Thursday, November 22, 2012

A bit of Psychology: {Romanticizing}


I was talking to a friend yesterday who recently adopted a four year old girl and is having some struggles with her. We were discussing how to deal with both keeping communication open regarding our children's adoptions (and past) but at the same time not romanticizing the whole thing.

Her daughter told her she didn't want to be adopted, but when asked if she wanted to have a different family she adamantly said NO.

It is interesting to see the different stages our kids go through as they process their past and their present situations. You can see that they think a lot about these issues and are trying to figure it all out in a toddler mindset... where do they belong? What is family? Who is my true family? Will I always be a part of this family? Would my "other" family be better?


As a mother of an adopted child, we can get very protective, of both ourselves and our children. I know I am not the only one that has to hold her tongue when her adopted children start talking about their "other mother and father" and how their birth country is their true home, etc.

How much do you romanticize it all? How great their birth country is? How much their parents loved them and wanted to keep them?

How do you teach them how different their lives would be if they had not been adopted, without making is sound like you are the saint who saved them?

Don't get me wrong... I love my children's birth country, it is beautiful and the people there are beautiful and their lives there (had their birth parents been able to keep them) wouldn't necessarily have been bad, just very different.

Where do you draw the line?


I struggle with this with Lilah the most because of her struggles. She had one of her meltdowns yesterday (which is always great when you have company in the house who must think I am torturing her!). I feel that Lilah out of all the kids, will feel her life would be better if she had been left in China with her foster family, because here she so often seems to feel so hard done by.


Any advice, thoughts and personal experiences from those who have already gone through this would be great!!!


Denise said...

This is a tough one, and something I struggle to know what the best thing to say is. So far, my daughters haven't romanticized very much, but when the 4 year old says "You aren't my real mom, my birth mom is!" It is usually because she is testing me. Or she will say "That mommy is nice. Not like you - you are grumpy." And I tell her that ALL mommies are grumpy sometimes with their kids. Even her birth mommy is grumpy with her kids. I will tell her it was hard for her birth mommy to say good bye to her, but also that her birth mom chose our family for her because she knew we would be the best family to raise her. I know it will be different in your circumstance, but I think in every situation - being as honest as possible without being hurtful to our children. To give a positive and a negative maybe to balance it out? "China has many beautiful gardens. But they also have lots and lots of cars so the air in cities can be polluted." (I don't know if that's true, but just an example). "Your foster family did a good job taking care of you, but they knew it was just until your forever family was found. Because they knew a forever family is the very best thing for kids."

I don't think it is fair to promote a perfect picture of their birth country. Or to tell them only wonderful things about their birth family. No family, no person, no country is perfect and to promote that line of thinking will only hurt them in the long run. But I guess in the end, they will choose to believe what they want to believe regardless of what we tell them. And we will be there for them when they find out that it wasn't as lovely as they had imagined...

PS - I love your new blog header!

Tim said...
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Marie said...

A difficult topic indeed. We try to give an accurate and realistic view of everything...age appropriate of coarse. I think you guys are wise and with God at your side you'll handle it just fine. I often remember my Mom's words...she said that inspite of all their (Mom and Dad's) mistakes us kids turned out very well and she gave that credit to the grace and mercy of God. I often comfort myself with those words. It's such a comfort to know that God can turn our messes/mistakes into something good. I guess what I'm trying to say is all we can do is our best and the rest is up to God...and you are doing that. Will be praying.

Monica said...

This is a really tough topic, isn't it? For the first couple of years with us, Ren too had the attitude that he was so hard done by, and I got the feeling he thought he'd be better off back in the orphanage where he wouldn't have to follow all of our rules, etc. But then it sunk in to him that he wouldn't have all his beloved toys in the orphanage! Hah, that boy loves his material goods.

I think it's important to paint a realistic picture of their birth country, good and not so good. Just recently, we had the discussion about what typically happens with children in orphanages / foster homes who are not adopted. Also, with no information whatsoever about my kids' birth parents, we do not offer any commentary about whether their birth parents loved them. We simply do not know and that is what we say. We offer examples of reasons why they were given up (in Ren's case it is practically a certainty) but we try to emphasize that we do not know the answers either to some of these questions.

I guess the bottom line is that I want them to have enough information to develop their own educated view of the situation. But I have to admit that I do want them to feel "better off" with us. Not because I want us viewed as saints but because I want them to be fully content and accepting of their lives.

Patrick and Christina said...

I am so grateful that you are forging ahead and exploring this with your kids, your family and then sharing with us your readers. You are so brave just to put is out there and ask the hard questions.

I am all for realism about their birth country. I like Monica's stance on giving enough information that they can develop their own educated view of the situation.

God be with you and your family as you sort this out with your adoptive kids. (The good Lord knows we will need some good advice in a few years with our two and sorting through their own adoptive stories and their views on China.)

Danae said...

This is one hard subject and I wish I had some answers. It’s a fine line of trying to be honest and frank about their birth countries without appearing that you are insulting their DNA.

Our experience is that as our children got older it seemed as if their eyes opened and they could see on their own both the beauty and the beast of their birth country. We visited Cambodia every two to three years up until our girls were 17 and after every trip Bonich would tell us that she wished we had stayed longer or that she planned on going to Cambodia when she was 18 so she could stay there for as long as she wanted. Today she is almost 20 and would love to study abroad somewhere in Europe. Cambodia- actually all of Asia- is not even on her radar.

Mason has the total opposite issue in that he does not like it when we say anything positive about China. We remind him that there is a lot of good in China and there are so many wonderful people (hello, he, Reagan and Noelle all came from China) but he will tell us that he lived there and knows China and we didn’t so we don’t know.

I sure appreciate you tackling these not so easy issues of adoption. You've really got me thinking a lot lately...especially about how I need to prepare for issues that may, no, make that that I know, will come to surface with Noelle.