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.

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