Here is Abebech’s question:
How can we find a balance between challenging the institution of adoption and adoption as it is currently practiced without undermining the security of children? How to make adoption less “normal” — which is clearly a concern for many adult adoptees — without making adopted children feel, as people, abnormal and, by extension, bad? (My daughter is already aware that the norm is not adoption, but should she be made to feel alien? Or, should she be made to feel that nothing is personal? That we’re YOUR business?)
Looking back on my own upbringing I can tell you what would have made a positive difference for me. I am sorry to say that when it comes to adoption I don’t think normal is achievable to any degree. I do however think content and comfortable in ones own skin is. My answer is based on achieving the latter. Normal is overrated anyway.
Honesty. Age appropriate response of course but not sugar coated. Simple honesty. And I think it’s important for the adoptee to be bringing up the questions whenever possible, which would maybe avoid an over zealous approach to openness by parents who would try bringing up subjects surrounding adoption that the child isn’t quite ready for. I realize we can’t always wait around for our kids to come out with questions we can tell are swimming around in their heads, I am just saying we should try not to do much assuming and not force the topic. In a nutshell- adults tend to complicate things more than necessary.
Teaching your child that when it comes to the subject of adoption they are neither required nor expected to reply to other peoples questions unless they are completely comfortable doing so. No pre-programmed responses are necessary and this includes not only to the outside world but to the parents themselves. I know a lot of AP’s who ask questions (maybe subconsciously) expecting to hear a certain response. Children are not stupid and will give you the answer they sense you desire. I know I did. I became a proficient liar. So good in fact that for many years I even convinced myself that I felt a certain way about being adopted.
To let them know that most people have a very ignorant idea about what adoption is and what it is not. That others ignorance is something they only have to address if they choose to (a lesson that would take some years but well worth working on). So even if they are approached by 1000 people saying 1000 stupid things they remain solid knowing they are not only entitled to feel and think differently but they are right to. If and when they decide to “educate the ignorant” it should be a choice they make freely. No child should ever feel it necessary to explain anything about adoption unless they choose to. It’s OK to say “I would rather not talk about it thank you”.
To make sure they are very clear about the fact that most people ARE ignorant about adoption so they can move those inevitable hurtful comments right into the trash icon in their brains. Other children can be very hurtful but it’s the grown ups comments that confuse a child because adults are supposed to know everything. We should make it very clear that just because someone is grown up doesn’t always make them smart or right.
When it comes to discussing the topic of being adopted a strong sense of security comes from learning that we can effectively protect ourselves when necessary by NOT talking about it. It doesn’t hurt to know that those we trust will do their best to offer that protection as well simply by allowing us to exercise that right. It comes from living in an environment where self preservation is encouraged and allowed regardless of what the world around us is saying to the contrary. Being adopted does not make us fair game for curiosity hunters and we are under no obligation to comply. Just knowing this can make all the difference.
One final thought- if and when our children choose to talk about it they absolutely MUST feel completely comfortable being honest. That is not having them voice what we expect their truth to be…that is us being open to what their truth actually is. They must feel it is safe to be honest. If they can’t achieve this at home they will never feel safe doing so (when they are ready to share) out in a world that desperately needs to hear their truth so it can shift it’s ignorant perspective. It would be very helpful some day to have their honest voices join the choir.