Tuesday, September 24, 2019

9 Books You Need if You're Parenting a Tween or Teen Adoptee

And just like that, I had a tween.

One day my baby girl was learning the alphabet and playing trains. Then all the sudden (yes, I'm being dramatic), she was asking for a cell phone and dashing off to her classroom without a kiss. 

Parenting a tween is one thing, but parenting a tween or teen adoptee is another. Which is why these nine books are so incredibly important! 

The first three are parenting-type books, which I think are essential as we wrap our minds around the how-to of parenting our tween or teen adoptees. Click on the book image to read a summary and reviews.

These three are written for tweens or teens, but are excellent for parents to skim first. Click on the book image to read a summary and reviews.

Then there are these three, which are fantastic for girl adoptees.

Now you might be wondering why I'm recommending books geared toward tweens and teens for YOU.  The reason is that you can really get inside your tween or teen's brain when you read a book written by an adoptee who was once a tween or teen. Then you can pass on these books to your child. 

Warning: there is sensitive content in these books, which is why I recommend parents read them first. These topics include: suicide, anxiety, drug use, sexual content, violence.

Note: all of these books were written by adoptees of color, two of whom were adopted transracially. Click on the book image to read a summary and reviews.

You can check out ways to connect with your tween daughter here.

Let's discuss parenting tween and teen adoptees! Be sure to say hello and share your thoughts, questions, and experiences on my Facebook page. And to keep up with the latest blog posts, be sure to drop your e-mail addy here. As a thank-you, I'll send you three free e-gifts! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

6 Offensive Phrases People Say to Adoptive Families

I have a thick skin. I've been part of the adoption community for over a decade. Not every little word or phrase or question raises my blood pressure or hurts my feelings. Not even close.

But there are some things that have been said to us--and are still being said to us--that just aren't OK. And for good reason.

Here's what people say to us, and here's why it's offensive:

1: He/she looks just like you!

When I was a mommy of one, my hubby, daughter, and I were eating breakfast at a hotel. I headed to the hotel gym, and my husband stayed behind to finish feeding our toddler. The breakfast attendant approached my husband, gushing relentlessly about how much our daughter looked like my husband.


First, our child is Black and we are white. So there's that. Second, our child isn't biologically related to us and looks nothing like either of us. So what was the deal?

We've had this happen a few times (as have many other families), and I think it's the person's way of trying to affirm or reassure us that we are the child's real parents and we are a real family.   Is it weird? Yes. Is it inappropriate? Totally.

There is nothing wrong with acknowledging adoption and difference. Our children look like their biological families (and not us) because...duh, they are biologically related.  That's OK. 

We don't need to be "reassured" that we are our kids' parents. We already know we are.

2: I want to give away/give back my kids.

I've heard frustrated/tired parents (bio) say this about their (bio) kids often. And every time, I cringe. The child will be having a tantrum, for example, and the parent will roll their eyes or sigh and say something along the lines of, "Anyone want this kid?"

Jokes about giving away or giving back children is never funny--adopted or not. In the adoption community, we fight so hard against stereotypes and inappropriate language. Why? Because language matters. Language CAN hurt. Language resonates.

What our kids' birth families have done by placing their kids for adoption was hardly a laughable, easy move to make. It was a life-altering decision. And it wasn't a joke.

3: Love is all they need.

Talk about uneducated and unsolicited "advice."

Blowing off the significance of a child's biological parent, adoption, trauma, etc. is ignorant and hurtful. Love is absolutely not all an adoptee needs. As I've said many times, love is a powerful, necessary foundation. But it is not the be-all-end-all of what our kids need.

Biology matters. Trauma matters.  Feelings about adoption and the adoption story matter. 

There isn't a contest between these things. And adoptees shouldn't be put in the position to feel they must choose. They can all exist.  They are all real. And the sacred process of thinking about, talking about, working through them is important. They cannot be swept under the rug. 

4: I know someone who was adopted and... (insert horror story).

Let me be clear. We don't want to hear your second-hand adoption horror stories.

They don't help us. They are one-sided, misunderstood stories that speak against adoption, against the individuals involved. Disrespectful.

No. Just no.

