Book Club Monday: 20 Things...chapters 13-15

(For more info on the book we are reading, click HERE. All passages that are quoted are from Sherrie Eldridge's book, 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. Here are links to our previous discussions: Chapter 1; Chapters 2 & 3; Chapters 4 & 5, Chapters 6-9, Chapters 10-12.)

Chapter 13: Redeem Insensitive Remarks about Adoption
I thought this chapter was pretty valuable. It's a topic that most adoptive families have to deal with on a regular basis. There are the obvious hurtful comments like "can't you have your own children", "what about all those kids here in the USA who need homes," and other less obvious, but equally insensitive comments like "just watch, you'll get pregnant now". (As if that would make me happier!?)

Eldridge lists some good retorts to common rude questions such as: "Aren't there lots of kids who need homes here? If you feel strongly about doemstic adoption, then by all means, that's what you should pursue."

But for me, the most valuable thing in this chapter is her suggestion to celebrate the Ten Gifts of Adoption. She lists these gifts as life, birth, name, belonging, family, strength, identity, security, love and acceptance. She explains these gifts in a way you can discuss with your children, and I really see this exercise as something that can give a child a sense of place and understanding in the world. Having a place and understanding are things that will help our children cope with the insensitivity of others, especially as it pertains to adoption.

She also suggests a "building character" flip chart to help children cope with comments they hear from others. She suggests making a binder of pages with insensitive adoption comments written on them, and as a family, discuss the best answer to those questions. I can see this being helpful for younger school-aged kids who are learning to deal with these type of issues on their own, away from their parents.

Chapter 14: Honor your child's birth parents
The Man and I were just discussing a challenging parenting moment that I read about on an adoption board. The mother wrote about her young daughter, who was born in China. She was having a difficult time coping with the fact that buying products from China is something people avoid. China-made items are seen as cheap, inferior, unwanted and in some cases, dangerous.

"But I was made in China," the little girl cried. How can you instill a pride of culture/heritage when the message is that the culture/heritage is not something to be proud of?

This is the same reason it's important to honor our children's birth parents--they know they are a part of that person as well, and if that person is not seen as valuable and worthwhile, what does that mean about the child?

But how to honor them? For most international adoptees, we have limited information about their parents. We don't know much about them as people--how they looked, their demeanor, etc. To us, they are just a few facts on paper. But we still need to find ways to honor them. We want to let LM know that they have a place in our lives because he was born to them.

Honoring also means trying to find a way to help him connect to them emotionally. It's human nature to want to connect to important people in our lives, whether they are a part of your life or not. He  will need to know that he's a unique blend of his birth parents and his adopted parents. That we will always be here with him, and he will always carry a piece of them with him as well. Defining some rituals where we can include their "memory" will be important in helping him learn this.

Chapter 15: Refuse guilt trips
Yeah, I need serious help in this area. I'd never heard of "false guilt" before reading this chapter. It's an imagined offense. Something that you feel responsible for, but you really have no accountability for. Feeling guilty because your child is hurting over a loss, because he will have pain from adoption issues, sadness that you can't make it easier for him.

I definitely have false guilt. And I would have called it "empathy" before I had read this chapter. I never thought about my false guilt being a problem before, but Eldridge makes a good case for trying to acknowledge these feelings and letting them go.

"Your child will experience multiple losses surrounding adoption that are not your fault. To be truly open to your child, recognize the false guilt for what it is; in this way, you'll be freer to help your child. And he or she will sense your openess and be able to share with you without worrying about hurting you."
I know that I can take other people's feelings on as my own (hence, the reason I abandoned pursuing a career in psychology). I don't want my feelings of guilt about LM's issues to get in the way from helping him to work through them. I think I can be empathetic and learn to stand with  him in his journey to understand his adoption issues. I can't do that if I'm emotional or feeling responsible for those issues.

Next week, chapters 16-18.

On another note...I like being accountable to you all with this book club. I'd read the book eventually, but probably not pay as much attention to specifics as I am doing now. So, I'd like to do another book when this is finished. Any suggestions??

Also, think the format needs a tweak. Next book I'll read the whole thing before discussing it. Maybe do one book a month?


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