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
Dear 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.
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.
- On Blank Slate Babies and Being Open (article)
- 10 Ways to Increase Attunement with Your Adopted Child (article)
- Adoption Therapy: Perspectives from Clients and Clinicians on Processing and Healing Post-Adoption Issues (book, ed. Laura Dennis)
- Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child (book, Holly van Gulden and Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb)
- Waiting Until Your Parents Pass (post by The Adopted Ones)
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.
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.
Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.