Guest Blogger, Sherrie Eldridge, author of Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew and her newly rereleased Forever Fingerprints, is a respected colleague, mentor and friend who gives compassionate voice to the adoptee experience.
Whenever I share with parents, there is at least one parent who comes up and whispers, “I’ve never told my child she is adopted. When should I tell her?”
This is the most frequently-asked question by adoptive/foster parents is, “How and when should I talk with my child about adoption?”
Perhaps, it’s the most-asked question because it causes much anxiety in the hearts of many adoptive parents. What if I say the wrong thing? What if I hurt my child? What if my child grows to love the birth parents more than me?
Where Parents Can See Wisdom Modeled
I know…you want to be savvy parents, equipped to tell your child whatever it takes to deepen connections with her and to help her grow into the person she was created to be.
But where are parents to be instructed?
Let me introduce you to a seven-year-old adoptee named Lucie, the main character in my upcoming children’s book Forever Fingerprints…An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children.
When her pregnant aunt and uncle come for a visit, Lucie’s curiosity starts bubbling. Even though she’s known from day one that she was adopted, new questions come up, and they will for a lifetime.
The deepest need of every adoptee, no matter our age, is a physical sense of connection to our birth parents. We are so desperate for this that it can be likened to a starving man looking for food.
Sometimes, meeting that seems impossible. Perhaps your child was adopted internationally and you only received a certificate of abandonment from her country of origin?
God himself has provided a way through the story of your child’s fingerprints. Using the truths of Psalm 139, the adopted child is connected not only physically to her birth mother, but more importantly, to the Lord who loves her.
I am pleased to announce that Forever Fingerprints book is being released today, October 21. You can purchase it on amazon.com. Here is the link: goo.gl/CddHXQ.
There are also craft sheets available on my site at SherrieEldridge.com. These can be used for :
Bio: A twice-reunited adoptee, Eldridge is a straight-shooting, transparent, and compassionate author, speaker, and trainer in the field of adoption. Her books are research-based, yet woven within are poignant messages pounded out on the anvil of her own adoptee heart. This is what makes Eldridge unique! Sherrie helps readers and listeners to understand the adopted child’s perspective on adoption and how to deepen connections between parent and child.
(Differences in Adoptive Parenting Part 4 of 4)
“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31: 8)
Four biological children began our family; three adopted daughters completed it. My husband and I moseyed into adoptive parenthood with the same expectations we held for our biological children: we would love them and be loved in return; healthy children would blossom in our family; seasoned parenting skills would prove sufficient for the task; and our marriage would thrive. Hmmm, not so much.
Our culture perpetuates the myth that adoptive parenting is the same as biological parenting. This creates needless guilt and frustration when adoptive parents, and those who love and support them, believe it too.
For starters, adoptive parents have a different starting place. It includes attachment, grief and compromised beginnings.
Bonding and Attachment: Bonding is the connection between mother and child that occurs during pregnancy. We will never bond with our adopted child. Attachment is the capacity for a mutual and reciprocal loving relationship between one person and another. We can help them attach well.
All adopted children suffer the loss of the bond between them and their birth mother. Adoptive parenthood begins with mitigating the grief of that loss and helping them attach to us. This includes: holding, skin-to-skin contact, healthy eye contact, limiting feedings and childcare to mom and dad, and reducing stimulation and outside exposure. You many need to “hunker in” when family and friends shower you with attention. Go easy, at least at the outset.
Grief is our starting place. In her book Attaching in Adoption, Deborah Gray explains, “When parents have not worked through their own grief, it is much more difficult for them to accompany children into grief work. Rather than having the strength to support children in grief, they find their own unresolved grief facing them.”
Grief is foundational. But it can blossom into something beautiful if we do our personal work so we can help our child with theirs.
Compromised beginnings: Adoptions begin with compromised beginnings, those our child brings and the personal wounds we carry into this relationship. In-utero stress, drug and alcohol exposure, deprivation, poverty, maternal mental illness and the loss of their birth mother, to name a few, rob many children of their potential. And the wounds we carry impact our process. No shame. No blame. But its impact must be acknowledged and addressed in ways unfamiliar to biological parenting.
Children are a gift from the Lord regardless of how they enter our families. And we want to raise them to honor Him. But adoptive parents must take a different route to reach this destination than biological parents.
Be gracious with yourself and others. Enjoy the scenery. And don’t compare your trip with your friend’s journey. It’s different, but don’t be afraid or discouraged. The Lord has already gone before you.
(Differences in Adoptive Parenting Part 3 of 4)
“These [trials] have come so that your faith – of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire – may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (I Peter 1:7)
God uses adoption to refine our character and strengthen our faith; it seldom seems fair or feels good! If we’re trying to help a child in need, why all the roadblocks, challenges, expenses and delays on our bumpy road to parenthood?
Last week a missionary friend emailed me about her adoption story; it rocked me to the core, underscoring the lack of control many adoptive parents experience, regardless what type of adoption they pursue.
She and her husband, adoptive parents of two children from the US foster care system, are in the process of adoption a special need preschooler from the country in which they serve.
We've known Henry for almost 3 years, she wrote, and he's lived full time in our home for the last 9 months. Well, it seems the home made a BIG mistake placing him with us so early. This premature placement was supposed to be a foster situation but of course, the paper work never materialized. Yesterday, the home informed us that we have to return Henry to the home till we are matched with him by the agency. Yes, they are demanding we return him to live at the home and act like we have not parented him for the last 9 months…how we can do the healthiest transition for Henry? We're desperate to do this as carefully as possible.
I still can’t wrap my head around this. Who in their right mind would order a child back into a special needs orphanage in Africa? What’s so hard about getting paperwork done within nine months so a little boy could have a forever family, decent medical care and a shot at life? This needless tragedy, and the ongoing impact it will have on this family, saddens me – and theirs is not an isolated case.
But I wrote her back with my advice on his transition. It sounded shallow and inadequate.
Your response is a great kindness to me. She responded. Yes, although those transition tactics are in my head, I needed to be reminded of them since we're living in a painful fog; I have to remember to even breathe. Common sense feels "un-accessible." Always praying. Always. Choosing to live by faith faithfully and not indulge my emotions. I know they are there for "expressing" but not for me to follow. Pray we chase after Holy Spirit and walk in peace that passes understanding.
Saying “yes” to adoption is not just about permanency for children or becoming a family. It’s an open invitation that allows God to do His work in His way. In His hands our lack of control is a tool that helps us learn to live by faith faithfully.