Track 3 Explaining Adoption from Ages 12 to 15
Adopted teens often are feeling a lot of anger, the second stage of the grieving process. Teens may enter this stage of grieving at the same time that they are rejecting their parents' identities and asserting their independence.
Technique: Allowing Control
Allowing the teen to exercise control whenever possible and providing opportunities for him or her to make decisions can help to give him or her some sense of control. It might be necessary to lose a few battles during this stage in order to win the war. For example, when engaged in a power struggle with the teen, you may need to decide if the issue at hand is really dangerous to the teen or to others.
Technique: Being Prepared for Anger
There are three parts to this technique, including not taking it personally, being firm in limit-setting and establishing consequences beforehand.
First, try not to take the teen's anger personally. Try to keep from responding to the teen's anger with more anger. The teen's anger is likely generated by the rejection from his or her birth parents and not aimed at you. For example, if Zach tells his parents that he wishes he had never been adopted and says he wants to leave, he is not saying, 'I am leaving!' He is asking, 'Will you keep me, no matter what? Will you abandon me too?'"
Second, be firm in limit-setting. You are the only parent(s) the teen has ever had, and it is therefore your responsibility to be firm about the teen's limits to protect his or her safety. I have found it useful to have only a few rules, but to enforce those rules completely. You can decide what is important to you, and stick to those rules.
Third, establish consequences beforehand. Parents often regret responding to their children's misbehaviors by developing consequences after the problem when they are angry. Rather, reasonable, logical consequences can be developed when parents are in reasonable, logical states of mind. Once logical consequences have been established, try not to make excuses for your teen or bend on consequences when he or she tests your authority. Teens often learn from mistakes by experiencing consequences, positive and negative, for their behaviors.
Track 4 Explaining Adoption from Ages Sixteen to Nineteen
Late adolescents are preparing to leave the family. They will soon emancipate, or live independently. Emancipation, like many life transitions, involves loss. While emancipation presents a stressful challenge to most young adults, the losses associated with independence are even more threatening to the adopted young person.
Technique: Be There
Late adolescents may be in the depression stage of grieving. The Be There Technique involves encouraging the teen to stay at home as long as he or she needs to. He or she may need to feel in control of the timing of the departure from the nest. Try to be observant of the child's continued struggle for independence, and continue to be available for guidance, support and reassurance where needed.
Track 5 Trigger Times for Grief in Adopted Children
If you notice that your child becomes depressed around his or her birthday or holidays, you might consider the following technique.
The Recognition Technique involves encourages the child to make Mother’s Day or other holiday cards for his birth mother. You might either keep these cards yourself or save them in case the child decides to contact his or her birth family later on. I have found that merely making or even suggesting making Mother’s Day cards for the birth mother seems to help many adopted children express feelings and cope more effectively with this difficult time.
Moving the family is another form of loss, one that is particularly significant to a child who has experienced the loss of their birth parents through adoption. Some young children may believe that they will be left behind when the family moves, and even teenagers can have an irrational fear of being abandoned at the time of a move.
Technique: Control in a Small Way
In the Control in a Small Way Technique, allowing the child to have as much control as possible during the move, such as in selecting new bedroom colors, can reduce the child's sense of powerlessness and fear about moving.
Track 6: Core Issues for Adoptive Parents
Loss, shame and rejection can impact the lives of adoptive parents regarding how the parent-child relationship is validated.
The Acknowledgement Technique, is meant to counter feelings of loss, shame and rejection when talking to the adopted child about his or her story. I have found the Acknowledgement Technique can create an empathetic atmosphere, build a firm foundation of trust, fill in information gaps, correct fears and fantasies that a child might develop about the reality of his or her birth parents, and provide a firm footing for the development of identity. Talking openly and freely about adoption as the child is growing up can help him or her to realize that it is okay to ask questions. The child can learn that it is okay to explore his or her feelings about being adopted. You might also ask the birth mother for a picture or a letter for the child, so that he or she can have it as a tie to the past.
