Tuesday, December 3, 2019

5 Things Adoptive Parents Should Say to Their Adopted Children

There's a lot of negative stereotypes about adoptees--and it doesn't help that they are the butt of many jokes in sitcoms, movies, and especially children's movies. I cringe every time I hear an adoption or adoptee "joke."

Just as I've said that when we're parenting children of color, we must work hard to bring them up since the world works hard to tear them down, I believe the same of adoptees. Society works hard to bring adoptees down, and as parents, we must work even harder to build our children up. They will face plenty of doubts, fears, and confusion on their own when processing their adoptions--and when we layer on adoptee stereotypes--it's complicated. And heartbreaking. And yes, this can happen even to children who were adopted as infants.

Being an adoptee is no "walk in the park" from what I've experienced and from what adoptees have shared with me. This is another reason why parents must be a trusted, safe, supportive home for their child. 

Here are five things adoptive parents need to sincerely say to their adopted children:

1:  I believe you.

When your adoptee trusts you enough to share their truths with you--on any topic--but especially regarding adoption, you should always, always response with empathy. One way to be empathetic is to say (and show) your child that you believe them. 

Their feelings are valid. Their feelings are real. And you can either hold those sacred or reject them. It's better to choose to hold those sacred and respond to them with empathy. 

If you're struggling to accept your child's emotions--work on your own issues as this parenting expert suggests. He explains how to do this--and why--in his book Parenting From the Inside Out.

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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2:  I support you.

When you know your adoptee's feelings, you need to support your child in what they do with those. Perhaps it's counseling. Perhaps it's reaching out to birth family or searching for birth family. Perhaps it's forging a new path. Perhaps it's something else. Whatever it is, offer empathy and then support. Be the parent you were chosen to be.

Garlinghouse adoption fact: we went into adoption not knowing how many kids, what sex, what level of need, or what race our children would be.πŸ’“ In 2008, we were chosen to adopt a newborn Black baby girl. Two years later, another Black baby girl. Two years later, a Black baby boy. Three years later, a Black baby girl. Our family is multiracial, big, and there are some special needs. I wouldn’t have it any other way. πŸ’“ What’s your family like? πŸ‘‡πŸΌπŸ‘‡πŸ½πŸ‘‡πŸΎ . . . #multiracialfamily #adoptivefamily #bigfamily #daughter #son #whitesugarbrownsugar #adoption #adoptivemom #adoptee #adoptionjourney #adoptionstory #lovemakesafamily #adoptionislove #openadoption #domesticadoption #newbornadoption #transracialadoption #transracialfamily #transracialadoptee #sunday #sundayfunday
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3: I am proud of you.

You're not just proud of your child for sharing and processing their feelings. You are proud of your child for who they are--their personalities, their gifts, their quirks. You are a proud parent, and you need to say that to your child freely. Don't assume your child knows you are proud of them. Speak it often and sincerely.

4: I love all of you.

Sometimes adoptees feel the need to hide parts of themselves--like their race, their special needs, their trauma, their questions--because they are fearful those won't be accepted and not just accepted, but embraced. We need to love our entire child--not just the "nurture" parts. Our children came with their "nature"--their biology--and that is important. Loving the whole child, all of the child, is our honor.

5: I am thankful for you.

I tell my kids all the time, "Of all the parents in the world, I was lucky enough to be chosen by your birth parents to be your mom." I am the lucky one--and I'm also thankful. I never push on my children that they should feel grateful for being adopted. How they feel is up to them, and my job is to offer love, support, encouragement, and resources. I'm also so very blessed to be chosen for the kids I have--because I, like all parents, think I have the best kids in the world.

This hand I hold—it belongs to a big, Black, boy. The very person society tends to fear the most. πŸ–€ It’s mind-boggling to me: that I parent this handsome, empathetic, strong, funny, gentle, affectionate, smart boy. But people have already made up their minds about him because of his melanin. πŸ–€ They don’t see what I see. Warm brown eyes that light up when his baby sister walks into the room. Skin that deepens in the summer sun. Curly hair that holds tight coils. He is pure joy. πŸ–€ I don’t know what will change hearts and minds. Racism and stereotypes - they are big, pervasive, and overwhelming. They also break my heart. πŸ–€ All I can do some days is pull my boy into my arms-tighter and longer-and pray God keeps him safe. πŸ–€ My tee is from @stoopandstank πŸ–€ . #blackboy #blackboys #son #multiracialfamily #racism #mom #momlife #blackboyjoy #whitesugarbrownsugar #sunday #racism #stereotypes #blackownedbusiness
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What do you say to your adoptees, and why?

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