Tuesday, September 18, 2018

5 Things I Didn't Know Would Happen When I Became a Stay-at-Home-Mom

It was December 2012.  I had wrapped up my fourteenth semester teaching composition at our local university.  I loved my job, but I had a secret.  

In October, we were matched with an expectant mom due to have an African American baby boy in January.   We were thrilled to have the opportunity to become parents again, this time to our first son.  He would be our third child.  

While we eagerly awaited his arrival, I had to make a decision.  The spring semester was set to start just days before the baby's due date.  Being a family by adoption, we knew the risks.  We knew the baby was "the baby" and not "our baby" if and until decisions were made.  

I was on-the-fence about what to do.  Continue with the job I loved and hope I could get out of my classes if he became ours, continue the job in the case that he didn't become ours, or leave my job and "wait and see" the outcome of the adoption match.

I was tormented by this choice, but I ultimately decided to let my boss know that we were matched to adopt, and I didn't want to proceed with the semester only to leave them in a bind a few days in if the baby became ours.  

A leap of faith.

I had taken as semester off work with each baby who came our way up until that point.  I planned to do the same if baby boy became ours.  

He did.  He became ours.  

As the end of spring semester approached, I made the big decision not to return to teaching in the fall.   Mostly because teaching composition means a lot of intense, long grading sessions where I poured over stacks and stacks of student essays.  With three kids, it was hard to find part-time child care, and even if I did manage to sneak away for a grading session, it was hard to focus.   

So I made the decision to become a SAHM.

And here's what happened that I never anticipated:  

1:  I became jealous of my husband.

He got up in the morning, put on nice clothes, and spent thirty minutes driving to work, listening to whatever he wanted on the radio.  Then he spent the day in his own private office, intermittently talking to grown-ups about grown-up things, having lunch (sometimes even out at an actual restaurant or the cafeteria), and getting breaks to use the restroom (alone!).  Then he spent thirty minutes driving home, again listening to whatever he wanted to on the radio.   

2:  I'd vacillate between busyness and boredom.

Some days were sheer chaos.  Frantic.  Anxiety-ridden.  One thing after the next.  Exhaustion was the name of my game.  

Other days were boring.  There were many sick days, grouchy days, or days when nothing (activity-wise) was appealing.  I'd wonder, what is my life's purpose?  What am I here for?  Is what I'm doing meaningful?  To whom?  

3:  I was lonely.

Making mommy-friends is NOT easy.  I hosted many playdates, but some left me exhausted (the mom's kids were bad, the mom didn't offer to help pick up the tornado the kids created, etc.).  Others just weren't a "match."   And taking all my kids (ages 4, 2, and infant) at that time was next-to-impossible.  I only had two hands!  

I totally got why my mom would spend hours doing chores while chatting on the phone with her cousin or friend, the corded phone stretched far from room-to-room.  Because SAHM needs connnection.  We need reminders that we are human beings who aren't just moms.  

4: I constantly was asked to justify my decision.

To this day, I'm asked, "When are you going back to teaching?"  It's as if the sacrifices I make daily aren't quite "up there" with teaching college students.  Or that I'm somehow missing out on real life or not living up to my potential or wasting my degrees because I spent my days with babies.  

The truth is that being a SAHM is the hardest job I've ever had.  It's also the best job.   It's messy and beautiful and frustrating and fulfilling. 

The questions only made me feel guilty.  Why wasn't I more grateful for being a SAHM?   Why didn't I enjoy every. single. second.?   

5:  I'd become obsessed with my children.

When your job is to raise babies, you become obsessed with the babies.  Their every need, their every "first," their every poop incident (ya'll know it's true!).  Your life becomes your kids.

That's the point of becoming a SAHM, isn't it?  To KNOW every single thing about your kids and walk them through life?  

I'm definitely no martyr.  I know being a SAHM is a privilege, and for me, it was a choice.  But if I didn't tell you the truth, that SAHM life is REALLY damn hard, I'd be a liar. 

What happened to you when you became a SAHM?  Or did you go from being a SAHM to working full time outside the home?  What lessons have you learned?  Did adopting change your decision about working or staying home?