View this post on Instagram

They look up to their dad. They’re always seeking his attention. He wrestles with them. Cheers for them. Laughs at their jokes. Tag? He’s on it! Swim races? Done! His energy is the best! He takes out braids, too! ❤️ I’m learning to appreciate our differences as parents. He’s more likely to give more chances. He’s a compromiser. I’m the stricter parent. It used to drive me batty-the way I’d say no and he’d say maybe or yes. But I’m realizing that our kids need both. ❤️ We believe in attachment, trauma informed parenting. We’re always learning new things and changing up what we do. Improving. Being the parents our kids need. ❤️ What’s your parenting style vs your partner’s? πŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΎ . . . #parenting #dadlife #multiracialfamily #adoptivefamily #adoptiveparents #dad #bigfamilylife #empoweredtoconnect #attachmentparenting #trauma #specialneeds #daddydoinwork #whitesugarbrownsugar #blackhairstyles #sunday #sundayfunday
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5: God bless you.

So, we get this one a lot. Deep breath.

We didn't rescue our kids. They are NOT charity cases. We aren't white saviors or superhereos. Our kids aren't victims or orphans. We aren't better than the next parent. We are normal, real parents. Yes, our kids were adopted, but they are also normal, real kids.

If you wish to say something kind to my family, as a whole, the most appropriate thing you can say is, "You have a beautiful family." That's it.

6: Your child is so lucky.

Sigh. This one is kind of the worst, isn't it? 

I am the lucky one! And I didn't rescue my children. I'm not a superhero or a savior or a saint. 

My children aren't "lucky" that I gave them a "good and loving home." The reality is, I wanted to be a mom and adoption was our best option. 

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

To the Hopeful Adoptive Mom Who Has Ever Wondered Who She Is

Hey, Mama-to-Be.

Or is that right?

Have you ever wondered, as you wait to adopt, who you are? I know I mulled over that very question over the course of a decade and four adoption journeys.

Who are you? 

Are you an expectant mom? A Hopeful Adoptive Parent, known as a HAP in adoption circles? Are you a mom-to-be? 

You have all these conflicting feelings. You are excited, nervous, terrified, anxious, joyful, impatient, and elated. One minute you are certain the call (you know, THE call) will come any moment. The next minute, you are desolate, certain you will never become someone's mother.

Then you're picking out baby names. Then you cry. A lot. You obsess over the other hopeful parent adoption profiles online, comparing yourself to them. Then you decide you need to re-do your profile book ASAP. But then you don't. 

You need reassurance. You need to be left alone. 

You have the heart of a mother, but you don't have a child in your arms. You've been preparing a room for the child you have yet to meet. 

Who are you?

You have a what-if, maybe-baby. You have no idea when he or she will arrive. What he or she will look like. You may not know the child's race or level of special needs. 

You're preparing for everything and anything. It's confusing, tumultuous, and uncertain. You're on a journey with no map, no rest stop, and no finish line.

Who are you? 

You have a thousand questions. You wonder about having a baby shower. You might be curious about adoptive breastfeeding. You browse stores for tiny clothing--but when you think about purchasing, you feel guilty and scared.

You are so tired of the inquiries asking if you've "heard anything." Because you are so desperate to be able to say "yes," but you cannot. Because you haven't heard anything except the racing thoughts in your own mind.

Who are you? 

You're tired of getting baby shower and gender reveal party invites. There are adorable babies everywhere. Literally. Around every single corner. You wonder, when is it my turn? Where is my baby?

You question everything that's led you to adoption. Perhaps that's infertility, or disease, or miscarriage, or disability. You wonder, why? Why me? And, why not me?

Who are you?

You experience jealousy. You feel overlooked. You feel thankful that adoption is an option to build your family. You feel angry at yourself for feeling jealous and overlooked. 

You pray for your future child and his or her expectant parents. You pray for yourself: for peace, patience, and wisdom. You pray for grace, for all. 

Who are you?

You are a REM, sister. A Real Expecting Mom. (I cover that, in detail, here.)

You are allowed to have feelings. Conflicting feelings, big feelings, strange feelings. 

You are allowed to need help. Go to counseling, meet with your adoption support group, speak openly with your partner, family, and friends. Seek solace in your online adoption community.

You are allowed to ask questions. Questions yield answers that prepare you for motherhood-by-adoption.

You are allowed to be authentic. To anticipate.

You are allowed to grieve the failed adoptions.

You are allowed to fall in love with a baby who isn't yours.

Waiting to adopt is exhausting, trying, and scary. It's part of the journey. There is no way around it. 

