Category Archives: adoptee anxiety

Look Beneath Your Adopted & Foster Child’s Smile on the First Day of School

Scan0005Parents, when the first day of school comes and the big yellow bus pulls up, I bet you’ll have a huge lump in your throat.

Yes, summer was hectic, but in a good way. Am I not right? You’ve probably been busier than a one-armed paperhanger getting everything ready to send your child off, but it’s all good for that kid you adore.

Who was it that said, “Parenting is a lifetime of letting go?” In my seventh decade of life, I am still letting go as a mom and Mimi.

Hey, there’s something I’ve gotta share with you before that first day of school.

It’s something that most parents don’t know. It’s not talked about in your training by social workers, yet it is incredibly real for adopted and foster children when entering new situations.

I know…because I am an adopted person.

And, because I know, I want you to know. You and your children are my passion. I want you to be as connected and close as is humanly possible.

Decades ago, on my first day of second grade, we drove to the Kirvan’s house for an official photo of all us neighborhood kids.

I am the smiley one on the far right, with the front teeth missing.

A picture of confidence, right? It looks like I could hardly wait to meet my new teacher and classmates.

Looking Beneath the Smile

However, beneath the big smile is panic and fear of new places. New situations. New people.

The unknown!

Looking back, my thoughts would have been like this:

    • What will my teacher be like?
    • Will she know that I was adopted, or that I am a foster kid?
    • Where will I sit?
    • Will there be a place for me?
    • What will the kids be like?
    • Will my teacher find out I’m not very smart?
    • Will I be able to not get mad?
    • Will I be able to not have a meltdown?

Parents, going into a strange, new place is a huge trigger for your adopted or foster child. New places make our hearts beat fast and our mouths get dry, like cotton. Our bodies may tense as we go to our “happy place” (numbed out).

Personally, every new situation feels like I’ve been thrown in the deep end of the pool, with no swimming skills. My adoption, marriage, mothering, grand mothering, etc.

What Parents Can Do

So, what can a parent do? You probably feel helpless, but you’re not.

First, talk. Talk openly and directly to your child about possible fears. Use my list if you like, for a springboard. Your child wants you to ask. Be proactive!

Second, affirm, affirm, affirm any emotion or statement your child makes. Validate her emotional reality. “It’s alright that you feel so scared.”

Third, become your child’s number one cheerleader in life. Study him like a precious jewel so that you can storm heaven’s gates on his behalf. And, let him know you’re doing this for him.

And, forth…assure your child that God will turn that fear into faith. Teach her that those with the greatest fears have the deepest potential for faith.

I’ll be thinking of you in the days ahead, parents.

Preparing Your Adopted/Foster Child for School Bullies

I’m thinking about your kids going off to school and some of the jeers they may experience from bullies:

  • Where do your real parents live?
  • Why is your skin a different color than your parents?
  • When are you going back to the place where bananas grow?
  • Why didn’t your real parents want you?
  • How come your hair is so curly? How do you comb it?

The thought of your child being bullied must make you nervous. You are like mama and papa bears and would do anything to protect that child of yours.

However, you won’t be there.

You won’t be there, but there are two practical things you and your child can do to prepare for such times.

First, you can make “story stones.”

STORY STONES

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I love this activity because you can do it together as a project.

Here’s how:

  • Gather 20-30 river rocks, at least 3″ in diameter. You can get them at Menard’s or Michael’s.
  • Purchase a plastic box with a lid large enough to hold the rocks.
  • Get a magic marker/s. (do they still call it this?).

Then, together with your child, draw on the river rocks:

  • Different people
  • Buildings (school, church, jail, hospital etc)
  • “Feelings” (happy, sad, mad, scared)
  • Vehicles (car, jeep, ambulance, fire truck)

When complete, encourage your child to create his own story with the rocks.

This is where parents step back and watch the creative juices flow in your children.

You will see your child come alive as he chooses the river stones to accompany the thoughts about adoption that come to mind.

Of course, you’ll be applauding and affirming all the way. I can just see you!

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This method will instill your child’s creative story his his heart, rather than trying to memorize facts about his adoption or what he thinks others expect him to say.

I now share my adoption story by saying, “I relish the fact that I was adopted!”

There’s another tool I know you’ll appreciate if you aren ‘t familiar with it yet. In the past, whenever speaking, I taught it.

