Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Sharing your child's story with them

 Pictures today are brought to you by..........Bekah Shae Love Glasses :).  OK so while we were at Empowered To Connect's Train the Trainer Class in Dallas- we met a couple there and we were talking about different Christian music artists.  I said my 3 year old's favorite it Bekah Shae and she can get on a phone, go to You Tube, and find her "Put Your Love Glasses On" song. 

Now Bekah Shae has been to our church The Crossing (Brandon, FL) before and my family posed with her and her husband for a picture.  Needless to say in the picture Bekah Shae was holding Joanna, and she never lets you forget that!  Joanna will say, "Bekah Shae hold me".  :) 

Ok so while at the class Pam said- I know Bekah Shae......and I said that is awesome!!!!  So she texted her a note along with my address......and we got a package in the mail with "Love Glasses", a CD with the song on it- and a note to Joanna, as well as a bumper sticker too!  Very sweet! 
 We also have some pictures of our venture out to a nearby park that we went to Monday.  It has been too long since our family has had what we call a family day together!!!  We had tons of fun even though we were all very very very sweaty.  This is why I prefer to just swim all summer, and then do other outdoor things other times of the year here in Florida ;). 
 So this subject of sharing your child's story with them...........hard one for me!!  I am sure I am not alone.  I am sure other adopted families have really tough stories too!  I am sure there are others shaking in their boots just thinking about it!  I know because I have talked with some of you. 
 I always thought......why do you want to share their whole story with them.  Not because you don't want to, but if you are at all like me.....you are afraid to.  I mean it is tough enough for them as it is sometimes knowing that they are adopted, but throw in a story that is hard to even utter out of your mouth.......and it just about kills me. 
 I look at my children, and I know their story, but I also know that it isn't all that they are.....they are strong!  They are AMAZING!  They are still children, and I don't want to hurt them.  :(  It breaks my heart! 
 Then I read Telling The Truth To Your Adopted Or Foster Child (Making Sense Of The Past) by Betsy Keefer & Jayne E. Schooler and my world was ROCKED!!!!!!  I am telling you- if you are like me.....shaking.....quivering.....praying for help with this.....GO GET THE BOOK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Can not emphasize that enough.  I got it while at our class and it has totally redefined what I think about it! 
 Ok so here is how it plays out in our home.  Don't be too critical of me- I am a person who is in need of a Savior- I know that!  I make mistakes daily!

If one of our children comes to us asking a question about a birth family - we answer them at a level they can understand.  We tell our family's story to them in generic terms if you like- similar to what I have shared on our blog.  Nothing that is really personal (unless it was only about our struggles- not with their story). 
 We have pictures up in frames of all our children with their birth family in our dining area!  We have met all but one birth family.  We thought that was good......maybe??? 
 That is where my bubble was BURST ALL OVER!  Being real here......I don't want to share it not because it isn't their story, but because I want to mask over that pain for them.  I don't want them to have to live it, breathe it, and deal with it.  I don't want them to have to feel those feelings!!  IT ISN'T FAIR!!!  People adoption isn't fair!!!! 

It is selfless, hard, sometimes down right gruesome!  Sometimes there are hardly any details at all to speak of which can make it even more unbearable- what do you say then? 
 So what do you do???  YOU TELL THEM THEIR STORY ANYWAY!!!!!!!!  DO NOT THINK IT IS OK FOR YOU  NOT TO SHARE!!!!!!  AND in addition to that- share often.  How often?  I have a dare for you:  if you have a child that is verbal and knows they are adopted- ask them how often they think about their birth family!  DO IT!  You may be shocked or even fall over- not kidding!!!
 I wanted to live in a bubble!  I wanted to protect my children and myself from hurts that I know they must feel.  Not telling them about their story will NOT PROTECT THEM FROM THE HURT!!!!! 

Whew!  Now that I know that....and I am still processing that......I feel better in moving forward! 
 One of the chapters is called the Ten Commandments of Telling:  Principles to Consider
1)  Initiate Conversation About Adoption - don't think they will ask.  If you were tired one day and your child asked and you blew it off.  They may think they can't approach you.  Or if you were avoidant while answering before...again they think you don't want to talk about it.  If your child NEVER brings up the subject- YOU BRING IT UP AND TALK ABOUT IT!!! 

2) Use positive adoption language!!! 
NOT TO SAY- Real parents, natural parents, gave up for adoption, put up for adoption, adopted child (overused it makes them feel like they are weird), their own child, their real child, keeping, hard to place........and I am sure you know more.
DO SAY- Birth family, Made and adoption plan, my child, birth child, to choose parenting, waiting child, child with special needs, adopted person.....again there are more.  **Expectant mom is now used before the adoption happens in domestic adoptions. 
If you don't know if it is a good term to use- ask yourself if you would like to be called that, or ask :). 
 3)  Never lie to a child about the past or a birth family member!!!!  People this isn't Santa Clause- it is REAL!  Don't you dare lie about it because it is hard enough as it is.  Please have compassion and if it means you have to talk about other hard subjects as well (sex outside marriage, drug use, etc.) they by golly get it done!  Because our children need to know at all times- we are going to be completely honest with them!  ALL THE TIME! 