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Things Adoptive Parents Are Tired of Hearing from their Friends and Family, and What You Can Do About It

Dismissive.  Conclusive.  Critical.  Assuming.  Over-complimentary.     

Comments from family and friends can be the most disheartening and discouraging for parents-by-adoption.  Mostly because we know that even our "nearest and dearest" can be just as uneducated on adoption as the general public.   

Having four kids and with a decade of parenting under my belt, I've learned a lot.  A lot about adoption, a lot about raising children, a lot about trauma, and a lot about special needs.  

Adoptees sometimes have needs that birth children do not.  But when our dear ones only have experience raising birth children, they tend to react to our parenting with less-than-ideal reactions that can grate our nerves, hurt our feelings, and even offend us. 

I've heard all these. Maybe you have, too? 

1:  "Have you tried...?" 

Nothing is more annoying that working your butt off for your child and hearing someone suggest a ridiculous or old school "remedy." Whether it's CIO (cry it out), an herbal supplement, a "good spankin,'" or time-outs.  We know how important attachment is for children who were adopted, and many common parenting practices are completely opposite of attaching in nature.        

2:  "It's just bad behavior."

There are absolutely times that all children behave badly.  And there are also many times adopted children are reacting, not behaving poorly, their way through a struggle.  Adoption grief can run deep, as explained in this video called "When Sad Looks Mad."  And special needs, such as a child with sensory processing disorder, cannot be "fixed" with discipline.

3:  "All children do that."  

It's so hard when someone assumes that what your child does is just "normal" behavior when it isn't.  For example, kids with sensory processing disorder can have sensory meltdowns.  Sensory meltdowns are not the same thing as tantrums.  And did you know that adoptees are more likely to have SPD than children who weren't adopted?  Other struggles like attachment and food issues may occur in non-adopted children, but in adoptees, they issues are more likely and more complex. 

4:  "It's a boy thing."  "It's a girl thing."

Nothing drives me more crazy than someone insisting that what my child is doing is because of his or her sex.  Again, when my child with SPD was having struggles with hyperactivity, many of my dear ones insisted it's "just a boy thing."  But I KNEW something else was going on, and thankfully I listened to my mommy-intuition.  With girls (I have three!), the assumption is that they are going to be emotional.  This stereotype pushes us to overlook an adoptee-girl who may be struggling with anxiety.

5:  "She looks just like you!"

This one always puzzles me.  (And yes, it's even been said to us, two white parents, of one or two of our four Black children!)  I think it's intended to be a compliment or an attempt to assure us that our child is seen as truly ours...but I'm honestly not really sure.  It's always really odd-uncomfortable-awkward to hear someone say this.  Granted, it is true that some of our kids copy our mannerisms, voice intonation, syntax, etc.   I believe sometimes this comment is a "defense" of the adoptive parents based on stereotypes regarding birth parents.

So, great.  We've heard these things, but what do we do about them?  How do we respond when a dear one says something like this to us...again?  

I believe that two things can truly change a person's thinking.  They are:

1:  Experience.

Having personal experience with something can be the catalyst for true change.  This means spending time observing and listening with an open heart and mind.  

The experience part happens naturally with your nearest and dearest if you're spending time with them.  I do realize that many families are spread out across the country (or even internationally) and don't always see each other frequently.  That's why point #2 is going to be really important for these folks!  

The key is that when experience happens, there needs to be an open heart and mind.  You may have to encourage your dear ones to be backseat observers vs. backseat drivers (advice-givers) in order to truly understand your child and your parenting.  

Additionally, you need to let your dear ones know that you are open to discussions-based on their observations and their education (#2).  Let them ask questions!  Remember, you were once a newbie too! 

2:  Education.  

There are so many fantastic resources available!  If your dear one is receptive to the experience portion, education comes next.  Send your loved on articles, even books, and videos.  Empowered to Connect is a fantastic resource; I particularly like their free videos (which are easy to pass on to others).  The two books I highly recommend you give your loved one are:  Adoption is a Family Affair and In On It.  Tailor the education to your particular child:  attachment, trauma, special needs, transracial adoption, open adoption, etc.  

