I’m learning over and over that we need to be proactive as parents when it comes to our kids’ emotional worlds. Instead of ignoring the situation and hoping it will go away, we need to face it head-on. This is the only way our kids will learn to manage and express their emotions in healthy ways.
I remember the first time I heard it said. It came out of nowhere during a conversation with an adult adoptee, and I recoiled as the words made their way to my heart. “There is no adoption without loss,” she declared, “but sometimes adoptive parents tend to forget that.”
Such a categorical statement. So black and white. Surely there had to be an exception. Certainly there was some gray. “All adoption is born of loss?” I remember thinking to myself. All?
It was the third day in a row, or maybe the fourth. I don’t exactly recall. I do, however, vividly remember coming home from work and being met by my normally patient and long-suffering wife declaring in an overly frustrated tone “Here, you deal with him. I’m done!”
The kids were home for Christmas break and one son in particular was being more than a handful. This was very uncharacteristic for him. The first day we thought it was simply childhood Christmas excitement. By the second day, we were beginning to lose our patience. When I arrived home this day my wife was almost at her wits’ end. Nagging, whining, crying, bugging siblings, arguing, you name it. But why? Didn’t he know Christmas was almost here? Had he forgotten that Santa was “making his list and checking it twice?” Wasn’t he aware of how much mom and dad had to do in order to get ready for Christmas? For so many reasons, now was not the time for him to be acting this way.
What I did next doesn’t come naturally to me.
Children from hard places often experience pervasive and overwhelming feelings of sadness, and these feelings are often rooted, at least in part, in their personal history. The challenge for parents is that many times children express these feelings of sadness through anger and disrespect. In other words, their sad can often look mad — sometimes very mad.
Watch as Michael Monroe talks about some of his experiences with this, and encourages parents to look beyond the “mad” in order to help their children begin to identify, express and deal with their true feelings of sadness.
When it comes to the issue of “talking” with your children about adoption or foster care, most parents immediately think in terms of what they should (and should not) say. However, effectively communicating with your child on these important matters involves much more than just the words you use.
In this one hour presentation from the 2010 Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Conference, Michael & Amy Monroe (leaders of Tapestry) focus on how to communicate effectively and holistically with children about their story and your journey as a family. Specifically, they focus on the importance of nonverbal communication, learning to listen to your child and helping them to find perspective and meaning in your shared journey.
You can also download the slides from this presentation here.
I was reminded last night of something I already knew, though I often try to forget it. It is one of the more sobering realities of adoption – the fact that there is no adoption without loss and pain . . . and grief.
As an adoptive dad, like all adoptive parents, my tendency is to focus on the miracle, blessing and joy of adoption – and rightfully so. These are the undeniably beautiful realities of the adoption journey. But they do not negate the equally unavoidable reality that there is no adoption without loss and pain. Adoption is at the same time born from and a response to hurt, loss and sorrow.
Along with the joys and blessings of adoption and foster care come some difficult and often painful realities – issues such as grief, loss, abandonment, past trauma and the need for forgiveness, just to name a few. It is important for adoptive and foster parents to be prepared to help their children navigate these emotional and complex issues, and to make sense of their own personal story as well.
This talk, entitled Not Your Everday Conversation: Talking with Your Children About the Difficult Realities of Adoption and Foster Care, was presented by Michael and Amy Monroe at the 2009 Tapestry Adoption & Foster Care Conference. The talk focuses on these and other issues in an open and honest way, and provides specific tools to help parents effectively communicate with their children about the difficult realities of their past in order to help prepare them for their future.
You can also download the handouts for this presentation.
We were sitting on the couch just before bed time and I was reading to Grant. He was only days away from his sixth birthday.
Grant has never been much into ruminating or talking about things connected to his adoption. He is fairly reliable for a glancing question or parting comment here and there, but in terms of “parking” on the subject, it just never seems to hold his interest. But instead, this night he bent his head back and looked up at me revealing large tears forming in his little brown eyes. As his lip curled down and the tears began to roll down his cheek he exclaimed as he exhaled “I miss my birthmommy.”