My Kid Has No Adoption Issues. That a Problem?

Question:  My daughter is 8 and really, it feels as though she’s having no adoption issues. None at all. Is it possible for her to just be well adjusted about adoption?     — Laurel

open adoption adviceDear Laurel: I do believe it’s possible. We should welcome, recognize and show gratitude when our kids are seemingly well-adjusted. Enjoy the ease you are experiencing in parenting.

But wait — there’s more!

Adoption Attuned Parenting Gets You Partway There

So congratulations, Laurel. Not only do you have a child who seems to have a high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient), I surmise from knowing you online for years that you are a parent with a high AQ (adoption attunement quotient). With these two ingredients — a child’s EQ and a parent’s AQ — you may experience smoother sailing than some other adoptive families. (And that’s OK, in spite of the groans of envy that may ensue.)

Let me make a few more points.

Myth: If Parents Do Things “Right,” There Will Be No Problems

You deserve a pat on the back for your ability and willingness to attune to your daughter — truly, like tuning an old-school radio until you’re able to hear things just right. She is no doubt benefiting from having such a close relationship with you, from feeling safe and connected through your attention and efforts.

aq adoption attuned parenting

But I also want to dispel the notion people sometimes have — subconsciously — that if you do things “right” your child will have no issues.  And the other notion that If your child has issues, it’s because you are not doing things “right.”

While it’s great that you’re doing things “right,” the other part of the equation is that your daughter is able to do a lot of her own work, tuning in to herself, tapping into her own resilience. I wrote about resilience — why some have it and some don’t — in this excerpt, the foreword to the book Adoption Therapy. Like so many innate traits and talents, some kids come by it more easily than others do.

You get some of the credit but not all (not that you were asking for credit).  And parents with struggling kiddos don’t get all of the blame.

Drop Pebbles Every So Often

One thing we know about people and relationships is that things are always in flux; things can change over time as people go in and out of stages of life. While we never want to plant or create issues where there previously were none, we do want to detect issues if they arise.

For this reason, I suggest you keep “dropping pebbles.” This is a a technique covered by Holly van Gulden and Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb in Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child. In essence, it means you throw out possible conversation starters and see if your daughter is ready to pick up any. This is a way of spreading out the emotional charge for your child (and maybe for you).

Dropping a pebble might look like this, while driving by The Hospital: Oh, look. This is the hospital where you were born. Wait, be silent, and see if your daughter picks up your pebble with thoughts/feelings on her birth, her birth mother, her coming home with you, or anything else.

The goal of dropping pebbles goes beyond discovering what she thinks, however. That, of course, gives you a keyhole into what’s going on in her mind. But even deeper is helping her access what she feels. The more we can help our children bring forth their emotions in a safe way, the less likely the emotions are to be suppressed and come out later in surprising and uncontrollable ways.

So bottom line, yes it’s possible for an adoptive parent to raise a child who is relatively issue-less. (a) It’s not all you, and (b) stay attuned in case issues do come up.

See also:

Dear Readers, what say you?


About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • I may occasionally call on others to help with answers, to tap into group wisdom.
  • I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
  • Readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.

Send in your own open adoption question. I’ll either offer an answer or find someone who can address your issue.

Summer Reading: New Adoption Books

With about half the summer left, I offer you a harvest of new adoption books that have recently become available. Here are some that have come into my mailbox or across my radar.

new adoption books 2015

New Adoption Books 2015

hole in my heart by lorraine duskyHole in My Heart by Lorraine Dusky
For: adults

Lorraine, known to many as one of the driving forces behind [Birth Mother] First Mother Forum, placed her daughter in the 1960s. This is Lorraine’s long-awaited sequel to her earlier work,  Birthmark.  I’ve just begun reading and I’m hooked.

Jazzy's Quest by Carrie GoldmanJazzy’s Quest by Carrie Goldman and Juliet C Bond
For: children — early chapter readers

Likely you’ve run across Carrie at her highly esteemed column, Portrait of An Adoption. She noticed a dearth of adoption books for early chapter readers, and decided to fill it with this, the first in a series. Read my review.

20 Life-Transforming Choices Adotees Must Make20 Life Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make, 2nd edition by Sherrie Eldridge
For: adoptees, late teens and up, and people who want to better understand support them

One of the very first adoption books I (and so many other new adoptive parents) read when I first became a mom was Sherrie’s 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. I’m excited to make this book — for the adopted person — available to my kids as they approach these choice-points. I have a signed copy to give away (see below).*

The Adoptee Survival Guide: Adoptees Share Their Wisdom and Tools, edited by Lynn Grubb
For: adult adoptees and people who want to better understand and support them

This anthology explores the “complexities of being adopted, embarking on search and reunion, fighting for equal access to identifying information, navigating complex family relationships with the latest technology, and surviving it all with a sense of humor.” I intend to read it. It’s getting great reviews.

Encouragement for the adoption journey devotional by Rachel Garlinghouse and Madeleine MelcherEncouragement for the Adoption and Parenting Journeys: 52 Devotions and a Journal by Rachel Garlinghouse and Madeleine Melcher

A bible-based devotional for adults who are adopting or have adopted, by two adoptive moms (one is also an adoptee).

Dear Carolina by Kristy Woodson HarveyDear Carolina by Kristy Woodson Harvey

Southern fiction. Letters written by both birth mom and adoptive mom to the child they both love. Reviewers seem to like it.  Read my review.


* Adoption Book Giveaway

To enter the giveaway for Sherrie Eldridge’s 20 Life Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make (signed by author!) please leave a comment indicating you’re entering the drawing (not all commenters will be entering, so make sure I know you are, and make sure I can reach you by email). I’ll randomly pick a name next week and get the book on its way to its new owner.


This post is part of #MicroblogMondays? Whazzat? A post that’s not too long. Head to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.

Open adoption parenting & living mindfully