I am trying to ask more questions of my children who joined our family through adoption. I then follow with active listening. Note: I suck at active listening, and the first step is to admit you have a problem. So - done!
One thing I know for sure is that adoptees think about their adoption whether or not they talk about it. In fact, what studies continue to show over and over and over again is that they think about it a LOT. They have a lot of unanswered questions and they choose not to speak or question to protect those who are playing an active role in their lives. They are afraid they'll hurt our feelings. They will feel like they are being disloyal to us. As a parent, it is my job to create an environment where my children truly do believe it is safe to ask and to feel ... anything.
There are adoptees who do not have this desire and do not express that they've ever experienced any pain over their adoption. I respect that, but also adamantly remind us all that this is rare. The norm and the reality is that adoption is built on pain and loss. We heal and help that pain and loss when we assume it is there, even when we are not hearing about it.
So, I find time to bring it up and help them talk about it. Sometimes they talk a lot. Sometimes they don't want to talk. Yet, every single time I do it, I'm telling them loud and clear: I accept you - all of you, and every inch of you is safe with me. I can handle it. It is welcome in my ears and my heart.
I have a variety of resources, and then have simply plucked certain questions and discussions. I broach the subject about once a week. I ask a question. I try not to lead at all. I suck at this one, too, as I have a major aversion to silence when I feel uncomfortable for me or anyone else. So, we're all getting something out of it!
Here are some great discussion starters I have used, and wanted to share:
Have you ever felt like someone "gave you away"?
When you feel love for me and Dad, does it make you feel guilty and bad for your first family sometimes?
A lot of people say that if you are adopted, you are a "chosen child." How does that make you feel? Does is remind you that to be "chosen" it also means that an adoption plan had to be made for you?
Do you feel like there is a pain inside of you that no one can see? Or that they ignore?
Has there been a time when it feels like you are crying on the inside but no tears come out on the outside? When does that happen? How long does the feeling last?
Do you ever wish you still lived with your first family?
Think about your adoption. Then, pick one word to describe it.
How do you think your first mother/father felt when you were born?
How do you think I felt the first time I saw you?
When you feel sad and your invisible hurt is very big, what do you need most to feel better?
I'm pulling a lot of these things, right now, from the free resources on Sherrie Eldridge's web site. Most of her free downloads are actual Bible studies. However, if that is something you do not believe or practice in your home, you can still pull many discussion questions from the material to utilize in conversations with your children. That is how we do it.
Sherrie Eldridge is the gal who wrote "Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew." The book is not religious and a very easy read (on the eyes - not on the heart). I love it as a resource, and just reread it this past year (had not laid eyes on it since going through our adoption prep back in 2002!). It is the kind of book that teachers, grandparents and even partners/spouses should also read. It will help anyone who is actively involved in the life of a person who was adopted.
Fight the lie that their silence means they have no thoughts about their adoption. Talking about it creates a space for healing, and is active proof that you fully accept every single nook and cranny of them ... especially the parts that make you uncomfortable.