The WISE-UP POWER WORKBOOK

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Another effective tool helps your child set healthy boundaries. Created by the Center for Adoption Support and Education, it’s a hands-on approach to help your child remember four healthy choices for when others are mean and hurtful.

The first choice is:

W=Walk Away

Not long ago, I spoke with a teen adoptee about bullying. When I told him he could just walk away, he was shocked. He couldn’t imagine doing that. The explanation is that when you turn your back and walk away, it says to the other person, “What you did was hurtful and inappropriate and I will not take it.”

The second choice:

I=It’s Private

Perhaps your daughter is asked who her real parents are. She can put her fingers up to her lips, and say, “Ya know what? That’s private.” Then, walk away.

S=Share

Third choice:

Maybe another child is just curious about your child’s story. You can teach your child to first ask himself if he feels comfortable sharing. If so, he can share something personal, such as, “I was adopted from Russia.” Assure your child that he doesn’t have to tell the whole story. Share one tidbit and see how the listener responds. Only share more if your child feels safe.

The last choice:

E=Educate about adoption.

I love thinking about nasty kids being educated about adoption. “Did you know that 60% of families in the US are touched by adoption?” That might make the bully’s chin drop. If he comes back with another bullying statement, go for Walk Away.

 

 

 

 

What Adoptees Can Do with Mixed Feelings

Regulating Mixed Feelings

Dear friends,

Yesterday, I posted statements that cause mixed feelings (painful feelings) in adoptees.

Today, let’s talk about concrete steps for dealing with the mixed up, finger-over-the-blackboard feelings:

Journal

Record your current circumstances in a journal. Maybe call it your “finger-over-the-blackboard” notebook?

Create Self-Portrait

Or how about getting a huge piece of paper? Then, have someone trace your whole body. When the drawing is complete and you are alone, write down the painful, conflicting feelings that are coming from your head and heart.

Identify the Trigger

Then, draw the people and messages that are prompting the mixed feelings and label the physical effects on your body…don’t forget…the beautiful brain is so important.

When completed, title your portrait in big letters:

ALL OF MY FEELINGS ARE REAL AND OKAY.

Regulate Emotions

Say to yourself, “I am remembering something painful. But that was then, and this is now.” (Isn’t there a song by that name?) This technique will reign in your emotions and mind so you don’t lose control with a meltdown or depression.

Choose

Now, my friends, look at this site’s menu above. Click “List of Adoptee Choices.”

Tell me which of the 20 choices you would choose, either for yourself, or your child.

Love to you all!

 

Why Do Adoptees Overextend Themselves?

I could just hear Bob saying, “You didn’t have to do that, Sherrie.”

Such a familiar phrase.

He said it when:

  • I accompanied a fellow adoptee up the steps of the Indiana Capitol building when I was just 10 days out of knee replacement surgery.
  • I invited neighbors in for wine and cheese on the day I got home from my second knee replacement.

You, see, I love to give, give, give.

I give because I want others to feel special or to help lift a heavy burden from their shoulders.

That’s my nature.

Overextending

I also overextend, go the extra mile, and do what my heart tells me.

Just about every fellow adoptee I know has similar desires. My friend, Jody, and I laughed at ourselves one evening long ago when we gathered for a meeting. We were the only ones that brought a gift and we wondered at the time if that trait is characteristic of many adoptees.

Why is it that we are such givers? Why do we over-extend ourselves? Why do we work like dogs?

No matter what the cost, be it rain or shine, by golly, we will be there. We are as faithful as the day is long.

You Didn’t Have to Do That

Yesterday, I was reminded of Bob’s admonition.

While preparing for a meeting at our home, I baked homemade blueberry muffins, washed and used my mom’s china tea cups, picked fresh flowers from the garden, and served salami, cheese, and crackers because the meeting went longer than expected.

The dear women who attended didn’t care if we sipped coffee out of mom’s china tea cups.  They didn’t care if the muffins were homemade. They were simply there to start planning a community outreach.

But, I cared!

Big time.

Aha! I think we’re getting down to some issues.

Addictive Thinking

First, I get an absolute “high” when I use mom’s tea cups or bake homemade muffins. It is my way of saying, “You are special.”

The high?

