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what adoptees wish adoptive parents knew

Adoptee Allison Olson: You Are!

You’ve made it through Adoptee Month at! Thanks for reading these 8 amazing essays.

In honor of National Adoption Awareness Month, we spent November reading a variety of adoptee voices here. All essayists have responded to this prompt: what I wish adoptive parents knew about parenting an adoptee.

what adoptees wish adoptive parents knew

Today’s voice belongs to Allison Olson.

You Are!

allison olson adoptee

Dear Adoptive Parents,

The biggest thing I wish that you knew about parenting an adoptee is that you are and will always be this child’s parent. You are the one the child looks to for comfort. You are the one they want to celebrate wins with. You are teaching them about this world and helping to shape their image of themselves as they grow. Every Band-Aid put on a child’s scraped knee and every owwie kissed teaches them that you are there for them when they are hurt. There is nothing in this world that can take away the years of experiences you all will share together.

As with most children, this young adoptee is looking to you for acceptance, love, support, and comfort as the parent. Celebrate their physical differences so that they can grow up loving their curly hair, freckles, skin color, or in my case long toes. Adoptees could possibly look different from the family raising them. These differences should be highlighted in a positive light so that they can build confidence growing up in a situation where they may feel different. Focus on making sure that they feel part of the family and always try to use the most current positive adoption language. It is a balancing act to both highlight differences in a positive manner, while making the adoptee not feel like they stand out in their own family. It may seem like a tall task, but it is likely something you are already doing as an adoptive parent.

Following Their Curiosity Strengthens Your Bond

It’s also important for adoptive parents to understand that there is an inherent need for most people, but especially adoptees, to better understand their nationality, culture, medical history, and get to know their birth family. This need in no way changes that you are the parent who raised them. In fact, the more an adoptive parent can support this learning about the adoptee’s birth family and encourage time together it will only further strengthen the bond between the adoptee and the adoptive parent. If possible, consider your adoptee’s birth family as an extension of your family. Avoid negative language about the adoptee’s birth family.

However, some adoption situations are tougher than others. Try to always be factual and honest with the adoptee about their adoption story. Kids, especially adoptees, can handle more than you think. It’s key that they feel they are always getting the full story from you and are never kept in the dark regarding their adoption. Try to focus on being open and honest while keeping the content at an age-appropriate level.

I’m an Adoptive Parent, Too

As parents, we want to protect and stick up for our children. As adoptive parents we have even more need to do so. While adoptive parents typically go through education and training to prepare them for adopting a child, people outside of the adoption community rarely even know current positive adoption language. This means there is a lot of training that adoptive parents need to do with other family members, close friends, teachers, school staff, neighbors, and sometimes even strangers.

Your young adoptee is looking to you, their parent, to handle situations where people potentially could say things that might be hurtful to your child. Try your best as the adoptive parent to get some canned answers to typical questions or incorrect statements around adoption. This way you will be more prepared to handle it when these things happen. You can never be prepared for every strange statement or question, so know that you can always talk with your adoptee after one of those interactions about how it may have been wrong and what you wished you could’ve said. As an adult adoptee, I still get these questions or statements said to me from well-meaning adults.

The fact that you are taking the time to read this article from an adult adoptee shows how much you care about your adopted child. Being open to hearing from adult adoptees will help you to learn about their experiences, and perhaps enable you to be better prepared for raising an adoptee. You are on the right path.

About Allison Olson

surrounded by love: an open adoption story

Born in 1979, Allison Olson has a unique perspective. She was part of a closed adoption, which is why she wants to celebrate open adoption and make sure there are adoption books that reflect the birth mother and adoptive parents in a positive light to help normalize this loving relationship. Allison lives in Oregon with her husband, two daughters, and their cat named Howie Meowie.

Allison appeared on Adoption: The Long View, Ep309 on talking about open adoption with young children.

Adoptees on Adoption 2022

Lori Holden, mom of a young adult daughter and a young adult son, writes from Denver. She was honored as an Angel in Adoption® by the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute.

Find Lori’s books on her Amazon Author page, and catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

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