#46 – The truth and self-value

March 9, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Posted in Adoption differences, adoption issues, Adoptive parenting do's, Identity issues | Leave a comment
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I heard from a mother who is in a quandary about how much to tell her adopted daughter about her daughter’s sordid heritage.  This is a common issue.  We sometimes know things about our child’s past that is negative and if absorbed by the child as a part of his or her identity, it can be devastating to their self-value and have long lasting effects.

It isn’t unusual for birth parents to have serious issues which prevent them from parenting their birth children.  As adopted children grow up, they sense this even though it is not discussed openly.  They feel there must have been something wrong with their birth parents that they couldn’t raise a baby.  The offshoot of this is the child who thinks there is also something wrong with himself that his birth parents didn’t try hard enough to overcome whatever shortcomings there were in order to keep their baby.  One hears over and over from adoptees, “If my parents had loved me enough, they would have found a way to keep me.”

So, even before we start this conversation with our adopted children, they sense there is a dark side to their own birth and birth family.  Many adopted children are searching for their identity anywhere they can find something to latch onto.  They often need this more than biological children.  This is why it is so very important to instill in our children that they are in charge of their identity and their lives.  They can make it what they want.  Children who flounder with this concept often fall back on whatever they know about their birth parents because they desperately need to identity with someone in the human race.  Often they try to be like that person in order to feel an affinity with another human being.  Many adopted teens adapt anti-social behavior because they just assume their birth parents did as well – and that’s why they couldn’t raise a baby.  There may or may not be any truth in their imagined scenario.

As adoptive parents we need to be very careful not to fuel our children’s minds with negative images of their birth parents.  Life may deal us different hands and we may play them out differently, but the message always to our children should be that their birth parents were good people who may have made bad decisions in life.  They may not have had adequate parenting or maturity to make good decisions, but that does not make them bad people.

This is often an overlooked issue in adoption.   There are some professionals who think you must tell your child everything you know about their birth parents and hold nothing back.  I have yet to meet an adoptee who agrees with this philosophy.  They all say they naturally identified with their birth parents even though they never knew them.  Whatever qualities their birth parents had would, of course, be a part of their image as well.  So, parents, we might as well make it as positive as it can be.  There are always reasons for any behavior.  This needs to be explained to our children, all the while expressing that under different circumstances, perhaps other (better) decisions would have been made.

Any act or decision made by the birth parent reflects the current circumstances of the parent, not the child. We need to make sure our children truly believe this.


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