And then...

As a result of experience and education, the person develops empathy.  And as a result of empathy, that person can offer you encouragement rather than advice.  

This isn't to say there will be sheer perfection.  But if a loved one is willing to make the effort to experience and get educated, he or she is well on the way to empathy and subsequently, encouragement. 

For more on empathy, experience, encouragement, and education, give me your e-mail addy, and I'll send you a free e-book on these very important areas of focus!   

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The 5 Books On Race You Must Read If You've Adopted Transracially

I have managed to devour several books this year, almost all of them focused on race.

They are deep reads.  They are challenging reads.  They are necessary reads.

As I've shared time and time again, if you decide to adopt transracially, you need to be in it for the long haul.  Many adults find melanin-rich kids "cute" when they are young, but there's a shift as the children get older.  You can see it in the adults' eyes.  You can hear it in their comments.  You can see it in their newsfeeds.  

And we, the parents, need to be prepared.  We need to get woke.  We need to stay woke.   

Here are five books I highly recommend you put on your must-read list, whether you are preparing to adopt transracially or already have:

1:  I'm Still Here:  Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness

"Austin Channing Brown's first encounter with a racialized America came at age 7, when she discovered her parents named her Austin to deceive future employers into thinking she was a white man. Growing up in majority-white schools, organizations, and churches, Austin writes, "I had to learn what it means to love blackness," a journey that led to a lifetime spent navigating America's racial divide as a writer, speaker and expert who helps organizations practice genuine inclusion." -from Amazon description

2:  So You Want to Talk About Race

"In this New York Times bestseller, Ijeoma Oluo explores the complex reality of today's racial landscape--from white privilege and police brutality to systemic discrimination and the Black Lives Matter movement--offering straightforward clarity that readers need to contribute to the dismantling of the racial divide." -from Amazon description

3:  Dear White Christian:  What Every White Christian Needs to Know About How Black Christians See, Think, and Experience Racism in America

"In the fall of 2014, during the racial and cultural events in Ferguson, MO, Aaron Layton desperately wanted to know what was going on in the minds of his white colleagues, friends, and fellow church members. So, he did what comes naturally to him, but might seem unnatural to many. A trusted white friend responded: Here is the deal: we don't understand it; we don't know what to say; and we don't know what to do. That response propelled Aaron to action to deepen the understanding of his white friends, with the hope that greater understanding would result in a greater unity believers possess in Christ. The lessons he learned are the foundation of this book a letter to the white Christians he dearly loves, as well as those he hopes to one day meet. Dear White Christian is designed for any white Christian who seeks practical tools for beginning or continuing conversations with black brothers and sisters in Christ. As you read this book, lean into that which makes you uncomfortable. Allow this letter to give you insight and challenge you for the glory of God." -from Amazon description

4:  White Awake:  An Honest Look at What It Means to be White

"Daniel Hill will never forget the day he heard these words: "Daniel, you may be white, but don't let that lull you into thinking you have no culture. White culture is very real. In fact, when white culture comes in contact with other cultures, it almost always wins. So it would be a really good idea for you to learn about your culture." Confused and unsettled by this encounter, Hill began a journey of understanding his own white identity. Today he is an active participant in addressing and confronting racial and systemic injustices. And in this compelling and timely book, he shows you the seven stages to expect on your own path to cultural awakening. It's crucial to understand both personal and social realities in the areas of race, culture, and identity. This book will give you a new perspective on being white and also empower you to be an agent of reconciliation in our increasingly diverse and divided world." -from Amazon description

5:  The Hate U Give


"Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.
But what Starr does—or does not—say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life." -from Amazon description

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Adoptee and Mom-by-Adoption Michelle Madrid-Branch Answers Your Burning Adoption Questions

Allow me to gush?

Michelle Madrid-Branch is one of my favorite adoption community members.  She's an advocate for adoption, for adoptees, and for parents-by-adoption.  In addition, she's a book author, blogger, and podcast host.  I've had the honor of guest blogging for her on the subjects of faith + adoption and on saying good-bye to adoption.

