This podcast reveals how adoption's parent/child relationships oftentimes become strained and explains that the strain is not the fault of parent nor child. Five adoptive moms give real-life examples of strain. Sherrie Eldridge reveals the greatest gift parents can give their kids in every situation--the gift of a non-abandoning heart. The pre-requisite to a non-abandoning heart is "risky love"--choosing to remain in the meltdown with the child, trace current-day strain to perceived abandonment, and speak to the past as well as the present. With her seasoned adoptee voice, Sherrie urges fellow adoptees to forgive themselves. Why? Their brains were damaged in the midst of trauma, but still have great hope of recovery.
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INTRO: Last podcast, we talked about the level of stress that often occurs when parenting an adopted child. Not knowing where you’re at in your parenting, whether you’re a prospective adoptive parent or one that is seasoned, I’ve tried to break it gently to you that your child may push you and your love away–sometimes, or all the time. And, you must be proactive about how to handle this.
Going to rely on 50 moms to tell us how pushback may occur:
Blame for Stress–It’s No One’s Fault
In our humanity, we want to blame someone for the stress and strain. How many times have I read in the paper about a crime, and then a footnote that it was an adopted child of so and so that committed the crime?
And, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard fellow adoptees say, “I wonder if I have a character defect passed down in DNA from my unknown birth relatives.”
Retha and me: I wanted to be a cuddly newborn and a thriving teen. She wanted to be a confident mom–one that wasn’t plagued by self-condemnation and doubt.
1. Adoptees–It’s Not your fault
Even though I was severely traumatized, maybe something inside me would notice Retha’s love, even so slightly? All I knew was abandonment...but something new can peak through the dark clouds. Could I not see the twinkle in her eye? Could I not begin to feel safe physically when she rubbed warm oil on my asthmatic chest?
2. Parents– we need risky love–love that isn’t afraid of our strong behavior–talk to us during and after meltdowns, please? Help us to understand the reason behind our strong reactions to life. Help us take responsibility for wrongs and suffer the consequences.
I wish Retha would have talked openly with me about my part in the strain. Why was I doing what I was doing? It would have helped me understand why I stole clothes from a neighbor’s closet. “Sweetheart, I wonder if you scratched “I love you, mommy” on my dresser because you maybe wanted me to know how much you love and miss your First Mother?” Or, “Maybe you stole clothes from so-and-so’s closet because deep down you believe you were thinking that your Dad and I stole you?”
This challenge may be intimidating to you, Moms. In order to do this effectively, you will need a deep comprehension of what’s really going on in your child’s mind and heart. Moms should examine how current struggles lead back to relinquishment, which is the biggest hurt for the adopted child. We will come back to it repeatedly in every chapter.
Here’s a great example from Amy Snyder:”I remember one particular day when my daughter was 16 and very angry at me for asking her to put on a more modest shirt before going to a tennis class. She went ballistic and screamed, ‘Why does it always have to be about you?’ I sat speechless as she ran to her room. Her reaction was not in line, so I sent a quick prayer for wisdom and God graciously gave a swift answer. I calmly knocked on my daughter’s door and asked if I could ask her something. I asked, ‘Is that something you want to yell at your birth mom and can’t, because she isn’t here?” My daughter collapsed on me in tears and we got to cry together because of her pain. God used this moment that could have divided us to help bond us.”
Of course, we admire Amy’s wisdom, but where did she get it? Did she get a masters in counseling? I don’t believe so. Another means of gaining accurate knowledge is from hearing the honest sharing of adult adoptees who are healthy. It’s here that you can learn how to speak the heart language of your adopted child. There will be ideas of how you might gain entrance into that opportunity at the end of this chapter.
III. PARENTS–USE ICEBREAKERS TO PROMOTE DISCUSSION
gave me this gift and these were her beliefs:
heart. What a mom she was to those scurrying chicks...and what a Mom my Mom was to me. And, what a mom you are.
What Parents Can Do
1. Create an Icebreaker Book for Your Child
Just as the Mom whose daughter was totally shut down crafted an icebreaker book, you can, too! Get a copy of TWENTY THINGS ADOPTED KIDS WISH THEIR ADOPTIVE PARENTS KNEW, and journal your thoughts to your child in the margins. This tool will be a great way to open conversations about why your child is stressed.
4. Read or Listen to Adoptee Memoirs
5. YOU DON’T LOOK ADOPTED, by Anne Heffron
BONDED AT BIRTH, by Gloria Owen
A MAN AND HIS MOTHER, by Tim Green
TWICE BORN-Memoirs of An Adopted Daughter, by Betty Jean Lifton, Ph.D.
6. Write Your Own Version of the Non-Abandoning Heart and the Fire
The setting is that you’re the mama eagle in the forest with her eaglets. Then, the fire in the forest begins. What is the fire for you? How do you demonstrate your wings protecting your eaglet from the fire? What is the result of the fire,
Copyright 2022, Sherrie Eldridge No reprint without permission. firstname.lastname@example.org