How to Protect an Adopted Child’s Story
Every adoption has a story. The family adopting has a story of what first lead them to adopt and then how the adoption process got completed. Every adopted child has their own story that leads to their need to be adopted.
Both stories may have aspects of loss, but an adopted child's story for sure involves loss and often trauma.
Adoption stories are beautiful. God usually works in miraculous ways to pair children with families and bring adoptions to completion.
Parts of these stories should be shared, especially to encourage others going through the process. But what shouldn't be as openly shared is the adopted child's story.
An adopted child's story is THEIR story. It doesn't matter how old they are, whether or not they understand it, or if they can articulate it yet. It is their story. And therefore, theirs to share on their terms when, and with whom, they feel comfortable sharing with.
Being an adoptive mom, it can be uncomfortable when people come up and ask questions about my daughter's past.
Questions like "what happened to her real parents? Why did this happen? What did she go through? Does she have a lot of trauma? What challenges does she have? Etc."
These aren't questions adoptive parents need to answer, especially to strangers and acquaintances.
And being an adoptive parent, it is hard being asked these questions because it feels rude not to answer. So, for anyone asking these questions, please understand if an adoptive parent says it is not their story to share. It really isn't, and it is out of respect and protection of the child that these questions are not answered.
In the same way, please don't ask adopted children about their story. If they want to share it, they will. They shouldn't need prompting to do so.
Now, apart from people asking, there are definitely times where it is important to share pieces of an adopted child's story. Sharing with a counselor, a doctor, possibly a teacher, close family members, or caregivers can be valuable so they can be sensitive or meet your child's needs as is necessary for the situation.
But the lady in the grocery store or people in the social media realm have no need whatsoever to know your child's past. Even family members don't need to know unless it is for the child's benefit.
It becomes a lot harder with family because they genuinely care about you, as the adoptive parents, and the child. However, it still is not always necessary or beneficial for the child.
As an adoptive mom, I don't want people looking at my child differently because of things they know from her past. We already get looked at differently simply because we stand out as a biracial family.
I want my daughter to have a fresh start. To be viewed through a clear lens, unclouded by her past. And don't get me wrong with saying that. I'm not saying I want her past to be forgotten.
I believe every experience of her life thus far, good and bad, will be used in a beautiful way, and that each piece of her story no matter how painful or joyful will be used to shape her.
I just don't want people to see her in a way that is skewed by details of her story. Especially when she didn't share those details on her terms. She needs to embrace her own story, and no one can force that.
Here are three ways to protect an adopted child's story.
1. Do not share their story with anyone unless it is beneficial to the child.
Times it may be helpful are instances of doctors, counselors, teachers, caregivers, etc.…
Not the lady in the grocery store or at the gym, and not even friends and family members that ask more out of curiosity as opposed to an actual need to know.
2. Come up with a planned response to people that ask questions you shouldn't or don't want to answer.
Having planned responses will help you in instances where you may feel like you're in a corner. Knowing what you're going to say whenever people ask too many details of your child's story can be very helpful.
Simply saying, "I appreciate your interest in my child's story, but it is his/her story to share, not mine, and I really want to respect that." is an appropriate response.
I struggle to respond this way, especially with people I know because it feels rude, but it isn't. It's not my story, and I shouldn't be sharing it.
I've also found that it is helpful to turn the conversation back on the person asking the questions. I try to ask them if they are interested in or have ever considered adopting, which usually shifts the conversation off of my child. At least for a little while :)
3. Empower your child with their story.
Tell your adopted child that their story is THEIR'S and that it is special and unique to them. We believe God will use our daughters' story in powerful ways in the future, and we tell her that.
Tell your child they don't have to answer anyone's questions about their past and help them also come up with planned responses to questions that make them uncomfortable.
They need to know that you don't share details of their story (besides when necessary). And they need to know they can tell whoever they want, whatever they want when they feel safe doing so, because it is theirs, and only theirs, to share.
For strangers, acquaintances, friends, and family members, please don't be offended when adoptive families don't openly share details of the child's story.
It is not meant to be taken personally, and it is not done out of animosity.
An adopted child's story needs to be protected and needs to be theirs to share on their own time in their comfort.
Please just embrace these children as the normal kids that they are and don't ask them personal questions about their past or adoption.
The best way to support adoptive families is to respect the boundaries they place out of protection for the child and don't take it personally.