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On the last track, we discussed Suggestions Five and Six regarding telling children about adoption. These included Omitting Until Age Twelve and Not Trying to Fix the Pain.
Do you have a parent who isn't sure how to present information about his or her child's adoption objectively?
On this track, we will discuss the last three Suggestions, Suggestions Seven, Eight, and Nine. These will include Not Imposing Value Judgments on the Information, Giving the Child Control of the Story, the "Summary Story" Technique and Remembering that the Child Probably Knows More than You Think. As you listen, think of the techniques you use with your client. How do they compare with techniques presented on this track?
#1 - Not Imposing Value Judgments on the Information
Tom and Kayla came to me about their adopted son, Gabe, age 12. Tom stated, "Gabe has been with us since he was six months old. We haven't told him, however, that he was conceived as the result of a rape. Since Gabe is approaching his teen years, he is getting into all the things that go with that, like being aware of his own sexuality…etc. With that in mind, of course we don't want to tell him that his father was a rapist! However, he's been asking to hear the story of his adoption over and over again lately." Kayla stated, "We don't want to lie to him, so I've just said that Gabe's birth mother was unable to raise him."
I stated, "Gabe's feelings for, or memories of, his birth family can alter his perceptions of events surrounding the decision to put him up for adoption. And Gabe's need to have positive feelings regarding his birth family will definitely color his perceptions about his adoption." I explained to Tom and Kayla that if the facts were presented to Gabe in a judgmental fashion, Gabe might interpret your judgment as rejection of his birth family, his origins, and ultimately, himself.
Tom's and Kayla's presenting an understanding came about by observing the circumstances of the adoption without judgment or censorship. Gabe could develop the maturity to do the same, and this understanding without judgment would be modeled to Gabe by the people most important to him, his parents.
I met with Gabe, and realized that when his mother said his birth mother was unable to raise him, Gabe had interpreted that to mean that his birth mother had found him so repulsive that she had rejected him. Tom and Kayla eventually told Gabe all the circumstances surrounding the rape of his mother and his adoption, Gabe was actually relieved!
Gabe stated, "I was so glad to learn that my mom wasn't a slut…I had all these ideas that she had slept with all kinds of guys and I was just an unwanted consequence. I understand now that my birth mother rejected the rape, not me." Tom and Kayla were also relieved. Tom stated, "We worried for so many years about the right time and the right way to tell Gabe about his birth, because it seemed so negative. What a relief it was that Gabe didn't see the information negatively at all!"
#2 - Giving the Child Control of the Story
Julia, a white single parent, had two adopted Korean children, Andrew, age 7, and Lizzie, age 5. Julia stated, "People make the most insensitive comments sometimes when they notice my children look different than me! Once, when I was grocery shopping with Andrew and Lizzie, a woman came up to me and was telling me how beautiful my children were. Then, without warning, she asked Andrew, 'How come your mother got rid of you?' I was speechless with rage! How can I help my children respond to ridiculous remarks like that?!" What might you have said?
I explained to Julia about letting Andrew and Lizzie have control of their story. I stated, "You do not have to decide with whom, when, and how intimate details of Andrew and Lizzie's lives are shared. You might explain to Andrew and Lizzie that some people don't have a lot of experience with adoption and might ask insensitive questions or make ridiculous remarks. You might want to talk with Andrew and Lizzie about developing a short, simple version of his story that they feel comfortable sharing with your neighbors, school friends, teachers, relatives, and other acquaintances."
Technique: Summary Story - Three Steps
I continued to state, "There are two key points to this technique:
#3 - Remembering that the Child Probably Knows More than You Think
Sometimes no time ever seems like the right time. So, parents never get around to telling the child, and someone else does. When information comes to the child from someone other than the parent, the child may not have the support of parents in integrating information about their adoption into a positive self-identity. And, unfortunately, information is sometimes shared that is not entirely accurate because it has been passed through too many tellings of the story.
Do you have a Julia who often experiences insensitive comments from strangers regarding his or her adopted child? Might he or she benefit from hearing this track?
On this track, we have discussed The Last Three Suggestions of Telling. These have included Not Imposing Value Judgments on the Information, Giving the Child Control of the Story, the "Summary Story" Technique and Remembering that the Child Probably Knows More than You Think.
On the next track, we will discuss Life-book Technique. This will include Recreating Life History, Giving Information About the Birth Family, Giving Reasons for Placement, Providing Photos, Recording the Child’s Feelings and Giving the Child Information About Development.
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