Last week, we celebrated four years home with our son, Judson. Four years of joy, bonding, growth, but also pain and a lot of hard days. While we have overcome a great deal of our initial struggles, like language and boundaries, we have seen new ones develop. These days we are watching Judson begin to sift through his history and we often have no idea where his processing will land! Some of his questions, we have easy answers for, but others, leave us with no easy response. In adopted kids, we often see that with developmental milestones and increased cognition, a new round of processing their history and integrating this deeper understanding into their current reality. We have seen this to be true when Kindergarten started and anticipate harder and harder questions at the age of 10, 12, 16 and 18. Our job as parents is to simply listen, answer truthfully and appropriately and create the environment where kids feel free to ask.
Here are a few tough questions adopted kids will ask:
Why did my birth Mom give me up?
I wish there was an easy, pat answer for this, but there is no way to fully understand all the reasoning that goes into the decision a birth mom makes to choose adoption. This answer will be specific to your situation, but the main thing to remember is to frame it in a way that speaks life and freedom to your child. No matter why a birth mom chose adoption, she chose to love and value her child’s life. As adoptive parents, we get to speak that same value into our child in a way that builds a foundation for future conversations. Obviously, answering this in an age appropriate manner is crucial. We have a phrase called, “the burden of information” which we often use in determining how much to share. Too often information carries a heavy burden and part of parenting and leading is learning to discern if the person is able to carry the load that certain information brings. This is crucial when dealing with the hard questions you adopted child will ask. Using a phrase like, “She loved you so much and she wanted you to have a family that would adore you and give you the kind of life she wasn’t able to give,” frames the conversation in love and honors your child’s birth mom.
Why don’t I look like you?
This question is tough, especially if the child has siblings who are the spitting image of their parents. Our son will never look like us but we use these type of questions to lay the foundation for a secure identity in who he was created to be. When he makes statements where he wishes his skin looked like ours, we are quick to say, how much we love his skin and how beautiful he is. We will also say that everyone is created uniquely and perfectly and we want to affirm that even though our appearances are different, they are not less than. As adoptive parents we are able to frame these questions in a way that help our kids find value in what makes them unique while also giving them a sense of security that comes from unconditional acceptance. Creating a strong family identity also creates a strong bond for all your children, especially your adopted child. We have a name we use when we talk about our kids as a whole. He has no doubt he is a StewKid!
Are you going to kick me out of this family?
I was recently talking with another adoptive mom and she said that on her son’s five year gotcha day, he actually packed his bags and thought it was time for him to leave. For five years he had in his mind that this was a temporary situation that he would one day have to leave. My friend was absolutely wrecked that her beloved son had carried this false belief for five years. There is no adoption that is not the result of loss. There is no adopted child that on some level grieves for this unexplainable void, even if they were adopted from birth or age 12. Loss is a part of their story so feeling secure is not as simple as providing lots of love, a healthy meal and a warm bed. Building a foundation of security and trust is a lifetime commitment we give to our adopted kids the minute we said yes to this journey. When you see your adopted child’s fear of losing your family coming to the surface, simply love and speak strong of your commitment to them. Give hugs. Throw in some candy and then go to your bathroom, lock the door and weep.
Parenting is messy and there are no easy answers to the questions that matter. We are four years in and the processing Judson is already doing to understand his history is mind boggling, yet beautifully innocent. At the age of six, he has no reason to question the sincerity of what we say and we have numerous opportunities to simply reflect back to him who God created him to be. Our prayer is that he is rooted in God’s amazing love and grace for him and he sees his past as a source of strength.
What kind of questions do you get as a parent?