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Many of the doubts and confusions about adoption are alleviated during the pre-adoption counselling sessions. Here it is very important to note that both the husband and wife need to be in total consensus to go in for adoption. In case one of them is not too sure or hesitant or unwilling, it is imperative on part of the other spouse to help him/her see their view point very clearly. Counselling can once again help to sort out their emotions and come to a willing agreement. Many times, when one of the parents was not too willing for adoption, issues have cropped up at a later stage when they start blaming each other and blame the adoption for whatever differences / ills that have happened to the relationships. This can have a devastating effect upon the adopted child. He/she would perceive neglect and rejection by parents and would get emotionally scarred. This may lead to behavioural problems or psychological depression. Adoption may be a one time procedure but parenting a child is a life long procedure that may require appropriate counselling and guidance on and off.

Once the child is brought home, the parents have a tricky task of announcing the child’s arrival to their home. If the parents have resolved their earlier apprehensions and are comfortable with the fact of adoption, the act of “telling people” becomes easy and smooth. They need to have the courage of conviction that they are doing the most wonderful thing by bringing home this child to whom they are giving a new life and the child is giving a new life to the parents too! Parents at no point need to feel guilty or ashamed of their decision. The fact of adoption need not be covered in secrecy. If they can boldly announce the arrival of this child, people around them will also respect their decision and gladly welcome the child! They would willingly come forward to offer any kind of support that may be required by the new parents.

Parenting a first child is always very challenging to anybody and so will it be for adoptive parents too. It is very necessary that the extended family lend all support to the new parents and instill confidence in them that they can be wonderful parents to the new child. There can be moments when the child may fall sick or get injured and there is a tendency on part of adoptive parents to over protect their child and shield the child from any mishaps. If anything were to go wrong the parents may blame themselves for their inexperience and think that other parents would manage their children better than themselves. These anxieties need to be addressed by an understanding adult and put their fears and doubts to rest.

Adolescence (the teenage) is a turbulent period for all children wherein the children need to find an identity of their own. The ‘identity crisis’ that many teenagers experience during this phase of life can be exacerbated even more in a child who has been adopted. However well adjusted the child may be with the fact of adoption and might have even taken pride in the fact that it has such loving parents, the “need to search for its roots” may become very strong at this stage. Parents out of their fear of “rejection and abandonment” by their child may try to conceal all available information from the child. They may try to hide information about from where the child was brought home or information about its birth family if it was known to them. But here the parents need to understand how important it becomes for the child to know its origin. They have a duty to understand this strong need of their child and render all possible support to find its roots. This suggestion may seem very cruel to the parents who may believe that their child may never return to them if it found out its birth family. But these are very hard facts that adoptive parents need to be aware of and be mentally prepared for such an enquiry from their child. They need to be as honest as possible in revealing the available information. Many a times, such honest revelation from them increases the love that the child has for them and it will respect them even more for respecting its own feelings. It can only be a curiosity to know its origin and once the search becomes fruitful, the adopted child may return to its adoptive family as the child may realize that the birth parents/family were only there for namesake and all the rearing has been done by these parents and the bonding here would be much more worthy and stronger than the bonding that has never taken place with its birth family. It is very important to keep the communication channels open and welcoming between the parents and children so that no misunderstandings or misconstruing of situations can occur.

Many adult adoptees have recounted their feelings of alienation whenever there was any family get together, where some comment or the other about how a cousin resembles her mother very much or how a cousin has taken after his grandfather in his way of expressing anger or how certain traits run in the family blood, making the adopted children feel uncomfortable and wonder about his/her own traits and where it would have come from?! The unknown, dark past may stagger them many a times. Similarly the unknown genetic make up of the child may create anxiety in the parents’ mind too at times when the child’s level of its intellectual ability or any tendency to develop certain unhealthy habits that were never seen in their family earlier may become very intriguing and causing undue fears. But these fears can arise in any parents’ mind and adoption should not become a scapegoat. Most of our fears are unfounded and most of them are assumed fears and not facts. Sharing these apprehensions and not suppressing them is the way to resolve many of these issues.

Here comes the role of self support groups of adoptive parents and adopted children, where the parents and children can discuss their issues with others who may be nursing similar feelings or who may have crossed over such obstacles with their own strategies and acquired wisdom, now ready to share with others. “Sudatta” is one such adoptive parents’ self support group that is functioning in Bangalore city. In fact most of the contents that I have written here are from the notes that I had made while listening to the lectures by the Sudatta faculties, that were arranged by us during our Counselling Training Course. I am indebted to Dr. Gayathri Bhat, Dr Saraswathi, to Smt Sheela Kamath and Smt Radha Nagesh who came over to deliver lectures on adoption in our 4 batches of Counselling Training in the 4 years from 2004 to 2007.

More about Sudatta and other Adoption agencies, and the process of adoption in my next Post.

………………….. to be continued

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So which is the right age to inform the child that it was adopted? well, those who have made a long term study of teh cases opine that it is best to inform the child as soon as you start interacting with it. In your day to day activities, whenever there arises an opportunity to mention the adoption, say it so that the child, though very young to understand the significance of it, slowly internalizes this information. When the child grows big, it is with the full knowledge of its relationship with the other family members so that there can not be any shocks felt at some future day.

