Interview with a Birth Grandparent
We often talk of the members of the adoption triad, the birth parents, the adoptive parents, and the adoptee. These sets of individuals are integral to adoption. There are many others who are affected by the act of placing a child for adoption and the family members of those that can play a significant role in helping, or making more difficult, an already emotionally-charged situation–such as the birth grandparent.
Meet Laura, a birth grandparent who shares her insights on the impact adoption had on her life.
Q. Tell us about finding out you were going to become a grandparent.
I was standing in the nail polish aisle at the local Walmart when my daughter called and told me she was pregnant. I literally sat down on the cold tile floor and tried to gather my thoughts which ranged from, “How could she be so stupid?” to “Please God, let her be alright.” To be very honest, most of the weeks that followed her initial phone call are a blur. I remember lots of tears and fear, but no good ideas on how to deal with this situation. The only thing we agreed on was that she did not want to have an abortion.
Q. Was there a specific moment you knew adoption was going to be the choice made? What were your feelings about that choice?
My daughter was 5 months pregnant when she decided to begin making an adoption plan. It was not an easy choice for her, and she was not happy about it. She was mad at me for not offering to take her and the child in; I was mad at her for the entire situation. Once she made the decision that placing was her best option, my initial reaction was one of relief followed quickly by such sadness. I had no experience with the adoption world, so my belief was that once the baby was born, she would be gone forever and that this whole experience would be something our family never talked about again. I couldn’t help but think that I was–in a sense–losing my first-born grandchild forever.
Q. How were your emotions post-placement? How did you manage your own emotions without letting them impact your child’s emotions?
First, let me say that the time my daughter spent at The Gladney Center for Adoption was such a blessing. I would go see her every Wednesday and it allowed us to repair our broken relationship. I sat with her while she went through the hopeful adoptive parent profile books. I watched her prepare for birth and prepare for placement day. I was with her when she delivered a perfect little girl and with her when she signed the papers and lovingly put her newborn child into her parents’ arms. I believe it was because of these experiences that I was able to cope in the days and weeks following placement.
I also had a great support system of friends that were there for me while I processed my emotions: mainly grief. I was so sad and concerned for my daughter. I was scared that she would not recover from the experience, and I knew that I could not let her see any of my fears because she was so fragile. I did my best to remember that whatever grief I was feeling was only a fraction of what my daughter might be feeling. I also felt a tremendous amount of guilt that somehow, I had been a terrible mother, and all of this was my fault. About six months after the baby was born, I started to see a counselor who helped me let go of the guilt and process the grief in a healthy way.
Q. What have you learned in the years since placement? Are there any viewpoints you had about adoption before that you now see differently?
I have learned so much about adoption over the years! Adoption can be an amazing option for those who choose it. It is the most unselfish act a woman can do and there is absolutely no shame in choosing to place your child. Birth mothers have options. They are actively involved in choosing who will be parenting the child they give birth to. They have options regarding an open, semi-open, or even closed adoption. I have learned that birth fathers also have options and rights regarding the choices made about the future of the child. I have learned the language of adoption—a woman does not “give her baby away,” she places her child for adoption. I have learned that there is still so much misinformation regarding adoption which is why I take every opportunity I get to educate people about the reality of adoption.
Q. What advice would you offer another grandparent whose child was considering adoption?
First, try not to make it about you. There is nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed of. I also understand and am not discounting that this child will be your birth grandchild and will always have a place in your heart. However, if your daughter (or son’s partner) finds themselves with an unplanned pregnancy and adoption is a consideration, please make it about the child. What is in the best interest of that little one? Will your family member be able to provide a stable, loving, healthy environment for the child to grow up in? Does your family member have the maturity to deal with not only a newborn, but a toddler, and then a teen? Be honest with yourself.
If she chooses adoption, help her do the research and find the right agency for her. Be her advocate. She is embarking on the most emotionally difficult time in her life. Encourage her to take advantage of the counseling programs and support groups available for birth mothers. As the birth grandparent, I encourage you to also find a group or counselor that you can process your feelings with. Remember that the journey continues long after placement day. There will be ups and downs and tears and regrets. Fifteen years after my daughter placed her daughter, I sit here in wonder and amazement at how far our family has come. My daughter has grown into an inspirational woman who is changing the face of what adoption looks like. I have seven grandchildren that I am so proud of and completely in love with, but not a day passes when I do not think about my first-born granddaughter and the space she will always have in my heart.
Like Laura mentions, supporting a birth parent during the challenging times of adoption, both pre- and post-placement is essential. As a birth mother myself, I continue to lean on my family members as both the seasons of my grief, and the milestones I experience with my relationship with my daughter, course throughout my life. Any members of the birth family, whether it be a grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle, or cousin, might still have their own feelings of loss. Addressing those emotions through counseling or community can not only improve your own life, but also allow you to support the birth parent in the healthiest way possible. I can speak to the impact it has on a birth parent to have an encouraging parent available because Laura is my own mother and her ability to be there for me as I feel both the highs and the lows of adoption is something I am grateful for every day.