Today, Michelle is answering three of my readers' adoption questions:

"What are your thoughts on changing adoptees' names? I almost feel bad wanting to change my kids' names but at the same time I want to gift them some part of our family and our traditions."

Hi, Penelope. Thank you for your question as it is a very important one. I can answer in two parts: first, as an adoptee and second, as a parent-by-adoption.

As a young adoptee, my names were changed—first, middle, and last names—upon the finalization of my adoption. For me, there was always a sense of sadness as a child, just wondering where the “first me” had gone. It caused confusion. With the stroke of a pen, that girl no longer existed, yet I still felt her inside of me. I mourned the little girl who no longer had a name. And, it took some time for me to embrace my new name and to merge those two little girls into one whole and complete woman. 

Shakespeare asked the question, “What’s in a name?” The answer, I believe—as it pertains to adoption—is quite a lot. I think it’s important to keep an adoptee’s name. What exactly that looks like, will differ for every family. A parent might solely keep a child’s name, or add their name to something new…honoring both birth heritage and adoptive heritage.

I am, as I mentioned, a parent-by-adoption. I have two children who were adopted internationally. I chose to keep their names in honor of their birth stories, birth heritages, and birth cultures...and I also added a name to their birth-names that honored their adoptive stories. 

Adoption is a weaving: something that has come before is being woven into something new. In my experience as an adoptee and parent-by-adoption, I have grown to know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that it’s important to honor both.

"Open Adoption is what everyone promotes now. However, that is not an option for some of us for safety reasons especially when it comes to severe domestic violence. How do you explain that to an adopted child?"

Hi, JoEllen.  Thank you for this very important question. 

The safety of our children is always top-priority. Open adoption cannot work if there is risk of violence and abuse. 

As much as we advocate on behalf of open adoption—when all adults involved are showing up responsibly and lovingly—we have to realize that, in some cases, open adoption is not an option. I think being tender and real with our kids (in an age-appropriate way) about why is critically important. 

You might say something like this:

Right now, your birth mom/birth dad are currently going through challenges that have nothing to do with you, who you are, or the amazing person you are growing up to be.

Know that I love you, I will always love you, and I'm always going to be here to protect you.  I'm proud of you.  And, I'm so very happy to be your mom/dad.  I am always here to listen, to hear, to walk with you, and to comfort you.

I hope this helps. 

"I have no idea why our son’s birth mom chose closed adoption, but I have the same the question about how to explain it’s a closed adoption in sensitive ways that hopefully won’t cause anymore pain and confusion to him."

Hi Jessica. I struggled with my own closed adoption my entire childhood and into my adulthood. Closed adoption, for me, is difficult as it denies truth-in-history and truth-in-identity to the adopted person.

I am always in favor of openness in adoption, if it does not cause further trauma for the child/children involved.

Knowing why your son’s birth mom chose a closed adoption may or may not ever be revealed. So, it’s important to be honest in that way. If we don’t know, as parents, it’s okay. It's better to be honest than to try and force answers we don’t have.

You might say:

I don’t know exactly why your birth mom chose a closed adoption. What I do know is this: I love you. I am so very happy to be your mom. I love your birth mom because she gave you life. And, because she did, I get the great honor of knowing you and watching you grow. I am here to support you always. If I ever learn more about your adoption, I promise to come to you and tell you. If you ever have a question or need to talk, please know that you can come to me and I will drop everything to listen to you. We’re on this journey together!

My thanks to Michelle for her loving answers!  You can follow Michelle on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, read her writing on her website, and purchase her children's book, The Tummy Mummy, or her adult book, Adoption Means Love.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

5 Popular Adoption Phrases You Won't Hear Me Say or Share, and Here's Why

These adoption phrases may be popular, they may be catchy, but when you really think about it, they really aren't true of adoption for everyone.  

Perhaps you've heard some of these, or even used them yourself?  Before you share these on social media again, or don't respond when someone says them to you, I want you to consider WHY I don't use these and perhaps, why you shouldn't either. 

