Has your child, in some manner, asked you “Why me?” If so, she is acting on a core issue inherent in adoption, one she likely doesn’t understand and yet is trying to cope with—rejection.
Your child is aware (consciously or unconsciously) of the losses she has suffered and she is now, in a child’s true-to-form ego-centric way, personalizing it because doing so is a way to cope with what she is feeling. Your child has taken the responsibility for her painful losses and hoisted that enormous burden up onto her young shoulders, trying to understand just what she did or didn’t do to merit being separated from, rejected by her birth mother.
Your child may not talk about rejection; however her behavior may show you that she is indeed wrestling with it. For example, does your child seem to be hyper-sensitive to disapproval? Does she avoid situations where she could be rejected, as in trying out for a school play or a sports team? Does she provoke you into an argument or conflict, setting the stage to be rejected in order to prove that she is correct? Watch for these patterns…
You must understand the issue of rejection and how it can affect your child. Only by understanding rejection can you provide the support and validation your child needs to cope with her feelings and develop a healthy self-esteem. You support her by:
- Giving her the facts about her adoption in age-appropriate language, as painful as they might be. The rule of thumb is that she should have all of this information (what you know) prior to the onset of adolescence.
- Helping her express what she feels, providing names for the emotions she shares and exhibits.
- Validating her expressions, as in “I understand why you feel that way, honey.”
- Claiming her.
Don’t take it personally if your child lashes out at you. Her feelings, emotions and behavior are not about you. They are about her and what she is feeling. Be patient. You love your child. Build her up.
Parents: Do you use the term “chosen?” If so, think again before it passes your lips. When you use “chosen” you bring up rejection. Your child realizes that by being “chosen” she was also “un-chosen,” rejected by her birth mother.
Do you use the term “bad” when describing her? Not a good idea. Your child already feels she must have done something bad to deserve being rejected. Remember: there may be bad dogs, but there are no bad kids.