Written by Deann Borkowski, CAS & ABC Clinical Director
Adoption can lead to tremendous joy, as new families are formed and children find their forever homes, which is the goal of Carolina Adoption Services. However, no matter the circumstances of a child’s adoption, infant, older child, international, or domestic, children are affected by loss, which is the cornerstone of every adoption. Therefore, how adoptive parents recognize, respond to, and validate their child’s feelings of loss throughout his or her life cycle will be instrumental in how their child grieves his or her loss and experiences emotions.
As with biological children, adopted children will respond differently to situations. In response to loss, adopted children will vary dependent upon their personality, gender, experiences, developmental level, temperament, and any medical conditions. It is critical to remember that without loss, there would be no adoption. Adopted children suffer the first loss at the initial separation from their birth family, but also subsequent losses throughout their lives. As adoptive parents, Social Workers, and family members, we must be cognizant of these continual losses, which include birthdays, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, loss of culture, religion, loss of medical information, birth history, siblings, birth order, country, language, family traditions, foster families, neighborhood or school friends, pets, teachers, familiar foods, smells, and tastes.
In helping children to cope with loss, here are a few tips:
- Actively listen to your child and ask questions to prompt conversation. (i.e. “I wonder how that would feel not to know what your birth mother looked like?”). Be patient in waiting for a response.
- Accept whatever feelings your child may be expressing. Recognize that if you are having some difficulty with your child’s anger/grief/loss it may be that you have some unresolved feelings. For this, it may be helpful to pursue outside counseling, so it does not impact your parenting.
- Understand that your child may also be ambivalent about the adoption.
- Validate your child’s feelings. Let him or her know it is okay to feel angry/confused/sad about adoption and to wonder about his or her birth family. Share that you would also have similar feelings.
- Request that adoption topics be included at your child’s school, which facilitates a positive image of family building through adoption.
- Connect your child with additional supportive figures in his or her life, such as an older adoptee or an adopted adult. If needed, pursue counseling for issues of a more clinical nature.
- Help young children with their expression through art, music, puppets, and play. For older children, writing and journaling is often effective.
- Create rituals in your families. Incorporate your child’s decisions and feedback into the family ritual.
As always, please feel free to reach out to our team here at Carolina Adoption Services. We are committed to providing excellent, high-quality services dedicated to your family and your children. If you need helping your child with loss or other challenges, we are here to help you on your adoption journey!