“Bottom line is, even if you see them coming, you're not ready for the big moments. No one asks for their life to change, not really. But it does.
So, what are we, helpless? Puppets? Nah. The big moments are gonna come, you can't help that. It's what you do afterwards that counts. That's
when you find out who you are." - Joss Whedon

Monday, December 1, 2008

Janelle's FSA November Conference Presentation

Parenting Adopted Children

Parenting and adoption can be complicated topics by themselves,--- however, place the two together and you might have all kinds of new and different complications you never expected. ---Some examples might be…

*Facing the issues around an open adoption or closed.
*Communications with birthparents.
*Emotional questions such as “Who is my birthmother? Why did they give me up? Will I ever meet them.”
*Physical differences between parent and child especially if there are racial differences.
*Addressing issues of grief and loss.

These issues fall under three categories I call the 3 C’s…


Communication is one of the most effective means of establishing good communication in a family is to always display a willingness to listen. Being attentive and not interrupting when a spouse or child talks about his or her thoughts, ideas and feelings tells the person that what is being said is of value and interest to you. Children, particularly, develop a sense of self worth and trust when a parent takes the time to pay attention to their words.

By having an open line of communication you will be able to talk about those sensitive issues that surround adoption.

How do you develop an open line of communication?

*Hold Family & most importantly individual council.

Robert D. Hales said, “…we should regularly counsel with each of our children individually. Without this one-on-one counseling together with our children, they are prone to believe that we, don’t understand or care about the challenges they are facing.”

*Create meaningful bonds

It is so important to have one on one time with each of your children. Each parent should schedule a little time for each child. Take time to participate in activities that they enjoy.

Russell M Ballard also said, “Create meaningful family bonds that give your children an identity stronger than what they can find with their peer group or at school or anyplace else. This can be done through family traditions for birthdays, for holidays, for dinnertime, and for Sundays. It can also be done through family policies and rules with natural and well-understood consequences.”

*Be willing to talk about the uncomfortable.

We have to be willing to talk about difficult topics, such as: who are my birth parents, will I ever meet them, why did they give me away. Decide ahead of time how you are going to handle these questions so you are better prepared when they are asked.

Creating a lifebook for your child is one way to share their adoption story with them. A lifebook is a collection of words, photos, graphics, memorabilia that creates a life record of the child who was adopted. It is a simple, truthful story written through the eyes of the child. It starts from the moment you were matched, communication with the birth family, the hospital, coming home, finalization, sealing and their blessing.

Lifebooks can be for anyone, biological, adoptive and foster. It gives a child a sense of who they are. It answers those questions that often grow from the unknown. A great resource is a book titled , “Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child” by Beth O’Malley.


All children have emotional struggles. Adoptive children may face different struggles that stem from their adoption. Feelings of abandonment, hurt and neglect might come into play. Being able to recognize the root of their feelings may help how we can help them.

Because many of our children will never have contact with their birth families, we must teach them to live with the loss and ambivalence that are normal in adoption. These are tough feelings to tolerate; and some children may feel helpless and powerless. They may redirect these feelings and lash out at the ones that love them, their adoptive parents.

Show them that no matter what they do they cannot make you love them less. We need to be able to offer a hug and genuine love to our children.


A consistent parent gives the child a gift of always knowing what to expect. Neither, the rules, nor the consequences change daily.

*Be consistent in your behavior as parents

Immature behavior from a parent will instill fear in a child; versus calm controlled behavior will instill respect.

*Be consistent in your daily schedules

Consistent schedules breeds calm kids. Children thrive on routines if they are consistent.

*Be consistent in your discipline & consequences.

Discipline is about teaching children to make their own decisions as they become able to do so. Discipline also involves giving a child ownership of his or her problems and helping them to determine solutions to these problems that will leave both dignity and self esteem intact.

Make sure that everyone understands the rules and consequences. Then be prepared to follow through with them. Don’t set consequences that you are not willing to do. And be prepared to follow through no matter what; temper tantrums, store fits etc.

*Be consistent in how you treat your children.

It is so important to show equality to your children in how they are treated, how much time you spend with them, how the rules are applied. You don’t want your children to think that their parents have favorites.

(1) “Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child” by Beth O’Malley. That encourages adoptive parents create lifebook for their children.

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