Ending the Unwanted War Between Adoptees and Their Moms

Why Does My Adopted Kid Hate Me?

It used to be that being in my mom’s presence was like running long fingers over a blackboard. There was a war going on between us–a war neither of us wanted, but one that we couldn’t escape.

It’s scary, like climbing Everest without ropes. It’s also lonely, as most moms don’t know that this is a common dynamic. The challenge is to accept the fact that some relationships in life are non-intentional, unplanned, unpremeditated, or unconscious and that the world of adoption is filled with these relationships.

However, this reality is rarely made public. It’s kind of a secret, or a hot potato amongst those touched by adoption. Put yourself in the shoes of an adoption professional arranging an adoption. Would she/he have the courage to share this unwanted relationship? Would she ruin the adoption with such knowledge? What would he/she say if the parents returned four years later reporting that their child has out-of-control anger? Would she/he have any answers for the distraught parents?

This mom/child adversarial dynamic must be clarified and normalized for the sanity of the majority of adoptive and foster moms. Someone must validate the wounds adoptive moms suffer from rejecting children. Someone must verbalize that adopted children wonder what’s wrong with them. Why the intense anger? Is there a biological tie to an unknown relative?

How I wish mom and I would have known that the unwanted, excruciating war between us could end. Mom was at such a disadvantage, for nothing back in the day, absolutely nothing was discussed amongst those adopting or the institutions that carried it out.

Anger was the last thing I would choose today as my part in the mother/child relationship, and I’m sure my mom wouldn’t choose to feel fearful and inadequate. We both would choose that ultra-loving mother/child relationship, where no words are needed and where we could gaze into one another’s eyes, knowing we’re loved. It would be a relationship where we could savor hugs and girl-busting laughs. A world of truth telling and healthy boundaries.

Nancy Verrier grabbed the hot potato in 1993 when she wrote her 1993 best-selling book titled THE PRIMAL WOUND: Understanding the Adopted Child. She validated the adoptee wound and ever since, adoptees have dog-eared pages, quoted it, and carried it around, like Linus with his security blanket. 

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

Even though Ms. Verrier brought the first healing step of validation to adoptees, many are stuck in that phase. We are stuck moaning about the repercussions of adoption. We just can’t remain in that sadness and brokenness forever. It’s time to move on.

The majority of people in the world of adoption give kudos to Ms. Verrier, including me. She’s led us miles, but now it’s time to move on toward next steps for healing adoptee anger and how it affects  the mother/child relationship.

Please know that I am just an old adoptee who is finally free of the angry chains that held me and I declare that healing is possible for adoptee anger that pulled mom and me apart for decades.

As 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 within me that seemed worthy to share for the benefit of adoptive and foster moms, and kids of all ages. 

I must warn you that this post will not be a feel-good read. No warm fuzzies or heart-shaped emojis. No steaming bedtime tea and cookies. After all, many of you are desperate for hope, right? Hope that you’ll be enough for your child? Hope that your child can heal from his painful past?

Hard, gut-wrenching, instrospective work is required for healing. What I will share here is the narrow path, the secret ingredient, the key that opens the possibility of healing for every relationship–forgiveness. 

How I wish mom and I knew about what will be shared . We would have been freed from the war between us and enjoyed an intimate parent/child relationship that only comes from tough self-examination of both child and parent.

The path I took looks like this:

  • We hurt
  • We hate
  • We heal ourselves
  • We come together again

Let’s add here that not all adoptees and moms experience a strained relationship. There’s no evidence of adoptee angst. Instead, there’s an openly loving relationship. This is often attributed to level of resilience, DNA, brain development in utero. Babies that are told during by first moms that they were loved during the intimate nine months of life, are sure to begin life as an adoptee with a sure foundation. Just ask Dr. Thomas Verney, MD, and author of THE SECRET LIFE OF THE UNBORN CHILD. 

Parents, if your child displays no angst, remember all that he/she experienced. That can’t be buried. Your child will have to process it someday. So, enjoy the love, but realize that it may be a defense against being further rejected…by you.

You are not alone, moms, in the stressful relationship with your adopted child. There are many engaged in the war with children, but let me assure you that the war can end. 

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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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What the MRI of My Adoptee Heart Showed

What Happens When Circumstances Paint You Into A Corner

What is it my friends, that tips the scale, reminding us that we need healing, not only from the repercussions of relinquishment but also for the need to control.

