Adopting the Older Child Part II

We did a very brave thing last night. It was finally time to take the first daring steps into family portraits. So we drove downtown and met up with Marissa of Rylan’s Riches Photography. Here’s her facebook page, trust me, you want to know her, she’s great. That’s a whole ‘nother post in itself but family photography definitely plays into part II of the older child so let’s touch on that before we dig in.

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When things get crazy around here I love to take a moment to check out the thousands of pictures we have stored on our computer. Pictures of my kids at their best. Having fun, celebrating birthdays and just experiencing the best that childhood has to offer. I could get lost for hours just scrolling and celebrating who they are.

As I continue to scroll back through the pictures that represent their little lives there is a little sadness as I realize, again, that there are no birth day pictures of Liam or Lola. Their stories within a family start a little bit later. When I held Charlotte and Elliott for the first time there was a completeness, wholeness… it’s the way things are supposed to be.

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When I held Liam and Lola for the first time there was completeness and wholeness for me… but not for them. This isn’t really the way it’s supposed to be. A very early broken cord brought them into my arms. And while it’s a beautiful thing, it’s a very messed up thing as well. This is a crucial point that you cannot miss when entering into older child adoption. You must, even if you do not verbalize this to your child for a year or two, understand and grieve the loss of first family.

Without grief, there is no healing. Just as I took time to grieve the lost years with my adopted children, they will need a chance to grieve the loss they experienced. Here are a few pointers for parent’s navigating the grief and loss parts of adoption.

1. Keep birth family talk positive but honest. If you don’t know anything about your child’s birth family help the child understand situations in their birth country that may have caused the loss of first family. Pray for the birth family that you may or may not know.

2. Never tell a child they are better off in their new family. This isn’t necessarily true. Poverty/Having less does not always equate a less-than situation. Children were meant to be a part of their birth families, that is plan A. Adoption may be an adoptive parent’s plan A but it is always a child’s plan B.

3. Do not expect your child to be grateful. They didn’t ask for you to rescue them. We don’t expect biological children to be grateful for their birth, don’t expect an adopted child to be grateful for their adoption.

4. Help your child look toward the future. Plan a trip to a birth country or birth state. If it is appropriate, or if your child requests it, a family search should certainly be accommodated.

5. Keep the opportunity for discussion open but never push birth country/birth family talk until your child is ready to engage. Probing with questions before they are ready to talk (sometimes a year or more) will only drive your child further away.

When you scroll through the pictures of family life there will always be a giant eye-sore of a hole for adopted children. There are missing moments and pieces that cannot be filled. However, with a great deal of respect, and LOTS of new family pictures, adoptive parents can begin to help their child process and heal. We can always move forward with our children, and we should! But we must also be available and ready to help process grief and loss whenever the opportunity presents itself.

About the author

Erica

Erica is an advocate for simplicity, family time, making a cozy home and loving others well. She is the community coordinator for One Orphan, the orphan care ministry of America World Adoption Association. Erica and Calvin have four young children; Elliott, Charlotte, Lola and Liam. They currently reside in Nashville, TN.

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