Bullying is a fairly common experience in the United States–approximately 20% of kids aged 12 to 18 years old experience bullying nationwide. Whether bullying occurs at school or online, it can profoundly affect a child’s feelings about him or herself.
If you think your child is being bullied, there are several things you can do to help him or her cope. Working with your child’s school is also important to help stop the bullying from continuing.
What is Bullying?
Most kids get teased by a sibling or a friend on occasion, and that’s okay as long as it’s done in a playful and mutual way. It’s okay if both of the kids involved find the teasing funny. However, if teasing becomes unkind or constant, it crosses a line into bullying, and it needs to be addressed.
Bullying can take on many forms. Sometimes it is physical–shoving and hitting. Kids who bully might spread rumors about someone, extort money or possessions, threaten, or mock. Bullies may exclude someone, harass them online or by text message, or call them names. No matter what form bullying takes, the bully has the intention to cause harm to another person in physical, psychological, or verbal ways.
Who is at Risk of Being Bullied
Kids who are more likely to be bullied are typically perceived as being different from their peers in some way such as size, clothing choices, financial situations, or being new to the school. Others may be at risk for bullying if they…
– have low self-esteem or are anxious or depressed.
– don’t get along with others.
– are seen as annoying or antagonizing.
– are perceived as weak or not able to defend themselves.
– have very few friends.
Of course, this doesn’t mean if your child has one or more of these risk factors that he or she will be bullied.
TW // Gun Violence, Suicide
Effects of Bullying
Bullying can lead to physical, social, mental, and academic challenges for kids. These issues may persist into adulthood.
Kids who are bullied are more likely to experience feelings of anxiety and depression, experience appetite and sleep changes, and lose interest in doing things they once enjoyed. Those who are bullied are more likely to have lower grade point averages and standardized test scores. They are also more likely to skip school or drop out of school.
Bullied kids are also more likely to drink alcohol, smoke, get into fights, and be arrested at some point during their lives. A small number of bullied kids may choose to retaliate with violence. In the 1990s, in 12 out of 15 school shootings, the perpetrators had a history of being bullied.
In rare cases, bullying can become so unbearable that a child or teen decides to commit suicide to escape it. It’s important to note, though, factors other than bullying also contribute to suicide.
If you think your child is being bullied, it is something to take seriously.
Signs Your Child May be Being Bullied
As your child grows up, try to keep the lines of communication between you and your child as open and honest as possible. You want your child to know that he or she can come to you about absolutely anything. It’s often difficult to keep the lines of communication open as a child gets older, but let your child know that you are always there for him or her and that you are open to talking about anything.
Unfortunately, unless your child or someone else tells you or you see injuries, it can be difficult to know if your child is being bullied.
Here are some warning signs that your child may be being bullied:
– Your child seems anxious.
– Behavior changes.
– Your child seems moodier or more easily upset than normal.
– Sleep and appetite changes – sleeping and/or eating more or less than usual.
– Your child loses interest in things he or she used to enjoy doing.
– Your child tries to avoid certain situations, such as taking the bus to or from school.
– Your child begins to get into fights.
– Your child has unexplained cuts, bruises, scratches, or other injuries.
– Falling grades in school.
– Your child has missing or damaged clothes or possessions.
– Your child doesn’t want to go to school.
– Your child frequently has stomach aches or unexplained pain.
– Is hungrier than usual when he or she comes home from school.
– Asks you for extra food or money.
– Is secretive about his or her online activities.
Talk with Your Child About Bullying
Having conversations about bullying is important whether or not you believe your child is being bullied. These conversations are essential if you believe your child is being bullied in school or online.
Bullying is a tough subject, one that many kids may not be comfortable discussing, especially if they are being bullied themselves. If your child is being bullied, he or she may be hesitant to open up about it because he or she feels embarrassed or ashamed.
Watch a movie or television show that addresses bullying or cyberbullying to help you start a conversation with your child about these issues. Some movies to consider watching with your older child or teen about bullying or cyberbullying include Mean Girls (2004), Bully (2001), The Fat Boy Chronicles (2010), Cyberbully (2011), and A Girl Like Her (2015). Hercules (1997), The Ant Bully (2006), and Billy Elliot (2000) are good choices for younger children.
After watching the movie together, you can ask your child some questions to begin a discussion about bullying. Ask questions like:
– What do you think about the bullying the main character dealt with?
– What would you have done in this situation?
– Have you ever witnessed bullying?
– Have you ever experienced something like this at school or online?
It might also be helpful if you talk about your own experiences or those of a loved one when they were your child’s age. Knowing that you can relate to how they are feeling can help your child open up and be vulnerable with you.
