Yes, you heard that right. You, the adoptive parent, need to start talking with your child about adoption the moment they are placed in your arms. We sometimes hear adoptive parents say, “We’ll start talking about adoption and support them in exploring their story when they come to us and tell us they’re ready.” This doesn’t work. There are 2 reasons why.
1. Adoptees, specifically the adoptee placed at birth, experience preverbal trauma. Let’s define preverbal trauma. It’s trauma that happens in early childhood, usually before speech and language development. This, therefore, makes identifying the trauma particularly challenging.
Adoptees don’t cognitively remember the event itself and they aren’t born with the language to eventually name it. They don’t just miraculously start to develop this language as they grow. You must help give them the language. You must talk about adoption regularly in your home for them to eventually be able to identify and then put words to what they may be feeling.
“When the relinquishment trauma happens before the age of three, the memories of the trauma are stored in the unconscious part of the brain as implicit memories. Implicit memories are not coded in the brain as coherent, but as broken sensory and emotional fragments-images, sounds, and physical sensations. I felt this fragmented sensation as a hole in my heart. Something-someone-was always missing. The traumatized brain responds with fight, flight, freeze, or fawning (people-pleasing) when the implicit traumatic memories are triggered.”– Excerpt from You Should Be Grateful by Angela Tucker
2. Your adoptee doesn’t want to hurt you and thus may not feel comfortable coming to you. Society often tells the adoptee, you should be grateful. You have wonderful parents. You’ve had a better life. You’re so lucky. And, they do love you. They know that coming to talk to you about their adoption story may be hard for you. You might even say all the right things to create the space for them to bring their hurt, their confusion, their wondering. But, they are smart, intuitive. They may look at your body language, the things you’re not saying. If they don’t feel a genuine openness from you, an alignment of your words and your energy, they won’t open up.
This is one of the reasons it’s so important for you to start talking about adoption from the beginning. It’s just as much for you as it is for them. It allows you to get familiar and comfortable with the language. Work out the kinks. So you can become a sturdy, confident, but also gentle, approachable adoptive parent.
“Occasionally, I receive emails from adoptive parents who triumphantly tell me that their child doesn’t ever think about their birth parents, yet in the next sentence they request to set up a mentorship session between their child and me because they’ve noticed that their child is struggling with anxiety. After conversing with the kids, I often find that they are wallowing in their Ghost Kingdom alone, and this is the source of the anxiety. Their parents don’t realize that their child is thinking about their birth parents.” -Excerpt from You Should Be Grateful by Angela Tucker
“I’ve waited for more than seven decades, repressing my emotions about being adopted, because if I brought it up to my parents, they might think they weren’t good enough parents to me….Yes, I want to meet my birth family, but I’ll search for them after my adoptive parents pass away.” -Excerpt from You Should Be Grateful by Angela Tucker