There really is no way around it. Adoptee trauma is part of the adoption journey. At some point, your child will need to deal with the trauma of being raised in a family that is not their birth family. As adoptive parents, it breaks our hearts to see them go through this. After all, part of our job as parents is to shield and protect them from anything that could hurt them.
Depending on where and how your child came to you during the adoption process, this trauma can take on different forms. For some, there will be the eventual questions. Where did I come from? Why was I put up for adoption? Where are my birth parents now? Even if you have an open adoption where you are in contact with the birth family, the answers to these questions may not be what your child wants to hear, and those answers can lead to hurt feelings, and sometimes anger and resentment.
For others, especially those that come from the foster care system, trauma can take on a much more damaging form. The reality of foster care is that most of these children were removed for reasons that can haunt your family for a lifetime if not dealt with in a loving and effective way. How do you explain to your child why authorities removed them from their home, in an age-appropriate way that protects and shields their heart?
You don’t have to do this all alone, but where can we turn to when we are stuck? Here are a few sources to consider.
- Friends and family – Those loved ones who are closest to us can sometimes be our best ally in dealing with trauma. Why? Because they know us best. While they may not be experts in trauma, they can be there to lend an ear and a shoulder to cry on when we are just overwhelmed. In addition, those older members of our inner circle – the grandmas and grandpas among us, can sometimes be the best source of advice when dealing with difficult situations. Consider giving them a try first before you seek outside help.
- Other Foster and Adoptive Parents – There is strength in numbers. Chances are whatever trauma your little one is experiencing has been experienced by other parents in the same journey as you. Hopefully throughout this journey, you have connected with other adoptive parents in your local area or across the country. If not, now is the time to network with others. Some great ways to meet other adoptive parents are:
- Books – There is so much material out there in books to help us deal with the adoption experience. One incredible book used by many in the foster care and adoption community is “The Connected Child: Bring Hope and Healing to Your Adoptive Family” by Karyn Purvis. It is considered the handbook for parents in dealing with children that come from difficult situations. However, there are many others.
- Your Pastor, Priest, or other religious leader – while this may not be an option for everyone, your church can be very helpful in dealing with trauma. The clergy and staff at your church deal with difficult family issues often. They can be a great resource, especially if they already know your family. Keep in mind that many churches are actively involved in the foster and adoptive community. There are quite a few foster and adoption agencies that are faith-based.
- Traditional Counseling – There may be a time during your journey when you will need the help of a licensed therapist to come alongside you and help your family. The most important thing here is to know when to get help. When considering a therapist, try to find one in your area that specializes in adopted children. You may want to reach out to your foster or adoption agency for a referral. These are questions they get often.
Creating your forever family through adoption is one of the most beautiful and rewarding things we will ever do. But parenting is not easy. As adoptive parents, we need the right resources at our disposal to tackle these issues head-on. What they say is true. It takes a village to raise a child, so make sure you reach for the help your little one needs when the way forward doesn’t always look as clear as it should.