4)  Allow a child to express anger toward a birth family member without joining in!  It is good to be supportive of their feelings.  It is not good to say- well I know...how could they have xyz.  Don't do that!  Support them however you can.  Acknowledge what they are feeling and help them process it by asking them open ended questions about their feelings as well as lending a listening ear.  It is more about listening and caring then stating your own opinions. 
 5)  Omissions are ok UNTIL AGE 12!  After that ALL INFORMATION SHOULD BE SHARED!!!!!!!  That doesn't mean don't say anything until they are 12.  Just that at this point- there is nothing your child should not know about that you know- NOTHING!  Why 12?  Because before their teen years which already can bring a lot of struggles for any child in their own identity you need to have given them all the pieces to their own puzzle. 

6)  Don't impose value judgments on the information!  This is important and that goes for positive judgments as well as negative!!!  So don't say- I bet your birth mother thinks about you daily- if you don't know her.  Or say I am sure xyz.  DO NOT DO IT!  Say things without your feelings or things you want to be true.  In the same respect don't make it look worse than it is.  Don't say I bet she is doing drugs right now.  OYE!  That is not a good picture.  Now if you know because of ongoing contact with her or the agency that she still uses drugs you can share she/they still struggle with drug addiction.  If you know that the birth mother has said- she thinks about them daily- then yes you can say that! 
 7)  Don't try to "fix" the pain of adoption.  This is where I fall FLAT!  Oh how I want it all to be better.  To tell my children a fantasy, but it isn't/wasn't true.  When we do that - we are not allowing our children and therefore our family to resolve the pain in their own way.  Your child needs that validation- don't take it from them! 
8)  Don't impose value judgments on the information.  In fact letting them read some of the reports or paperwork on their own when they are old enough is a great idea.  With you there to answer questions and to be a person to lean on.  Trust me they will need you there!!  Even if they don't act like it.  When you let them read for themselves - you are not hindering their story!!! 
 9)  Your child should have control of telling his or her story outside the immediate family!  This is something I think we all agree on!  Your child should have to tell aunt Martha if they don't want to, and they sure in the world don't have to tell the guy from the grocery store.  I do know some children even ours who will gladly tell you a generic version of their story, or even more personal IF they see it as sharing a testimony as to what God has and is doing in their lives- PERFECT!  Let it be up to them!!! 
 10)  Remember that the child probably knows MORE than you think her or she does!!!  Trust me this is true!  Those feelings God created within us- they are powerful complicated things.  Memory is living not a file drawer and your child has them (even if adopted at birth).  So don't think that it doesn't matter or that you can omit things! 
 So here are some tips.....pick some time when you can be alone with your child- or just you and your hubby and the child. 
Ask them if they ever think about their birth family?
How often? 
Ask them what they know about "their story"?
What is their earliest memory?
Scrap book it!!!  Whatever information and or pictures you have!  Even if it isn't much- won't matter!
Share this story often- or different parts of it.
Put up a picture of the child with their birth family if you have one.
Let them read their file if they have one- or at least the documents you have.
Let your child guide the discussion. 
If you don't know something- DO NOT MAKE IT UP!  Just simply say- I don't know that sweetheart- I am sorry.  **If you can ask- do it!
Allow your child to write letters to their birth family- even if you don't or can't send them.  If you can't tell them you can't, but that we can keep them in a special place so if and when they are able to meet them they can give them to them. 

There is more swimming in my head about this, but I pray it helps you to start thinking about it.  I know it has helped me immensely!!!!!!  :)  Trust me I am still growing and learning with you!  Maybe you have some pointers for me!!!  That would be good too- would love that :)

Oh and GO GET THE BOOK!!!!!

6 comments:

  1. Great post! I have not read that specific book...but I've read her book "The Whole Life Adoption Book" and am currently reading "Wounded Children Healing Families". So I've heard some of this info. Having several children from foster care means "made an adoption plan" is not a valid sentence for us. But I also don't want to make the county look bad for "stealing" the child (because there were very valid reasons for them being removed). Uggh... But yes, I've always been very open with our sons...but it is a challenge to give them their story accurately and with enough detail but not overwhelm them at their young ages (3, 4, 6). I should probably add the book to my Amazon "Wish List". :-)

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    1. I totally understand as 6 of our sweeties came through foster care. I think it was hard for me to admit that I wanted to protect them, but in reality- YES I DID! I want to take away hurts I can't take away :(. It is a hard feeling to deal with, but the book was great at explaining it!

      Love Wounded Children Healing Families!!!!!

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  2. Wonderful! I love the honesty!

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  3. Now I really want to find that book! We talk to our kids about their birth families often. It's harder for me because our kids know more about their past then we do. Every now and then there are times that they really open up, but it's hard to get them to talk. Yetera really misses his brother.. And his birth parents.. His birth parents both passed away. I was recently friended on Facebook by Biruktawit's birth aunt, and that has been amazing! It's allowed Biruktawit to open up more and we've learned a lot. I love that we have a connection to her family. Adoption is definitely not fair.. It's so hard, but definitely needed and worth it!

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