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on blank slate babies and nature vs nurture

Do You See a Baby as a Blank Slate? Lesli Johnson on the Neuroscience of Adoption

Separation from one’s biology — it really changes the way people view themselves in the world. Some common themes and beliefs adoptees have are:

Lesli Johnson,
Marriage & Family Therapist,
adoptee, adoption thought leader —

Lesli Johnson, MFT, on What Adoptive Parents Need to Know about Adoptees

Therapist and adoptee Lesli Johnson, my latest guest on Adoption: The Long View, was a consultant about adoption and parenting themes for the Hulu series Little Fires Everywhere. Lesli also wrote an article many years ago that goes viral just about every year. In 10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know, Lesli reveals so many of the things we adoptive parents need to know to create the trusting and connected parent-child relationships we long for.

What Happens When We See Baby as a Blank Slate?

For decades, we considered an adopted baby as a blank slate and formed our adoption and parenting practices accordingly.

In this episode, Lesli and I explore old concepts about newborns, babies, and toddlers in light of newer research in neuroscience. We cover what this means for more effective approaches to adoption and parenting today — knowing what we now know. Here’s some of what you’ll hear:

  • Is a newborn baby a blank slate?
  • The nature vs nurture argument.
  • Implicit memory, grief and loss, loyalty and wondering about/searching for birth parents.
  • The easy-to-shift mindset that can keep adoptive parents from evoking divided loyalty in their child (painful!).
  • How adoptees are in reunion whether they’re searching or not.
  • A special story at the 22 minute mark: “I have permission to tell this story. Their son was 8 years old, he was having trouble in school. His parents wanted me to work with him. And he was adopted…
Many see a baby as a blank slate. Therapist Lesli Johnson talks about the latest brain science.

Lesli the Adoptee Informs Lesli the Therapist

Lesli Johnson is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and Coach specializing in adoption and related issues. Her clients include people from all corners of the adoption and foster care community: adoptees, adoptive parents, waiting parents, birth/first parents, foster parents and families. 

An adoptee herself, Lesli’s personal experience enables her to connect with this community in a unique way. Lesli is a certified EMDR therapist and trained in Brainspotting and the Trauma Resiliency Model.

In addition to her work in private practice, Lesli provides coaching services both in office and virtually to adoptees, adoptive parents and birth parents worldwide. She facilitates virtual healing courses and adoption support groups, and conducts adoption awareness and education workshops in schools, universities, and mental health settings. Lesli also consults on film, television and creative projects that have adoption related themes.

Prefer to read Episode 111? Here’s a transcript (but listening is so much better).

Show Notes from Lesli Johnson’s Episode 111

How to Tune In for More of Adoption: The Long View

You can find us on Adopting.com, and on these and other platforms.

A new episode comes out the first Friday of the month. Thank you for sharing, subscribing, and rating this episode!

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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6 Responses

  1. I love your podcast, you provide such a wide range of viewpoints and experiences in your guests, and you are such a skilled host. I haven’t heard this one yet, but it sounds great. Even though I didn’t end up an adoptive parent, the podcast stretches my thinking and is helpful as a teacher and a friend to adoptive parents. And brings me amazing perspectives and empathy. And your voice in my ear! 💜 Sorry for the gushing… But it’s true!

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