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Adoption-Telling the Child about Rape, Incest and Other Birth Circumstances
Adoption: Telling the Child about Rape, Incest and Other Birth Circumstances - 10 CEUs

Section 5
Grief and the Challenge of Adoption

CEU Question 5 | CEU Test | Table of Contents | Adoption
Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, Psychologist CEs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track, we discussed Explaining Adoption from Ages Sixteen to Nineteen.  This included late adolescent's perception of adoption, the "Be There" technique and searching for the birth parents.

Have you found, as I have, that certain events can trigger anger or sadness in adopted children? 

On this track, we will discuss Trigger Times for Grief in Adopted Children.  This will include birthdays, Mother’s Day, the recognition technique, moving, and the "control in a small way" technique.

Valerie, age 35, came to me about her adopted son Owen, age 8.  Valerie stated, "Owen’s birthday is in early May, and I have noticed that he gets really depressed and sad around this time.  I’ll ask him what kind of a party he wants, and he says he doesn’t want one.  He’ll just go into his room and isolate himself for hours!  It has occurred to me that he may feel depressed about not being with his birth mother, since it is close to Mother’s Day, but why would he be depressed on his birthday?"

3 Trigger Times for Grief

Trigger #1 - Birthdays
First, I explained to Valerie that Owen might wonder if his birth parents remember his birthday.  I stated to Valerie, "Sadness and anger, which are both parts of a grief reaction, might begin building a month or so before Owen’s birthday and continue for a week or two following the birthday.  Try to be alert to see if this common pattern of triggered grief occurs annually.  If so, try talking directly to Owen about his possible feelings of loss, powerlessness, and fear of being forgotten.  Talking to Owen can ease his grief."

Trigger #2 - Mother’s Day
Second, regarding Owen’s grief around Mother’s Day, I explained that in my experience, Mother’s Day can be a time of divided loyalties for many adopted or foster children.  While many of Owen’s classmates might make cards for their mothers at school for Mother’s Day, Owen might feel disloyal because nothing is made for his birth mother.  Have you found, as I have, that early May is often an extremely difficult time for adoptive and foster families?

Technique: Recognition
I suggested that Valerie try the Recognition Technique.  I stated to Valerie, "You might encourage Owen to make Mother’s Day cards for his birth mother.  You might either keep these cards yourself or save them in case he decides to contact his 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." 

Are you currently treating the parents of an adopted child?  Would suggesting having their child make holiday cards be beneficial?  Would playing this track in your next session be beneficial?

Trigger #3 - Moving
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.

Michelle came to me regarding her adopted daughter, Theresa, age 12.  Michelle stated, "My husband works for an insurance company, and he just got a promotion.  In order to accept this promotion, however, our family will have to move.  I tried to talk to Theresa about moving, and she totally freaked out!  Theresa yelled at me that her dad and I wanted to take her away from her friends and school and everything she loved!  I tried to tell Theresa that this wasn’t true!  We are only trying to create a better life for her, but she doesn’t seem to understand!"

I explained that Theresa’s fear might result from the earlier separation experience with her birth family.  I suggested that Michelle try to help Theresa to keep in touch with her friends in the area during the move to help Theresa feel a sense of stability.

Technique: Control in a Small Way
I also suggested that Michelle try the "Control in a Small Way" Technique with Theresa.  Allowing Theresa to have as much control as possible during the move, such as in selecting new bedroom colors, might reduce Theresa’s sense of powerlessness and fear about moving.  I also suggested that Michelle help Theresa to be a part of the moving process by talking together with Theresa about decorating and how furniture might be arranged in the new house.

Do you have a Michelle whose adopted child is struggling with moving?  Might he or she benefit from hearing this track? 

On this track, we have discussed Trigger Times for Grief in Adopted Children.  This has included birthdays, Mother’s Day, the recognition technique, moving, and the "control in a small way" technique.

On the next track, we will discuss Core Issues for Adoptive Parents.  These core issues will include loss, shame, rejection and the acknowledgement technique.

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Farr, R. H., Bruun, S. T., & Simon, K. A. (2019). Family conflict observations and outcomes among adopted school-age children with lesbian, gay, and heterosexual parents. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(8), 965–974.

Grotevant, H. D., Wrobel, G. M., Fiorenzo, L., Lo, A. Y. H., & McRoy, R. G. (2019). Trajectories of birth family contact in domestic adoptions. Journal of Family Psychology, 33(1), 54–63.

March, K. (2014). Birth mother grief and the challenge of adoption reunion contact. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 84(4), 409–419.

Palacios, J., Adroher, S., Brodzinsky, D. M., Grotevant, H. D., Johnson, D. E., Juffer, F., Martínez-Mora, L., Muhamedrahimov, R. J., Selwyn, J., Simmonds, J., & Tarren-Sweeney, M. (2019). Adoption in the service of child protection: An international interdisciplinary perspective. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 25(2), 57–72.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 5
Why might Mother’s Day be a difficult time for adopted children? To select and enter your answer go to CEU Test.

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