The couple who intend to bring home the child would also have experienced a variety of emotions, like, grief, anger, guilt, helplessness and inadequacy due to various facts, like, unable to bear a child of their own, to bring home a child from outside, whether the people around them would accept the child, would the child itself accept them as its parents, would the birth parents ever come back to claim their child back and so many such concerns. Hence it is very necessary that the couple undergo a pre-adoption counselling to air their concerns and alleviate their doubts and fears.

The child who comes into the new home might have been reared by some others before, either in an institution or by foster parents. The circumstances prevailing there, earlier to the adoption, would also influence the child’s ability to trust or mistrust the world. If the conditions were congenial to its healthy development, then the child would feel safe and secure in the new home. Otherwise, the child may take some time to develop trust in the new family that it has now joined. The family needs to give the child its own space and pace to develop this bonding (smaller the age of the child, easier for it to bond).

An older child needs time to make sense of adoption, the absence of its birth parents, may show curiosity to know more about its past and understand the significance of the whole matter. The new set of parents needs to be extremely patient and sensitive to be with the child in its new journey together with them. Some times the child may show difficult behaviour (as mentioned in post 1) when it is beyond its capability to understand the dual parentage!When the child throws up these difficult behaviour, the adoptive parents may suddenly lose confidence in themselves, their parenting abilities and may start wondering if they did the right thing by going in for adoption! They may also experience similar confusion and painful feelings. It may do well at such times to have the moral support that can be rendered by a counsellor who can remain non-judgmental, unlike the kith and kin who may reinforce the parents’ confusion and doubts by their own ignorance of the whole process. 

……………….. to be continued

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As a psychological counsellor, I have come across many adoptive parents and adopted children seeking counselling for various emotional issues. And somewhere deep down in my heart I used to wonder if I had counselled them effectively or not. Some times it becomes very difficult to transport myself into the minds of my clients and experience their pain as my own. Somewhere the pangs of inadequecy bother when the issue at hand is totally strange and unrelated to anything that I may have heard or read or experienced! But I take heart in the fact that our connections to other hearts go beyond words and experiences, beyond this temporal world. It becomes a direct connection to my clients heart as I have the firm conviction that we are all bound by the same spirit!

Adoption is one such sensitive issue that many people do not know much about, which makes it harder to deal with any situation that may involve adoption. You may meet your sister or a cousin, who suddenly declares that she intends to adopt a child soon and bring it home and you fumble for words without knowing how to react. Or as a School Teacher, you may come across a child who is sobbing uncontrollably because her friends have just then infromed her that her parents are not her own and that she was ‘brought home’ by them from somewhere! and the teacher finds it very hard to console the child.

I thought this would be a very nice platform for me to spread awareness about psychological issues related to adoption. Hope you are with me. And I welcome feedback, comments, information and even corrections or additions to what I write here. 

We can say that adoption is a legal process of expanding the family by bringing in a child that is not your own. It is also a process through which a child is separated by its Biological parents and goes into a family where it is looked after with all privileges. It is something similar to the grafting of a plant from one place to the other and the new location makes the plant its own and nurtures it well.

We all need to understand that first of all adoption is a a triangular shared loss and shared faith experienced by the three parties involved in it. It is a loss for the biological parents (or birth parents) of giving away their child, loss for the adoptive parents of not being able to bear their own biological child (for whatever reason – by choice or by force of circumstances) and loss for the child of birth parents. And it is with all hope and faith that the birth parents give up the child that somebody would be more deserving and caring than themselves to bring up the child, hope and faith of the adoptive parents that they now have a child to shower all their love upon and hope and faith of the child itself that it would now be taken care of with all love and security in a new home. And each one of them needs to be acknowledged of their loss first and then the gain. Unless the loss is acknowledged by the persons involved and accepted by them and suitably counselled, the process of adoption may face some turbulance now and then. Hence it becomes imperative on part of counsellors to see that the acknowledgement of their initial losses is  done suitably and the parties involved become ready to share further issues.

When should the Parent inform the child about its adoption status? This is a very tricky, important issue that goes wrong many a times. Parents wait for the ‘right age’ to inform the child and when they feel the right age has come, they suddenly are caught by the fear, “what if the child rejects them now?” and they keep postponing this ‘revealing’ endlessly, by which time the damage gets done by a third-party-informant! when the child comes to know about its status of adoption, it is a big devastation to the child to realize that the parents whom it trusted all these years are not its own and that they have betrayed its trust! Quite often the parents themselves get shocked to know that somebody else has made the revelation and that it has damaged the trust between them irreparably! The child at that stage may or may not be well equipped with language to express its shocked emotions. Unable to air their confused emotions, many adopted children manifest number of disturbed behaviour, like, bed wetting, preferring isolation from family and friends, throwing temper tantrums, aggressing upon other children, refusing to go to school, beginning to lie, decline in their academic performance etc.

…………………… to be continued

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