When your child talks to you about bullying or being mistreated, really listen. It’s tempting to get angry or frustrated on your child’s behalf, but showing strong negative reactions won’t help your child with the situation. Your child needs your help and support. It’s okay to be angry and frustrated, but keep these emotions in check while you’re talking with your child.
You can come up with a list of responses your child can use to stop bullying behavior. The responses should be direct and assertive but not antagonizing. Never teach your child to respond by putting the bully down. This will only serve to escalate the situation.
Here are a few suggestions.
– Leave me alone.
– That wasn’t very kind.
– Back off.
– Yeah, whatever.
Practice with your child. You can role-play the bully and have your child use these statements. Have your child say these statements with as much confidence as he or she can. Your child should assert himself or herself in a calm way instead of getting flustered or upset. Practicing these statements by role-playing at home will help your child respond in an appropriate manner if he or she is bullied.
Sometimes the best thing a kid can do is to walk away from a bully. If your child cannot tell the bully to stop in a clear and calm way, this approach may be a better one. If your child tells a bully to back off but looks fearful or upset, whines, or cries, this will only make the bullying worse.
If it isn’t possible for your child to walk away from the bully, such as in the classroom, teach your child to simply ignore the bully. If a bully sees that he or she isn’t upsetting your child, he or she may get bored and stop on his or her own.
When your child is confident, he or she becomes less of a target for bullying. Encourage your child to do the things he or she enjoys and is good at. Help your child foster healthy relationships with his or her peers. When your child has confidence, he or she is more likely to feel good about himself or herself, and a bully’s comments may not affect your child’s self-esteem as much.
Educate Your Child on Why Kids Bully
Educating your child may not stop the bullying, but it can help your child understand why bullies do what they do. Your child may be able to have compassion for the bully, even though he or she is engaging in harmful behavior.
Oftentimes, a bully mistreats other kids because he or she has learned this behavior in their home. A bully may be used to an environment where arguing, yelling, and name-calling are common. The bully may be regularly bullied at home him or herself.
Bullies often feel bad about themselves. They may feel weak. Bullies often want to gain power and control with their behavior. Bullies often don’t realize that their behavior is wrong or how it makes others feel.
There is no excuse for bullying, of course, but helping your child understand why another kid bullies him or her can help your child realize the bully’s behavior isn’t personal. A bully is trying to cope with his or her own issues in an inappropriate way.
Teach Your Child to Stand Up for Others
Adults can and should certainly intervene when a child is being bullied. However, it is much more impactful if another child steps in on behalf of someone being mistreated. Teach your child to stand up for other kids if they are being bullied.
Encourage your child to be kind to others who are being bullied. Your child can show kindness by sitting by the student in the cafeteria or on the bus, by befriending him or her, talking to him or her in school, and including the student in play at recess.
Don’t Ignore It
It can be tempting to think that bullying is just part of childhood, but it’s not. Nobody deserves to be bullied, and it’s not something any child should just have to tough out.
If your child wants to try to handle the situation on his or her own, that’s okay (initially). Sit down and make a plan with your child on how to handle the situation. Check in regularly with your child to see how the plan of action is going and to assess whether the bullying has stopped.
If the plan of action you help your child create for handling the situation isn’t effective and the bullying continues, it’s time to talk to someone at the school. You don’t want bullying to become a persistent issue your child has to deal with.
Talk to a teacher, school counselor, or principal at your child’s school about what is going on. Ask about the school’s policies on bullying and if they have any anti-bullying programs. Keep the lines of communication open with the school so you can work together to help resolve the situation.
It’s probably best not to contact the bullying child’s parents directly on your own. If you think a meeting between you and the bullying child’s parents would be beneficial, ask someone at your child’s school such as a school counselor or the principal, to facilitate it.
As soon as your child tells you he or she is being bullied, begin documenting the incidents your child tells you about. Include as many details as you can. This will help the school decide what the best approach to the situation is. This information will also be important if you need to involve law enforcement.
You need to get law enforcement involved right away if your child receives serious threats of bodily harm, is seriously injured, there is sexual abuse, or your child is robbed or extorted. Familiarize yourself with your state’s anti-bullying laws.
Bullying, while relatively common for today’s kids, isn’t something that any person deserves nor should anyone be expected to just tough out. If you suspect your child is being bullied, talk to him or her about it. Listen to what your child has to say carefully, and keep your own emotions in check. Create a plan of action your child can use to stop the bullying.
If the bullying doesn’t stop despite your child implementing the action plan you create, talk to someone at your child’s school. Work with school personnel to help resolve the situation. Don’t hesitate to involve your local law enforcement if you need to.
Adoption & Identity: Dealing with Abandonment
While no two adoptees’ journeys are alike, there is one collective experience that a great majority of us all share—feelings of abandonment.
