ISSUE #29 – The Importance of Trust

September 14, 2011 at 11:06 am | Posted in adoption issues, Adoptive parenting do's, Identity issues, Is this forever?, Raising the adopted child | Leave a comment
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Do you remember when you were a child and you told a secret to your friend?  You felt close enough to your friend to trust them, and you felt even closer because the two of you shared something special together.  Did that friend betray you by telling your secret to someone else?  If so, you learned at a young age what it felt like to be betrayed.  If you had this experience, you undoubtedly never confided in that particular friend again, but also probably had a hard time trusting other friends.  After all, if your close friend shared your information, it surely was possible that someone else might as well.

We can all understand the above scenario whether we experienced it personally or not.  Experiencing this as a child gives us a child’s view of the situation.  All a child knows is that they have placed trust in someone and that person let them down.  There may have been many reasons which an adult can understand, but a child might have difficulty understanding.

Now we can transfer this feeling to a child who experiences the parent/child bond in his adoptive family and also sees it in other families, and lives with the fact that their own birth parents made an adoption plan for him.  It is almost unfathomable for many children to understand at their young age how and why any parent would not keep their own flesh and blood.  Adopted children have been heard to say over and over again,  “If they loved me, they would have found a way.”  This is, of course, a child’s logic, but it is true and solid to them.

From this feeling can emerge the position of “If I can’t trust my own birth parents to stay with me, how can I trust anyone else to stay with me?”  Some adopted children grow up with this attitude.  They have a solution to this potential of not being able to trust anyone to stick by them. They purposely don’t get too close to any one.  That way they won’t get hurt if people leave them.  In fact, at times if a relationship is getting too close, the adoptee may purposely sabotage it so he won’t be betrayed.  He ends the relationship before the other person has a chance to do so.  That way the adoptee is not hurt, he does the hurting.

It’s often hard for someone who’s been hurt to trust people and life again.  Once hurt by other people, a natural defense mechanism kicks in.  This is survival and this is good, except that some adoptees have a very hard time in later relationships because of this lack of trust.  I’ve heard some adopted young women state, “How could someone possibly love me when I am unlovable.”  Some have called off weddings ‘knowing’ their fiancé couldn’t possibly love them.

It is only a strong person who takes risks.  As adoptive parents we need to explain as best we can to our children that their birth parents’ position in life of not being able to keep a child safe is no reflection on the value of the child.

By making our children independent and secure in their identity, we can help them take the risk of trusting and loving.  A young person can also be strengthened by knowing his adoptive family is permanent, we are always there for our children.  It is more essential in adoptive families to build this trust, to keep our word when we say we are going to do something.  We must constantly prove to our children they can trust us, they can count on us  – and hope eventually they will be able to take the risk of trusting others.

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