Family Redefined

Helping your children get to know their birth family is important for their sense of self.

Dreena Melea Tischler April 25, 2014
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When I was a child, if I complained about my siblings, my mother told me, “You can choose your friends, but you don’t get to choose your family. So you’d better learn to get along.” One could argue that the whole thing gets flipped on its head with adoption because you are, of course, choosing your family!

There is a whole component of adoption you don’t necessarily get to choose, though, especially when you adopt through foster care, and that is the children’s birth family. Whether or not your children have visitation with their family of origin, regardless of whether they want visits, even if your children don’t remember their original family, they are now part of your past, your present, and your future.

Kids need to belong, and they need to be from somewhere. I think this is the crux of the struggles in adoption. At some point in our lives, we wonder who we are are and how we got here; something in us needs to know.

In our case, the three “Littles” have quarterly visits with their birth mother. At present, our 4-year-old is not attending these visits on the advice of his therapist; it is too traumatic for him. The two youngsters visit, however, and we are finding our way.

At our last birth mom visit at a bowling alley, their 7-month-old half brother attended along with their 8-year-old cousin and their aunt. I took my two older girls along ostensibly to keep me company. Having all these kids along had the effect of melding us into one big group, differing from previous visits in which birth mom took the kids a ways away while I sat alone, much like when they were CPS supervised. Instead, the three adults were all engaged in helping the four youngest kids while the older girls wove naturally in and out of the fun. It was a much better visit format because the kids saw us all working together and interacting; it removed the whole “us and them” equation.

I am not sure when or if our 4-year-old will get to join in, but I think if he eventually does, it will be a better arrangement for him. I think part of the difficulty for him is that he feels divided loyalty. The new scheme shows more teamwork, and hopefully that will help him in his struggle. Time will tell.

Photo credit: Dreena T

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Dreena Melea Tischler

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