Even when a child has been adopted as an infant, the knowledge of having been adopted will still have a profound effect on him. Indeed, no adoption is without loss, especially on the part of the child and the birthparents. Even in an open adoption where a child can have contact with the birthparents and ask questions, these feelings of loss may still be present.
These feelings may be rooted on the perception that he was “given away”, his loss of relationship with his natural parents, as well as, his birth siblings and other members of his extended family. The loss may also spring from a feeling of being disconnected with the family that adopted him.
Indeed, an adoption with A Act of Love Adoptions involves loss in various levels and areas. Thus, any feelings of grief would only be natural. What is important is how you as a parent are able to help your child deal with these feelings. Here are some things to bear in mind as you help your child with his emotions:
– Understand where your child is coming from. Rather than attempting to gloss over your child’s emotions or denying their validity, try to provide a safe refuge for your child as he explores and expresses his feelings.
– Determine whether your child wants to talk or needs some space. This is where your parenting skills and your knowledge of your child come into play. Do you feel that you need to draw him out by gently opening the door for a discussion? Or, do you feel that now is the time to give him the space he needs to process his feelings?
– Open the lines of communication. Let your child know that you are there if and when he wants to talk about it. You can say, “If you have any questions or if you want to talk about your adoption, I will be glad to sit down with you.”
– Do not take it personally. Your child’s feelings of loss do not necessarily mean that you are being a bad parent. In the same way, grieving what he has lost does not necessarily mean that he is regretful for what he now has. As your child expresses what he feels, try not to feel defensive or even annoyed at some of his questions.
– Give your reassurance. A child’s feelings may range from anger (“I hate my birthmother and I hate you!”), fear (“I was given up once, it may happen again.”), to a low sense of self-esteem (“My birthmother chose adoption; there must be something wrong with me.”). Be patient with your child and reassure them constantly that he is an intrinsic part of the family, that the family will never be complete without him.
– Love your child unconditionally. This is the best reassurance your child could have – that he is loved and he always has a home in your heart. Your child may be unable to articulate his feelings in words and may express this through his behavior. Some red flags include inordinate anger, hyperactivity, changes in mood or appetite, clinginess or regressive behaviors. Note if your child starts to exhibit these behaviors, it may point to his grieving process or to some other factor. Be the loving parent your child needs with the right mixture of gentleness and firmness.
– Provide healthy distractions. Give your child activities that can serve as a release valve for his negative emotions. You can help your child discover activities he enjoys and where he can excel. Here, he can develop his self-confidence as he finds out that there are some things that he can do well. These activities can include sports, dance, writing in a journal or drawing.