You will feel and experience a lot in these days, weeks, months, and years of waiting. But remember, every single day you wait, as a REM, is a day closer to motherhood.


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Tuesday, September 3, 2019

10 Things You Must Do If Your Child Is In the IEP or 504 Evaluation Process

Many of you are in the midst of having your child evaluated for an IEP or 504 right now. And I feel your pain. I've had the same "sweat and tears" many times. 

First, you know your child has something going on. Maybe multiple somethings. That alone is stressful, exhausting, disheartening, and confusing. The last thing any of us want is for our kids to suffer.

Second, the evaluation process is overwhelming. It's all new territory for many parents.

Our introduction into the world of 504s and IEPs started with adoption. Before we completed a fourth homestudy, we were required to take a class through DCFS (our state child and family services department). The only class available at the time was called "Educational Rights and Responsibilities." 

I readily admit, my attitude was absolutely terrible. I didn't want to sit through an all-day, Saturday class, learning about a topic I had zero interest in. 

But as the minutes and hours went on, and we learned all about special education services in our state, I began to perk up. By the time the class wrapped up, we were first in line to talk to the instructor. Because we had a child who seemed like these services might be appropriate. 

I've learned a lot, through research and experience, since the day we took that class. And I'm here to share that experience with you, hoping to make your journey a little less terrifying. In fact, I want you to be confident.

1: Get (and keep) everything in writing.

It's important to keep a running-record of the process. This includes any official documents, any e-mails between you and school staff, etc. Keep every single paper that comes home from school: from the nurse, homework, tests, notes from the teacher, etc. The more you have in writing, the better. You can refer back to these documents as needed, as well as have a collection of evidence (if things go south). It's also OK to ask for things in writing. One of the best tips I ever got from our educational advocate (see #5) was to follow up with in-person conversations via an e-mail, stating everything discussed and asking if there's anything they'd like to add or change to that conversation. (Now you have info in writing!)

2:  Audio record the meetings.

Give your child's team a heads up that you will be audio-recording the meeting. You can then go back and listen to the meeting again, catching what you missed. Again, this is also to your benefit. If things don't go well, the audio recordings can serve as proof of what happened.

3: Be assertive.

After reading #1 and #2, you might think I'm asking you to be aggressive, but that's not the case. When you're trying to find out if your child qualifies for a 504 or IEP, you must be assertive. You are your child's #1 advocate. This is not the time to be timid, uncertain, or polite. Of course, I'm not telling you to be a jerk. But you also need to become Mama Bear.

4: Keep a log of events.

This is something I wish I would have done from day #1. Create a Word document and then log everything. E-mail communication, a meeting or conference, a paper your child brought home, your child's grades, any incidents from school, etc. Log it all.  Is it time consuming? Yes. But it's not nearly as time consuming as trying to do it retroactively. 

5: Find an educational advocate.

Some states have FREE (yes, free) educational advocates that work on behalf of the parent or child. some will attend meetings with you, while others will communicate with you via phone and e-mail. They help you understand the process, your rights and responsibilities as a parent (and member of your child's educational team), and overall, feel supported. 

6: Seek support from experienced parents.

Other parents can be one of your best sources of information and support. Of course, you want to protect your child's story and struggles; however, you also need to work to be as educated as possible. You want the best possible outcome for your child.

7: Know your rights and responsibilities.

You should be given a document from your district explaining policies and procedures and your rights and responsibilities. And yes, it can be mind boggling. That's why you need other parents (#6) and an educational advocate (#5) to help you understand your rights and responsibilities. For example, you don't have to sign an agreement IN a meeting. There are allowances for time for you to consider the proposed outcome after a 504 or IEP meeting.

8: Be prepared.

Go into every interaction prepared. Have a list of questions or discussion points. Take copies of documents. And know your rights and responsibilities (#7) so you can ask for what you're entitled to.

9: Take a support person.

Meetings can be extremely overwhelming. They are fast-paced (talk about a time crunch!). Don't underestimate the power of discussing your child. You are IN this for your baby---which means your emotions can overpower your critical thinking at times. Having a support person with you is your right as a parent--and it can be helpful when you're discussing the meeting outcome afterward. 

10: Remember: you know your child best.

Yes, our kids can be different at school versus at home. However, a special need is a special need. You cannot ask too many questions. You cannot ask for too many explanations. You need to fully understand what's being proposed, evaluated, and considered.