Friday, December 24, 2010

Adopting an Infant

The first 12 weeks of a human being's life is a time of transition from the womb to the outer world. For an adopted infant it is also a transition from Birth mother to adoptive parent. The physical body of the baby is still adjusting from leaving the warm massaging waters of the womb and the noises of the womb to being in the air and noise filled environment of the outer world. The first 18 months is the optimum time to bond and attach and learn about safety and security with their new parents. It is useful to find a baby carrier that allows you, to 'wear' your baby so that she can experience the body warmth of the parent and the simulated containment of the womb. It has been shown in research that wearing a baby can significantly increase the development of a secure attachment. It is also useful, if you are able, to have at least some time off work after the adoption, 3 months is optimum. for the 'getting to know eachother' and the bonding process.

I have found from experience that the best carriers to use for a baby 0- 10 weeks is a sling. Many of the parents with whom I have worked have also found the Moby wrap very useful in carrying a small infant. The Moby wrap is a wonderful product once you take the time to read the instructions! It can double as a sling and up-right baby carrier, as the baby becomes older. For more information about this product go to

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Adoptees and Identity ( part two)

The work of integration for your foster/adopt child involves the integration of past, present and future into a cohesive timeline narrative, with an integration of what I call, 'the good', 'the bad' and 'the ugly' of the past events before they were adopted or placed in fostercare.

This is not to say that all adoptees have the same paths to developing into healthy adults or the same intensity of traumatic events in their past to process. Some adoptees can move fairly fluidly around the present time boulders in the stream of life, if they have established a secure attachment with their adoptive parent/parents. In my experience of working with adoptees over the years I have heard and witnessed many different life journeys.

However, all adoptees have the same irreplaceable loss to try to understand and negotiate. The loss of Birth mother and Birth father and possibly siblings and possibly Birth family ancestory. Along with this loss comes the question "why was I adopted? No matter how much an adoptive parent rationalizes,or denies, or sugar-coats or simplifies or tells the truth each time it is asked - this question does not go away, nor does the loss for an adoptee. Embracing all of your adopted child, the good , the bad , and the ugly- the joys and the saddness- will not answer the question or take away the loss; but it will give a secure foundation from which your child can find her own answers over the life span. That is the best we can do as adoptive parents.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Adoptees and identity( part one)

I have been reading all sorts of blogs recently, specifically those by adult adoptees. The feelings and opinions are extremely intense for these adoptees and it is important to recognize that their experiences and stories are very subjective and specific to each one of them. Under their anger and righteous words is a profound sense of saddness. Their writing is clearly, an important mouthpiece for them to vocalize and organize their own integration of Self and assert who they have become. However, each of these adult adoptees emphasize in different ways, how essential it is to have knowledge and contact with their past and their Birth families and their Birth culture to be able to feel more whole and integrated. Some of them returned to live in their Birth culture when adults, while others sought out their birth family for a one time visit; others have had brief contact during the years to maintain contact no matter how infrequent. These are the voices of adoptees who have become adults.

Recently, I have been talking about how important it is for a child adoptee to have some kind of gradual integration of past,present and future to have a cohesive sense of Self going forward into life. And, how important it is for the adopt/foster parent to be aware of and sensitive to this integration. Behaviorally, this can look like a pushing away or a strong criticism of the foster/adopt parent or a denial of the birth parent/family. In the face of such behavior , the most important stance for the foster/adopt parent is to stay confident in your job as a parent and guardian of this child and clear in your love and compassion. Not so easy to do at times, but when the boat is rocking you need to take the wheel, to maintain a steady course during the storms.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cultural identity for adopted children

I work with many adopted children who are growing up in families with parents who have a different cultural, background than the one of their birth family. The Birth culture of your child is definitely part of your child and the question for parents is often how much of this culture do you retain and expose your child to while growing up in America?

Is it beneficial for adopted children from China to learn Chinese when the adoptive parents do not speak Chinese? Should your child go to a Chinese/American school? Should you celebrate all the Chinese holidays? I have found that all adoptive parents, if they are asking themselves these important questions in the service of helping their child have a bi-cultural or tri-cultural identity then there are no right or wrong answers. You do the best you can with the resources you have and keep the cultures alive in a real way as much as possible, to help your child integrate the past , present and future. Not easy, if you are a parent who has have never lived in China. Not so easy if you are adopted and have no memory of your birth culture and are living in America with a psuedo-Chinese cultural experience.

My perspective on cultural identity was opened up one day in a discussion with a Chinese friend. From an insiders point of view as a Chinese person seeing the adopted Chinese babies dressed up in 'Chinese embroidered silk suits' , she says that it is a strange phenomenon, as Chinese people do not dress their children like this!! It made me realize that we can not make our daughters more Chinese than they are. I realized that the best person to teach my daughter about Chinese culture and what it is like to be Chinese is my Chinese friend.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Adoption and sense of Identity

Who am I? Why am I here? These are deep psychological and spiritual questions about identity for any human being to answer. Often there are no answers, but every so often it is useful to pause and ask the question and see what answer arises this time. Who we are as individuals (which involves an integration of our past, present and future) and how we fit into the greater community is very important to a secure sense of belonging and a secure sense of Self.

For many adoptees these questions are basic and at times disturbing, irritating at best, due to the unintegrated and unsettled quality of a past present and future. This is particularly apparent when a child is settling into a new family/placement/ environment and when their is some developmental change or a transition for the family such as moving houses or schools. For many of my adoptee clients these questions are on-going in some form or other, and the parents are often required to come up with an answer that is truthful and provides a sense of security in the midst of often confusing uncertainty and strong feelings.

The good news is that the questions are asked. For instance the comment of a school age boy saying:"I have no friends, how do I make friends?" or "am I going to stay here forever?" for some children, can come from deep seated feelings of shame about thinking he is different or not wanted. ie. His internal voice may be saying: " I am different to my friends because I am adopted and I look different and they all ask me if that woman who does not look like me and picks me up after school is my nanny and my birth parents did not want me so are you going to do the same, and reject me when I do something you don't like?" These are difficult feelings and beliefs to listen to as a parent. Even more difficult to deal with are the negative behaviors that are fueled by this skewed sense of self.

By acknowledging the feelings but setting limits on the behaviors and acknowledging the differences is the first step. Followed by the fact that he is loved by you and reassuring him that you are not intending to leave him any time soon. Sometimes acknowledging that their are not always clear answers is also important. Problem solving together about all the ways there are silmilarities between him and his peers/ and you the parent can be a way to bridge the disconnect. And it is an on-going process of questioning and integration.