That can be characteristic of addictive thinking.

Second, why am I exhausted after over giving? Why am I spent? Isn’t that what God calls us to do and be? To love others more than we love ourselves.

No…God says to love others as we love ourselves.

Because I care more about the needs of others than I do my own. I sacrifice my health for others. I would get zero on a quiz about self care.

But, what if others don’t feel special or know that burdens have lifted?

Anger

Honestly, in my exhaustion, I get mad. Really mad.

Over the years of being an over-giver, I have discovered that when I am in need, people don’t serve me coffee in their mom’s china tea cups. They don’t accompany me by post-op hobbling up Capitol steps.  Nor, do they come bringing wine and cheese when I’m a few days out of knee replacement surgery.

They never meet my expectations.

How could others be so unthoughtful?

I expected tit for tat. I thought if I did it for them, then they would certainly do it for me.

That is stinking thinking.

I believe what our hearts are saying, fellow adoptees, is: ” I want to feel special. I am the one that needs help, not only up Capitol steps, but every step of the way. I am the one who wants to have wine and cheese brought to me.

Someday, that will happen.

Jesus is preparing something phenomenal for those that love Him–a wedding banquet in heaven.

And, in my adoptee heart, I believe He’ll be serving coffee… in exquisite china tea cups.

I’ll feel special, not because of the tea cups, but because of the nail-scarred hands that pour the heavenly coffee.

I can’t wait!

 

 

 

 

An Adoptee’s Search for the Missing Face

Finding the MIssing FAce

An adoptee searches for a face in a crowd that resembles her own.

If we could only see the face of the lost birth mother/father, the hurt would magically disappear. The grief would be resolved and the life-long repercussions of traumatic adoption loss would be mitigated.

Oops…adoptee fantasy.

True, those who have found the missing face through reunion have experienced much healing. Seeing that missing face brings validation and healing.

But, there is more.

There is still that deep searching within the adoptee heart.

Ask any who have found the missing face if the healing is complete.

Does an adoptee automatically feel “unadopted?”

No, the adoptee is just red-faced when asked.

Though we may search, reunite, and even enjoy one another, there is still an ache within for another missing face.

Ecclesiastes 3: 11 says, “He has put eternity into mans’s heart.”

It is the face of the One in whose image we were created. The face of the One who loved us so much that He died for us. It is the face of Jesus Christ.

The moment we see Him face to face in heaven, every need will be satisfied, every tear wiped away.

Perhaps, David was referring to this when he penned the words of Psalm 17:15?

“And I–in righteousness will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness.”

Exodus 33:11 says there was only one person in the course of history who didn’t have to wait until heaven to see God face to face.

How interesting that the person was Moses, an adoptee.

 

Why Do Many Adoptees Feel Guilty?

Get Rid of False Guilt

Dear friends through adoption,
Many of us adoptees suffer from haunting guilt. Oh, we won’t tell you about it, but it’s there, like a sticky shadow.

Guilt-Producing Beliefs

Some of the things we feel guilty for are:

  • YOU are responsible! (You were an unplanned pregnancy)
  • You have no right to be alive
  • You must justify your existence by helping others
  • The pain and shame of birth parents is our fault
  • You haven’t confessed all your sins

The truth is that these are the messages of false guilt, which adoptees have plenty of.

Difference Between False and True Guilt

There is a solid difference between false and true guilt.

False guilt won’t go away no matter how many times you confess wrong. True guilt will disappear the moment you confess a wrong-doing to God.

And so, the choice we must make to be rid of false guilt is:

Post-Adoption Care for Adoptees

Use this book as a post-adoption resource for adoptees. Chapters are named specifically about common problems, so you can read as needed.

CHOICE: Weed out false guilt and begin thinking about how to meet basic need for connection. (Chapter 12: 20 LIFE TRANSFORMING CHOICES ADOPTEES NEED TO MAKE)We will talk soon about how to actually weed out nasty false guilt.

For now, catch yourself on self-condemnation.

Remember…the Good Shepherd speaks only edifying words…condemnation comes from the enemy of your soul.

Suggested Resource: Focus on the Family http://www.focusonthefamily.com/lifechallenges/emotional-health/living-without-constant-guilt/the-origins-of-false-guilt?nosplash=1&utm_campaign=forums2016&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=forums