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On Becoming a Family

Families created through adoption struggle to be accepted as “just as good as” biologically created families. The absence of a genetic link does not lessen the depth of affection or the intensity of the commitment; they love and care about one another regardless of how they came together. Adoptive families find joy and happiness, solace and security and life-long attachments. But equivalence does not translate into “the same as” because all adoptions begin in loss.

Adoptive parents lose the fantasy of a biological child which they would have created as a loving couple, pooling their genes and continuing the family lineage forward through time. Eventually, they move from wanting to achieve pregnancy to wanting to be parents and choose adoption as the method.

For the adoptee, it is the loss of his biological connection and of the security of being loved and raised by the adults who created them. It is not a small matter to come to grips with rejection by one’s biological parents. Adoptees may come to understand it intellectually and even accept it as the best of several difficult options, but the emotional insult is primal and spirals throughout their lives. Recognizing and mourning this loss co-exists with cherishing their adoptive families; they do not compete with one another.

Loss, rejection and the ensuing feelings of not-good-enough spawn a gremlin that can consume and destroy if it is not managed with compassion and understanding. The impact of a stressful pre-natal environment alters neurology and can affect the sequence of healthy brain development. This often requires remediation or educated interventions. Because of echoing loss issues many of the typical strategies advocated in parenting programs are counter-productive for adoptive families. Time Out for instance can have devastating effects as it replays the abandonment scenario and serves to weaken attachment—not a good thing in any parent/child relationship

 For many generations society expected adoptees to transition effortlessly from one family tree to another without recognizing the effort and cost this grafting required. Our culture expected that adoptees be “grateful” and deny the genuine losses they experienced in order to gain their new, loving “forever” family.

As an adoption coach, I strive to bridge this divide with compassion for all members of the adoption triad and operate with understanding and respect for the individuals. Adoption absolutely can be a successful, loving relationships braided with compassion, joy and truth and and supported with strategies that acknowledge the unique circumstances of adoption.


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