1:  #AdoptionRocks

I have read many adoptees share that they loathe this hashtag, and I totally get why.  I have never been comfortable sharing it, mostly because after a decade of parenting, I realize that adoption is many things, many complicated and bittersweet things.  #AdoptionRocks is simple.  Too simple.  It's also very adoptive-parent centric:  a point of view that excludes how our kids and their biological parents may feel.   

This isn't to say our children can't be proud to be adopted.  This also isn't to say that a biological parent cannot feel content or at peace with their decision to place.

But I feel that #AdoptionRocks isn't my hashtag to tout.  Why?  Because I know the intricate truths that parenting adoptees brings and reveals, and I want to honor those.  And because, as I share time and time again, it's not all about me or you.  Adoption should always be focused on the child.  

2:  I carried my child in my heart, not my womb.

Reason #1: It's too damn cheesy.   

Reason #2:  I cannot compare my experience (waiting for a child, preparing for a child) with the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual battles a birth parent has faced.   

Again, it's just not my place as a parent-by-adoption to "claim" any part of the conception, pregnancy, or birth of the child I adopted.   To do so insinuates that I'm attempting to compare my experience to that of a birth family member's or I'm trying to steal part of their experience. 

No, thanks.  

3:  DNA doesn't make a family; love makes a family.

Ok, now I do use #LoveMakesaFamily often in my social media posts.  But never, ever with a statement about DNA not making a family.   Because no matter the relationship your child does/doesn't have with his/her birth family, the birth family is ALWAYS your child's FIRST and BIRTH family.   

DNA does create family.  So does adoption.  

I don't see any reason to discount either or try to "one up" the biological connection.   And it's certainly not my place to dismiss the importance of birth family to an adoptee.  

4: Adopted children are gifts.

Listen, I'm loud-and-proud to be my kids' chosen mama.  I am very thankful that they are my kids.  However, my kids aren't objects, gifts, to be given.  They are human beings with thoughts, feelings, and experiences.  They are people, not presents.  

5:  Adoption is the new pregnant.  

Hmmmm.  Adoption and pregnancy really have zero similarities.  Plus, adoption isn't a bandwagon to jump on.  

This phrase also tends to minimize the difficulties of adopting:  the mountains of paperwork, background checks, interviews, education, financial sacrifices, relationships, and waiting.  Adoption has an enormous impact on the trajectory of a child's life.  Adoption is a serious, life-altering decision.  

Learn more about what I don't say, and why, in the chapter "All Aboard the Cliche Train" (pages 107-109) from The Hopeful Mom's Guide to Adoption.  

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

How to Make Hair Styling Time Enjoyable for Your Black Child (Without Relying on an I-Pad or Tablet)

Four kids, four very different responses to hair styling.  Oh, and did I mention, it's been almost a decade of hair styling?!?   

My oldest:  so easy.  Not tender-headed AT ALL.  Give her a snack-cup and she'd sit as I learned to part, band, braid, and bead.

But my second daughter, oh my.  She was SO tender-headed.  To the point where she and I both wanted to just cut her hair.  Yeah, I said it.  Cut it ALL off.  It was just excrutiating from start to finish, for both of us.  I was in tears as much as she was, feeling like I failed as a mom.  But we stuck it out, and eventually she began to outgrow her inability to tolerate hair sessions.  

My son is a strong sensory seeker, but haircuts and hair styling can be a challenge.  We are pretty particular about how his hair is simply because it needs to be simple and practical.  I explain our hair care routine for him extensively in this prior post.  

My toddler isn't easy-peasy, but she's not very tender-headed either.  We stick mostly with puffs and finger coils for now, with occasional free-hair days in between.  

In our almost ten-years of styling, there's been much trial-and-error.  I am thankful for our tried-and-true routines, and I hope they help you, too:  

1:  Watch affirming movies.

I love showing my kids movies like Roger and Hammerstein's Cinderella starring Brandy, Whitney Houston, and Whoopi Goldberg.  The variety of hairstyles (Whitney's afro, Whoopi's dreds, Brandy's curls) can be a great talking point during the movie.  And I dare you not to sing "Impossible" the whole week long after watching!   