Track 7: The First Four Suggestions of Telling About Adoption
If you are puzzled about how to bring up the topic of adoption, you might try the Movie Technique. The Movie Technique can introduce the topic of adoption within your household while nurturing the child's self-esteem at the same time. If a program or movie with an adoption theme is on TV or in a theater, you might watch the program with your child. Draw parallels and contrasts between the situations in the program and the child's own adoption. You might use this conversation as a springboard for any additional questions that he or she might have.
To allow a child to express anger without joining in, certain kinds of comments can be helpful to the child. For example, you might say, "I’m glad that we are able to keep you safe now," "I can understand why you are so angry," or "That must have been an awfully hard time for you. Is there anything I can do to help you now?"
Track 8: Suggestions Five, Six and Seven
Technique: Third Party
If you still feel hesitant about explaining certain parts of your child's story to him or her, you might use the Third Party Technique. In the Third Party Technique, you might choose to seek out a case-worker or post-adoption specialist to tell your child any particularly difficult information regarding his or her adoption. You may want to interview the counselor prior to the meeting with your child to discuss parameters and engage in some form of rehearsal to avoid unpleasant surprises during the interview.
Even if you use the Third Party Technique, you might still want to be present for the interview for three reasons. First, the child might need emotional support to during the interview. Second, you might remember details that might be forgotten or misunderstood by the child. In fact, you might even want to audiotape the interview, with the child's permission. The child will hear different information at different stages of maturity and he or she may greatly value the ability to replay the interview as a young adult. Third, if you are present for the interview, you can communicate to your child that you have heard the worst about your child's history, and that you still love him or her unconditionally. Your presence can send a powerful message of love, support, and commitment to your child.
Track 9: Suggestions Eight, Nine and Ten
You might want to talk with your child about developing a short, simple version of his story that he or she feels comfortable sharing with your neighbors, school friends, teachers, relatives, and other acquaintances
Technique: Cover Story
In the Cover Story Technique, this cover story might be very similar to the information your child received when he or she was much younger. You may want to let your child know that he or she is not keeping information from acquaintances because it is shameful. Rather, he or she is withholding information because the child does not have to explain his or her story with all the details to anyone and everyone.
There are two key points to this technique. First, discuss with your child the kinds questions that people might ask and various situations he or she might encounter. You might include scenarios like the first day at a new school or church, or at a mall or restaurant. Second, talk about what information should be shared. It might not be an easy task for your child to sort out what information should be told and what should be kept private. For example, your child might be instructed to provide three basic responses to questions, such as their names, their origins and the dates they joined the family. Above all, you can let your child know that he or she is not obligated to tell everyone everything, and that there are personal boundaries for others to respect.
Track 10: The Life-book Technique
A Life-book records a child’s family and placement history. It is a tool that gathers information about a child’s growth and development, feelings, ideas, hopes and dreams for the future. I have found that the Life-book Technique can be useful for all adopted children, whether placed as infants or older children, and I have also found it helpful at all stages of child development. It can be a vital resource in helping a child to understand the past and prepare for the future.
Track 11: Sharing About Abandonment
Technique: Homeland Tour
In my experience, one of the most helpful experiences for internationally-adopted children has been the Homeland Tour, or a return to their country of origin. Sometimes children have spent far more time with their birth families than initially reported. As a result, some children have vague memories of the birth family, and locating some of those families may be possible. I have found that some adolescents who have experienced the Homeland Tour have been able to make real strides in understanding the why's of their adoption experiences. They might see real people who had to make real life decisions. After their return, they realize that they fit more into the culture of the country they grew up in, instead of the one in which they were born.
Track 13: Sharing About Rape and Incest
Technique: Tape Recorder
Whenever you need to say something difficult, it can be helpful to practice before the actual event. Practicing talking about your child's story with a tape recorder and then listening to yourselves can help you hear what Willy will hear. Listening to the recording of yourselves can help you modify how you might phrase facts.
Track 14: Seven Steps of the Negative Spiral
Technique: Adoption Communication Survey
If the adoptive family recognizes themselves on the downward spiraling steps toward adoption dissolution, they may choose to contact their adoption agency or support group for intervention and support. I have found the Adoption Communication Survey, in the back of your manual, to be a helpful guide to examining the adoptive family relationship. This self-assessment can aid adoptive parents in assessing their own style of coping with the differences that adoption creates.