If you have challenges with your adopted children, I hope you can gain some peace from the fact that all parents have challenges with their kids, whether they’re adopted or not. It’s the nature of children. They are simply challenging at times. It reminds me of a book I read years ago, titled “Children, the Challenge.” I had read it in an effort to help me discipline my kids and was telling my sister-in-law—the birth mother of seven kids—about it. She said, “Send it to me. I’ll spank my kids with it.” I laughed and knew she was kidding, but the very fact that she said it spoke volumes to the fact that she was having her own child-raising challenges, which she proceeded to tell me all about. It helped me feel like I wasn’t alone.
However, there are unique challenges that adoptive parents face. Prospective parents need to enter the adoption process with an understanding that it’s not all going to be roses. Understand that there will be challenges. Jini Lyman Roby, a professor of social work, said, “We have a lot of disrupted adoptions [where parents return a child] because people see adoption as the happy ending and don’t understand the complexities involved down the road.” Dr. Roby addressed these complexities here.
Regardless of your child’s nationality, whether it’s the same as yours or not, there are some challenges that most adoptive parents face at some point. Here are a few and some suggestions to help you deal with them.
• Your adopted children will wonder why they were placed by birth mother. Even if they don’t verbalize it, it’s usually on their minds. Some children don’t worry about it, but girls may be a bit more troubled by it than boys, probably because they have those mother genes inside them. As they grow up playing dolls, they nurture those pretend babies and may wonder how anyone could have given them away.
If this issue is not addressed early on, they may go through those delicate preteen and teen years feeling unvalued. Those years are hard enough on self esteem without having this to worry about. Let them know their birth mother loved them enough to make sure they were placed in a good home with loving parents who would take care of them. She did this because she had no way to provide or care for them. It was not because she didn’t love her child. She simply loved her or him so much that she made sure her baby had a safe place to grow up.
Be ready to answer any questions your child may have. Loving tenderness is a must as he or she comes to grips with being adopted.
If you don’t know the history behind why the birth mother placed your child for adoption, you can discuss reasons why this sometimes happens. She may have died and there were no relatives to take care of the baby. Or the child may have been in danger and was placed in an adoptive home to have a safe and secure place to be loved and to grow to adulthood.
Let your child know that you are happy beyond words to be her mother. The love and understanding you show your child will be the most important part of this healing process. And it may take some time for this to happen. Consistent nurturing is vital.
• Unthinking friends may hurt their feelings. In the case of one of our adopted daughters, her friend said, “If you’re adopted then your mother is not your real mother.” It took a while for her to tell us, through a flood of tears, what had happened. It was a tender moment, a time for reassuring her of our love for her. It included a little reconfirming that, though I wasn’t her birth mother, I was her real mother. You can read more about this story here.
There may be some bullying, in some situations. Sad to say, some insecure kids bully others to make themselves feel better. They will pick on whatever they may perceive as a difference and blow it out of perspective. If they know your child is adopted, that may be what they exploit. Teach your child to report to you immediately if that ever happens. Remain calm. Help your child know how to deal with such verbal attacks. They can ignore them or, if they persist, can confidently say something like, “Yep, I’m lucky. My parents chose me.” Then walk away. No need to hurl back insults, like “Your unlucky parents were stuck with you.” Kindness always works best.
• They may wonder who their ancestors are. We found the best way to address this with our children was to explain that when we adopted them, we went before a judge and signed papers that said they were now legally our children. They are not only adopted into our immediate family, but they are adopted into our extended family, which includes our progenitors. One of our young adult granddaughters called recently and said, “I’m filling out some papers for missionary service and need to know where my progenitors come from. Is it my dad’s birth parents’ ancestors, whom I know nothing about, or what?” I said, “Grandpa and I are descendants of European ancestors. You are part of our family as though your dad had been born to us, so your ancestors are from Europe.” She said, “Cool! Thanks grandma. That works for me.”
Sometimes we make too big a deal out of things. Keep it simple. Of course, if you choose to have your child seek out information from their birth parents, then that will be up to you. Just don’t make things more complicated than they need to be.
• They may want to find their birth parents. When adoptions are closed, that request can be complicated, but not impossible. Some adopted adult children have searched and found their birth parents. The problem is, it may not always end well. We know firsthand of a situation where an adopted adult woman, we’ll call her Sally, decided she wanted to find her birth mother. Sally was happily married and she, and her husband ran a very successful business. She was a talented, educated woman.
When Sally found her birth mother, she was disappointed to see a slovenly, uneducated, course woman who was only interested in Sally’s money. Sally said, “Is that who I really am? My whole life is a farce.” Her counselor told her she had already proven who she was, a lovely, successful woman. Who her birth mother had turned out to be had no bearing on who she was. It took a good deal of counseling to help convince her otherwise.
It doesn’t always turn out like that. Many times there is a happier ending. It’s just that the endings are unknown when you begin the search, so be careful and prayerful. However, we made it clear to our adopted children that their adoption records were always open to them. They could have them at any time. Now they are adults with children of their own, and they don’t want the adoption papers. They know where they are, so when they’re ready, they can take them. They just don’t seem to be interested in them.
The challenges that come with adopting a child are worth the effort because of the joy you ultimately experience by being the parents of your chosen child. My husband and I are at the point of enjoying the beautiful grandchildren our adopted children brought into our lives. Oh, yes! The challenges are more than worth it.