There's also the lovely "I Love My Hair" video from Sesame Street (I have that song memorized!)---though I'm not sure you'll want to watch it on repeat for the duration of the styling session.  

My kids LOVE popcorn, and it's an ideal snack for hairstyling sessions (easy to vaccuum up) and isn't sticky.  We usually pop mass batches on the stove (big family life), flavor with a little bit of butter and pink sea salt.  But sometimes we'll get the kids Boom-Chick-A Pop:  the light kettle corn flavor is the favorite.  

2:  Read hair books.

Keep all your hair books in a tote or basket that you can get out during hair time.  The tote can easily be stored, and the hair books, read during styling time, makes them special.  

There are so many excellent books for Black boys and girls on hair with more options coming out often.  I list our favorites for boys here and for girls here.  Another option is to purchase Black hairstyle magazines to flip through.  

Children who can read can practice reading aloud to you, or younger kids can listen to an older sibling read aloud to them.  

3:  Play with sensory toys.

For kids who need sensory input during hair styling sessions, yet you need them to hold mostly still, I recommend letting them sit on a wiggle cushion or a bean-bag chair.  There are also some fantastic fidget toys that keep your child's hands busy without compromising the necessity for them to sit while you work.  

Another option is to create a sensory box that fits on your child's lap.  Fill the box with sensory materials depending on his/her age and ability.  Great options include different fabric scraps, felt, colorful pipecleaners, ribbon, yarn, pom poms,  etc.  If you opt for the pipecleaners, kids can string pony beads onto them.  (I avoid allowing kids to play with a rice bin, slime, or cloud doh during this time, simply because in my view, it's too risky for there to be a spill or for hair to get into the materials.  However, Play-doh, like this sparkly version, may be a good option.)  

For younger ones, the "touch and feel" board books are a lot of fun.  Some touch-and-feel board books include Disney's It's a Small World series, any of the DK books, and the Bright Baby touch-and-feel.   Lift the flap books like those by Karen Katz and these (my toddler's favorite!) are also a great option.

4:  Encourage participation.

I have my girls put their beads of choice onto beading tools while I'm parting, banding, and braiding their hair.  I also offer hair product choices (like, which scent do you want?).  Or if we're using Gabby Bows, I have them unsnap the ones they wish to have in their hair and line them up for me.  My baby enjoys holding the different combs and hair product bottles.  You can also purchase dolls with style-able hair so your child can work while you do.  

Letting your child explore the different materials you're using is a way to create a positive and hands-on hair experience.  

5:  Offer empowerment, pride, and affirmations.

I take hairstyling sessions to be an opportunity to affirm my kids, their skin, and their hair.   I tell them how awesome it is that they are Black:  their hair can do so many things!  I give them options between two styles and let them choose.  When they get their hair braided with extensions, they have say-so in the length, the color (we often add color!), and the style.  They choose their beads or barrettes.  I keep a hand mirror near by so they can see how their style is progressing and admire the finished style.  

This isn't a stand-alone way to make the hairstyling session enjoyable, but it is definitely the most important and can be combined with the other routines.  

What are your tablet or I-pad - free tips for making hair styling time more enjoyable for your child?

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

5 Important Lessons We've Learned About Parenting Adoptees

I can hardly believe that ten years ago, we completed our first homestudy and started waiting for our first child!  

We thought we knew adoption. After all, we'd met with other families-by-adoption.  We'd read books, articles, and blog posts.  We weren't just hearing.  We were listening, learning, and applying.  

But with time comes experience, and wow, have we had some experiences over the past twelve years (the period of time from when we decided to adopt until now).  Four children placed with us, twenty "rejections," two interim care infants.   

1:  Love isn't enough.  

This is a BIG one.  

Because we're programmed as a society to believe love is all we need.  That love conquers all.  "Live, laugh, love."  You get the point.  

Many adoptees come into their forever families having experienced trauma.  Trauma, as we know, changes the brain.  That's why so many families like mine swear by the book The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family, follow attachment parenting techniques, and swear by all the things Empowered Can Connect can offer us.  