It’s not difficult to figure out why we’re control freaks. After all, from the beginning of our lives here on planet earth everything seemed out of control. We lost our first moms and dads, were placed into a new home which we didn’t think was too peachy at first, and were labeled as “different” by societal norms.

We’ve fought to have our voices heard and our original birth records legally released. And, maybe if we found that long-lost first mom, we could reverse the “out of control” feeling and erase our adoptedness for good? But, even that didn’t work, at least for me.

Repetition of Original Trauma Dynamics

For me, the tipping of the scale somewhat repeated those complex and painful dynamics of relinquishment, but in current-day life.

I was in a present-day situation I didn’t want. I prayed to get out of it, but the heat only escalated and I said, “God, this isn’t funny.”  Circumstances only closed in and I felt as if I’d been painted into a corner. Trapped and nowhere to go.

The discomfort became so intense that I would have done anything to get out of the pressing circumstances. What was happening was that….oh, no…I was being asked to give up control of things and people in my life that were key players. Key players that were hurting me.

MRI for Adopted Hearts

And, the only way I could get out of the painted corner was to forgive the people I hated for the hurts I didn’t deserve. I needed to see “the ugly” inside my adoptee heart, and if there were such a thing as a MRI for the Adopted Heart, mine would show toxic anger, hate, and bitterness.

Author Lewis Smedes says in FORGIVE AND FORGET: Healing the Hurts We Don’t Deserve: “Hate is a tiger snarling in the soul. Hate is our natural response to any deep and unfair pain. Hate is our instinctive backlash against anyone who wounds us wrongly. ”

Our Greatest Hurt

I believe for we adoptees, the greatest hurt we didn’t deserve was being separated from our first moms. We had no choice. No babies can choose where they’ll end up. And, no matter how “delightful” the adoption hand-off was, no matter if our first moms held us a few days and cried buckets of tears, no matter if we’re told it was her loving decision, our adopted hearts just don’t agree. We’re wounded with a wound deeper than death or divorce.

Thus, by staying in control with pressing current-day circumstances, we’re building walls against what will bring healing, both currently and with original trauma experiences.

Building walls keeps us in control and away from the one decision of our wills to heal, no matter the cost.

Willingness to Forgive Undeserved Hurts

What is the decision? To forgive our first moms for creating an epic loss. No, we didn’t deserve such a hurt, but we do need to climb out of the trauma crater it created in our souls.

But, what about the painted in a corner times?

In my “”painted into the corner” present-day circumstances, the dynamics of that first epic loss and relinquishment knocked at the door of forgiveness.

When I forgave the people in everyday life, God in his graciousness healed me all the way to the bottom of my hurt–the loss of my first mom.

I never knew healing was possible and I am so grateful to be enjoying healing of memories and perspectives.

And, so my conclusion is: Giving  up control is saying yes to forgiving others for the hurts we don’t deserve.

 

One Adoptee’s New View of Verrier’s Primal Wound

One Adoptee’s New View of Verrier’s Primal Wound

For the last two decades in the world of adoption, Adoptees clung tenaciously to the book called The Primal Wound, by adoptive mom, Nancy Verrier.

Thank you Ms. Verrier for validation, but you’re not even an adopted person…we Adoptees are over-the-top confident that our perspectives are much different than yours.

There’s no way you could see Adoption nor life through an adopted person’s eyes. Our eyes have been shattered by loss of a much different kind.

So, respectfully, thanks, but bye.

No longer do we find comfort in the compromising status of self- validation, for a self-centered life is not how we were created.

Instead, our genetic blueprint calls us to sacredly build others up.

We want to know the  perspectives of fellow adoptees who walk the walk. Each, like refined gold, oftentimes better than therapy, a mirror, an unspoken gift to our needy souls.

How we need one another.

We are moving on now, for we see there is so.much.more than validation.

We know our struggles weren’t caused by character defects or generational curses.

Shame has drained from the dark, musty basements of our souls. We’re inhaling invigorating fresh air and feeling the sun’s warmth on our gargantuas trauma scars.

We don’t inflict self-loathing for the oftentimes contrariness of raw life…no,  we base our self worth on what Someone greater says—we are unique jewels of inestimable worth and beauty, bought with a price.

As we move on, we embrace the fact that we indeed can heal from our excruciatingly painful past.

Yes, we struggled in our chrysalis of toxic anger and trauma-ridden beliefs for decades, but we now know that we can successfully learn to fly, discover the unique colors of our wings, and zoom to unimaginable heights.

It’s not comfortable leaving you behind, Primal Wound, but we do so with the tenderest of soaring hearts.

After all, there is so.much.more.