Wear adoption like an emblem, rather than a scar.
One of the first scholars to recognize how adoptive families were “different” was David Kirk, a sociologist and adoptive parent in the 1960’s. Kirk encouraged adoptive parents to acknowledge the difference between their role and that of a biological parent in order to mitigate the challenges brought forth by adoption. Kirk observed how many adoptive families neglected the difference in an attempt to normalize their families. He argued that this pattern of denial contributed to poor communication among family members and ultimately led the children to believe that the “difference” in their family was bad or abnormal. The main takeaway here is that it’s important to allow children and parents to explore their adoptive identities and roles in an open, honest way with one another.
There is, as with most things in life, a line that can be crossed with exploring your adoption identity. Overemphasizing the adoption to cope with the difference might indicate signs of maladjustment. Struggles may relate to any number of the core issues of adoption: loss, rejection, guilt and shame, grief, identity, intimacy, and mastery and control. Sounds pretty traumatic to begin dealing with at such a young age, huh? So why is it that I’m insisting that you let go of your bitterness in adoption?
1. It’s an unchangeable detail.
Life without the adoption is a total mystery; a mythical creature that never existed and you will never know. Worrying about how things might have been different is a useless addition to your anxiety. Find comfort and strength in the irreversibility of history. Rather than thinking of yourself as damaged and scarred, wear your adoption like a badge. You’ve endured more complications than most other people, and you’re still here succeeding.
2. Life is full of tough decisions.
No matter the circumstances, after a certain point in life, it becomes all about what you make of it. The easiest way out is to dwell on what has become or could not become. I am in no way insisting that you ought to neglect your feelings about adoption. Instead, I’m insisting that you see them through. Your feelings around adoption are likely to arise many times in your lifetime, mainly when you’re having a hard time with other facets of life.
3. Trauma can be healed.
Focus on yourself and your healing. Build secure attachments to family members, friends and lovers. Connect and educate yourself with enriching information about others who have faced similar challenges around their identities. Keep in mind that you are not the only person that may have strong feelings about adoption. Information released by the Adoption Institute agrees that adolescents and adults are capable of working through the complex challenges brought about by adoption.
4. You are loved and supported today.
If you are able to sit back and read through this article on your computer or phone today, you are doing all right. Sometimes it’s difficult to choke down intense feelings to remind yourself of all the comforts and support systems that you, yourself, have set up throughout the course of your life. If you need help remembering, grab a pen and paper. Jot down the first names that come to mind when you think about the people you love.
5. It’s real: biological families have problems too.
I know, I know. Everyone has their problems, but yours are different. But there really ARE some advantages to being adopted. You may not always look like them, but your family connected with you out of love and caring. Every two people have common ground. It’s important to center ourselves and explore the connections we have available in our lives today. And where we feel disconnected, develop the capacity to let go of bitterness and cultivate more loving connections today.