me cringe, like long fingernails scraping a blackboard?

Just like a boxer in the ring, your child is defending himself. He’ll land you an upper cut with words like: 

  • “I hate you.”
  • “You’re not my mom…not my real mom.”
  • “I’m going to run away.”

But, don’t be intimidated, moms. Take a closer look at your child in the boxing ring. Your child’s invisible black eyes are pleading with you to hear his heart cries. For example, when my grandmother handed screaming, push-away newborn me to my mom, she probably translated my behavior as, “I don’t have what it takes to be a good mother to this child.”

And, I, in the only way my newborn self could communicate, I was saying, “I’m hurting so incredibly bad. Don’t touch me, or I’ll die. I can’t take any more pain. And, besides, you are a stranger to me. I want my first mom.”

  Your Child Is Not At Fault, Nor Are You

No one is at fault here. Not moms, nor kids.

However, the level of pain can seem unbearable. Focus on the Family’s counseling service says the receive panic calls from many desperate moms every day.

It’s tremendously easy for many adoptees to believe that they’re damaged goods and that’s why why they can’t have a healthy relationship with their moms. They’re always wondering in what ways we’ve been damaged.

  • “If I would have loved mom more, she wouldn’t have gotten hooked on drugs.”
  • “If I wouldn’t have cried so much, she wouldn’t have abused me.”
  • “Maybe I was too ugly.”

It’s important to remember that the world in which we live is broken and inhabited by broken people. We must cut each other slack and look with eyes of compassion whenever possible.

Forgive us moms, for we don’t know what we’re doing.  We are so messed up inside.

Some day, hopefully, your child will love you. Someday, she won’t see you as her enemy. Someday, she’ll say goodbye to her painful past.

FYI–I have a FB page devoted to parents whose kids can’t receive love. It is: What Parents Can Do When Adopted Kids Reject Their Love

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This Adoptee Is Worried About Randall on THIS IS US

What's Up With the Ski Cap, Randall?

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?

How Adoptive Parents Can Foster Self-Acceptance In Their Kids

Addressing the Dilemma of Low Self Acceptance Amongst Adoptees and Foster Kids

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:

  1. 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:

cropped-adoptee-lifeline-final3.jpg

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.

What To Do When Your Adopted Kid Doesn't Bloom
When adopted and foster kids act out pre-adoption trauma, it’s not only hard for parents to see their potential, but also difficult for the adoptees themselves. However, even though the growth process is slow, the potential is great. Sherrie shows at least four reasons that adoptive and foster parents can take hope.

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.,

Love to you,

Sherrie

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