Love is a critical foundation, but it isn't enough.  Because adoptees have needs beyond love.  We can't love our children's trauma out of them, nor should we try.  Instead, everything we do is based on love, but we know that we don't start and stop with love.  

The earlier families who choose to adopt understand this, the better off they are, and the more likely their adoptee is to flourish in life vs. suffer in silence, confusion, and frustration.

2:  Initiate adoption conversations.

This was some of the first adoption advice I ever received, and interestingly, I was reminded of it when I read this fabulous young adult, adoption-themed novel.

My friend, mama to a transracial, international adoptee, told me that she used stories that came up in the media to check in with her child about adoption.   

The truth is, your child, at some point (and likely many points) is thinking about his or her adoption.  

When you, as the adult, initiate the adoption conversation, you send your child one very powerful message:  that you are a safe person to approach about adoption.   

I read online ALL the time that adoptees want to search for their biological families, but they are too scared to broach the subject with their parents.  The last thing they want to do is hurt their parents' feelings.  

But what if adoption conversations were normalized from very early on?  What if children knew they were adopted from the get-go?  What if parents reminded their kids, over and over, that adoption-talk is OK?  

3:  Empathy:  always.  

I run a large adoption triad support group, and a few years ago an experienced attachment therapist spoke to our group.  I had the opportunity to speak with her one-on-one, and I asked her about a personal situation we'd encountered with one of our children whom was struggling greatly with an absent birth parent.   And she told me something I'll never forget, that our response, as adoptive parents, should always be empathy.  

Not correction.  Not explanation.  Not a lecture.  Not ignoring or sugar-coating or sweeping under the proverbial rug.   

Take the emotions for exactly what they are, and in return, offer empathy.  

4:  Listen to what your child needs. 

There is a lot of "noise" in the adoption community.  Some of it is so incredibly important, so incredibly crucial, and very helpful.  But some of it isn't.  

There are times, several years ago, that I felt like I could never "measure up" to be the mommy my children needed.  My children were doomed. I was doomed.  We were all doomed.  I felt this way after spending WAY too much time online.

If you notice, those who comment online tend to be one of two extremes on ANY subject.  There is very rarely balance.  Because the people who are in-the-middle usually aren't online passionately arguing.  Why?  Because they are living life!  

My friend Madeleine Melcher, who is both an adoptee and mom-by-adoption, wrote a wonderful book encouraging and educating adoptive parents.  In the book, she stresses over and over the importance of listening to YOUR child.  

Because she knows, and I know, there is no such thing as adoption gospel.  Of course, there are things that are clearly wrong and unethical.  But there are many things, as Madeleine shares, that are in-the-gray.  

Who matters most in any adoption?  It's your child.  So listen to him or her, above all, because as Madeleine says, that is the voice that matters the most.  

(PLEASE buy and read her book!  I promise you will be blessed by it!)  

5:  Tell the truth.  

This is something I say to my kids ALL the time.  That telling the truth is SO much better than lying, concealing, hiding.  Telling the truth, even when it's hard, is always the right thing to do.

This means that your children need to know THEIR truth, and you, as their parent, have the privilege and honor and responsibility of doing so.  

You are always telling your child his or her adoption story, adding details as the child matures and as new information is made known to you.  (This book is incredibly helpful in assisting parents talk to their adoptees and foster children.) 

I know that some of these details aren't pretty.  I know that as a parent, you are scared to tell your child because as a mom, you want to PROTECT your child.  But guess what?  Not telling the truth creates distrust, and it teaches your child that there is something shameful about their story.   

The Bible is right. The truth = freedom.  Freedom allows a child to know the full picture (as full as possible) and to process that picture.  And remember, if you are responding with empathy (point #3), initiating adoption conversations (point #2), parenting with love and then some (point #1), and listening to your child (point #4), you are more likely to be the parent your child needs you to be than if you aren't.  

Friends, I truly believe that adoptees can be raised by woke, loving, empathetic parents.  That's exactly why I wrote The Hopeful Mom's Guide to Adoption.  To give you the book I didn't have twelve years ago.   And I want to thank my readers for all the beautiful e-mails I've received as a result of them reading the book.