Supporting my daughter
Watching the Ollie video about to how to talk to a bereaved parent, one of the contributors said, “I don’t think grief has a voice.” This struck a chord with me in relation to me being mum to my daughter (who we adopted as a baby).
The grief of adopted children is a subject that is little discussed, but very real to live with. Everyone thinks of adoption as a fairy tale with a happy ever after ending, but by seeing it in that way society doesn’t acknowledge the child’s loss of birth family as grief. Many of these children are told ‘how lucky they are’ and ‘grateful’ they should be, which does not allow them to give a voice to their grief. It’s unacknowledged grief. Perhaps this is why adopted children are 4 x more likely to attempt suicide?
So, what can we do to help……?
Keep the topic of adoption open so the children feel they can always talk about it.
You can’t ‘parent’ in a standard way. These children are hurting deep inside and when they are young, they don’t have the words to express their feelings, so it comes out in behaviour. If their behaviour looks ‘naughty’, they are probably crying out for attention. They need ‘time-in’ not ‘time-out’; sending them to a naughty step is another rejection.
The process of relinquishment and adoption is outside of the control of the child and they have little, if any, say in the outcome. That lack of control in childhood contributes to the sense of feeling lost. Try to give control back where you can.
Life can be overwhelming for them in teen years. Identity is a big issue in teenage years anyway, for adopted teens it’s even more complicated. Keep communication open. Give control where you can, let them make decisions for themselves where you can.
If issues arise with mental well heath you have to go back to basics. Health comes before education, and that means mental wellbeing as well as physical. So often we focus on getting our children into school. School can be a hard place when you are ‘lost’.
In schools, find the ‘Designated teacher for looked-after and previously looked-after children’. They have had the training. Other pastoral support workers may not have. Finding this teacher really turned things round for us.
Go on courses, join support groups and don’t hesitate to contact professionals when you feel out of your depth. Post Adoption Support connected us with LINK Barnardos who provided fantastic adoption specific support.
Love goes along way but it is not enough on it’s own.
Debbie is one of our experts by experience on our panel talk; ‘The Unacknowledged Grief of Adoption’, held on Zoom on the 13th of October 2020 from 6-8 pm. To book your space, click this link.