While this is a common trauma that many adoptees share, it doesn’t mean that it looks the same for everyone. There are many types of abandonment (both tangible and not).
An adoptee’s perspective can be influenced by the adoption journey and the impact of the abandonment experienced. There are different types of abandonment that adoptees can experience that may manifest during identity development.
Types of Abandonment
The physical abandonment that happens to many adoptees at birth or at another point in early childhood is the first trauma an adoptee may experience. Separation from biological parents, while uncontrollable and sometimes necessary, strips an adoptee of the genetic bond that he or she would have experienced otherwise. As we grow, we deal with what I call the “invisible void” that is left from this separation.
But, for many adoptees who have a closed adoption or one where information regarding the circumstances of the adoption was not disclosed, they’re left wondering why a separation ever took place. When you’re left to worry and contemplate your backstory constantly, it takes an immense toll on your mind. The psychological abandonment is, for some, even worse than the physical kind.
Both types of abandonment contribute heavily to trauma, a word that carries its sort of taboo. When some people think of the word trauma, they associate it with post-traumatic stress disorder or the result of a car accident or other disaster. Anything that doesn’t fit that description is often invalidated. However, the trauma caused by abandonment in the adoption world is authentic and very significant to those who experience it.
Ties to Identity
According to Psychology Today, identity “encompasses the memories, experiences, relationships, and values that create one’s sense of self. This amalgamation creates a steady sense of who one is over time, even as new facets are developed and incorporated into one’s identity.”
Adoptees create an identity based on the information they are given about themselves. Because many adoptees grow up without the knowledge that most people have access to (family history), identities are built on the influence of adoptive families. In my case, this wasn’t a bad thing. I was raised to think for myself without having a ton of influence from my adoptive parents. At 25, I have a decent idea of who I am and a basic sense of what I value. Despite this, however, I have little to no cultural identity because I am a transracial adoptee raised in an entirely White family in Kentucky with limited exposure to people of color or other cultural things. Creating a cultural identity has been challenging as an adult because of this. There’s no roadmap or guidebook on being a woman of color in today’s society, especially when you don’t have a robust support system or network of people similar to you.
For people who were adopted, some can go their entire lives without seeing someone they look similar to. For example, if you can look at your mother or father and notice that you have their eyes or type of hair, you have a kind of connection that some adoptees may never experience. In my case, I wasn’t able to meet anyone that I was genetically related to until I was 20.
Birth Parents, Adoptees, and Identity
For me, coming to terms with the fact that I did not have a “happy” beginning to my adoption story was the hardest part of my journey. To my knowledge, my birth mother did not have any interest in keeping me, nor did she want any family members to take me either. There was never a chance (and still isn’t) that I would have a relationship with her, simply because of the fact that she had no interest or, to my knowledge, capability in raising a child. While this scenario allowed me the opportunity to be raised by the two most wonderful humans to ever grace the earth (my parents), it is an immensely painful thing to come to terms with.
A few weeks ago, a birth mother on Tik Tok posted a video to her children telling them how much she cared about them. The song playing in the back of the video repeated a woman singing “You are enough, enough, enough; You are enough,” matching the caption the birth mother had put, “To my children, please know that you were always enough.” As if this wasn’t heartbreaking enough, I, along with several other adult adoptees, had commented: “I wish this was true for me.”
Before jumping to conclusions, I want to add a disclaimer that this is absolutely not the case for everyone. The majority of expectant parents want nothing but the best for their children and choose adoption for various circumstances that ultimately turn out to be a favorable situation. As open adoptions are becoming more common, adoptees now have more access to their history and birth family than ever. This alone can revolutionize how we think about adoption and how adoptees are influenced by their adoptions.
However, I want to make it very clear that this is not the reality that many of us face. The ultimate downfall of the adoption community is toxic positivity that is influenced by individuals feeding into the belief that every birth mother would have kept their child if circumstances were different and that placing their child for adoption was a selfless act of love. This influence can create a false sense of expectation for adoptees who may discover less positive truths about their adoption stories later on.
Facing the reality of one’s adoption story, like I said, is one of the hardest things that an adoptee may ever do. It can cause an adoptee to question every aspect of your identity, especially if they discover new information they didn’t know before.
For Adoptive Parents
If you are thinking about expanding your family through adoption, reading articles such as this one are critical to understanding how the adoption process can impact an adoptee’s life.. Ensuring that the child you adopt can have access to appropriate therapies and biological information is one of the most important things you can do as a parent. Communicating between families and obtaining this information can be challenging, especially if it is your first time going through the adoption process.
You don’t have to be adopted to struggle with identity. However, adoptees do experience unique challenges compared to other people when it comes to how they can look at themselves and develop a sense of who they are.
For more information on the adoption process, support, and resources and how to begin, visit, Adoption.com, Adoption.org, and Adopting.org.