“Language creates reality. Words have power. Speak always to create joy.” Deepak Chopra
For an adoptee, being adopted is a lifelong process. There are ups and downs, and many things to process. There is no easy fix, and some aspects that never get truly fixed. Recently, via Adoption Choices of Colorado, we discovered what things do harm when spoken to adoptees. Now, it’s time to discuss what speaking positively to them can do.
It will only scratch the surface, but it will still shed light on some of the important aspects of an adoptee’s struggle.
You are loved and valued
Instead of telling your adoptee, “you’re so lucky,” try a more positive phrase. Adoptees aren’t required to feel grateful, and…aren’t all kids lucky to have their parents? So, consider the above. Feeling connected and treasured speaks volumes to an adoptee. This is all they want, just like any other child. They want to be loved. Valued. Accepted.
Adoptees struggle with inner feelings of guilt, shame and insecurity so much. They also experience identity crises. If not handled properly, they can develop a “false self.” But, if they feel that their family truly loves them and the adoptee feels valued, this changes everything for the better.
You belong with us
Belonging means to be a part of something. A member. Something that fits and is supposed to be there. This is a foreign concept for adoptees, yet something they desperately long for.
Celebrate that your child is a part of your family, and involve him or her in everything. Make them feel welcome and like they fit. Encourage them as they grow and discover themselves. When differences arise, speak positively about it. Just as you would your own child, embrace any developing hobbies or interests.
We support you no matter what
Adoptees want to feel supported. More than that, they want to feel accepted. They want to know that, no matter what, they have the freedom to branch out and explore their heritage and origin without any prejudice or guilt. That their family and friends understand it isn’t about feeling ungrateful or anything negative. It truly comes from a place in their heart that needs to know. There’s an innate curiosity to understand more about who they are and where they come from.
Acceptance is a trait that doesn’t manifest easily in an adoptee. A question adoptees ask — sometimes every day of their lives — is “where do I fit?” Finding an answer is no simple feat. So, they want to know that their family will accept and support them no matter what as they struggle to ascertain their identity and place in the world.
The “no matter what” part extends into finding their birth parents as much as it does their sexual orientation. It’s unconditional.
Your experience is real
There’s nothing you can do — or should need to do — to “fix” an adoptee or their history. What they go through is just as real as anyone else. Parents, as much as they want to, cannot eliminate their child’s past. Memories cannot be erased. The previous family cannot be blotted out. It all happened, and it’s all a part of the complexity that goes with adoption. All part of the inner struggle an adoptee knows far too well.
Something that helps with this, though, is validating an adoptee’s experience. Shining a positive light on it, and allowing them communicate about it and ask whatever questions they have. Without judgement. Without shame or guilt. Rather, with open arms and a welcoming attitude.
An adoptee needs to make sense of their story and their history. Having a safe place to explore this does wonders.
At the core, adoptees struggle with guilt, shame, insecurity, and rejection. They have experienced abandonment in one way or the other, and have “soft spots” that can trigger an emotional response. Sometimes, this can happen unpredictably. So, please be mindful of this and remember that positive, uplifting language when speaking to adoptees about their history is vital.
Most importantly, though, remember that adoptees are people. Different, yes, but no less human. Their adoption isn’t some black mark that needs to be placed under the microscope every time it comes up. If adoptees feel they can trust you, they will share. If not, don’t press the issue.
Adoptees are acutely aware that they carry around a stigma, and have to tread carefully. They are familiar with strange looks and can feel the sensations of pity and surprise.
Adoptees are people, not sob stories. They would like to treated this way. Not as some strange phenomenon.
“Choosing Change Blog.” 7 Core Emotional Issues in Adoption | Choosing Change Blog | Adoption, www.brooke-randolph.com/Blog/7_Core_Emotional_Issues_in_Adoption.
“Five Things All Adoptees Want You to Know…” The Adopted Ones Blog, 2 Jan. 2016, theadoptedones.wordpress.com/2016/01/02/five-things-all-adoptees-want-you-to-know/.
Johnson, Lesli. “10 Things Adoptees Want You to Know.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 11 Jan. 2013, www.huffpost.com/entry/adoption_b_2161590.