Adoption is birthed from loss; there is no way around that. Once we as adoptive parents can get our hearts around that truth we are better equipped to help our kids. Those of us who know our child’s early beginnings have the meaningful job of communicating those truths. But communicating elements of their story that are difficult, in a way our kiddos can understand, is often a challenge. Our kids’ stories are birthed from primal wounds that often stem from drug abuse, neglect, poverty, abuse, mental illness, acts of sexual violence and abandonment. These threads are difficult to talk about as adults, and when it comes time to communicate to our children their whole stories we often falter. A few weekends ago I attended the Refresh Conference for Foster and Adoptive Families. It is a conference that focuses on providing support and resources for post-placement families. Every session and workshop was specifically planned to actively aid adoptive and foster families.
The workshops were incredibly helpful for me. The Power of Their Story: How and Why to Tell Children Their Story led by Jennifer Anderson, LMFT from Lone Tree Counseling in Colorado, was one of those. Not only did she walk us through each of the difficult elements above (every parent or caregiver in the room related to at least one of these – YOU are not alone), giving us specific things to say to our precious kids about their often difficult life stories, she even gave us a timeline in which to do it. With permission I share this summary resource that Jennifer Anderson used via Robyn Gobbel of Gobbel Counseling with you.
Gratefully, I remember our social worker communicating to us as pre-adoptive parents that ALL difficult elements of our child’s story must be communicated between the ages of 7-11. The amazing Deborah Gray put it best (and perhaps wisest) when she said, “By the time the bras and deodorant come out, it’s too late.” The 7-11 age window is a cognitive time of development in which our children can receive information and process with us as parents before the hormones hit during the teens. This advice in conjunction with Jennifer Anderson’s wisdom at Refresh is invaluable and that’s what motivated me to share it with you today. We as parents have a difficult task ahead, but we are tasked with walking alongside our children; all the while gifting them with the whole truth about themselves.
Need help with this? Don’t know where to start? If you find yourself with an older child and have not begun to share adoption information with them or don’t know how, get some help from an adoption support group or adoption counselor in your area. If you are lucky enough to live in Colorado or Texas, I refer you to either Jennifer or Robyn’s offices below.
Jennifer Anderson, LMFT at Lone Tree Counseling or the Attachment and Trauma Center of Colorado
Robyn Gobbel, LMSC at Central Texas Attachment and Trauma Center or Gobbel Counseling and Adoption Services
Fascinating post. My boys are seven & nine and we’ve been talking a lot about exactly when to give them specific details about their past.
They are beginning to understand more about their birth family’s life.
Having the whole story out there before adolescence makes a lot of sense. Thank you.
Yes, we are in process too Rosemary and this advice has been so helpful. Thanks for stopping by!
Thank you for sharing this post. Our adopted children are 6 and 17 months and we are very open with them, as much as you can be. The difference for us is that our children were subject to Child Protection Orders so we have to share information that is hard to share with young children. We use age appropriate descriptions but it’s a far more complex situation than being given up for adoption and I wait to see what the long term implications of their story will be for them.
Yes, ThreeBecomeFour, your words ring true. As we guide our kids through difficult elements of their stories we do ‘wait to see the long term implications of the story.’ I hold out hope that because they have access to their whole story it leads them to becoming whole. Thanks for stopping by.