The Core Issue of Rejection


j0444486Has 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.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

John June 1, 2011 at 2:04 pm

I wish my mother would have read more about adoption, I would do all the above and she would get very mad and think I was being disrepectful. I never knew why or felt the way I did. I do relate to the article.


Amanda May 29, 2011 at 7:57 pm

I also do not like people to tell me I was “chosen” because they make it out to be a thing to be flattered by. I was “chosen” only after years of my parents trying to birth a child first. Telling me I was “chosen” is in essence reminding me I am second-best, second-choice. My parents would never say or think that themselves. But once an individual reaches the psycho-social stage of development where they think more logically and process truths and how those truths relate to one another–it is an appropriate conclusion to draw.

Like Von pointed out, even if someone does know what rejection feels like, it is still not knowing the adopted rejection. The perception of rejection is at the very foundation of our existence. There is no previous un-rejected Self for us to look back on.


Deon Seifert May 29, 2011 at 7:32 pm

Really thought-provoking, Judy. I’m going to have to spend some time with my journal on this one!


Tara May 29, 2011 at 7:23 pm

Not all adoptees were rejected by their first mothers. Many adoptees were taken from their mothers when the mothers weren’t willing. They were drugged, tied down, lied to, and coerced. They weren’t given a choice. Other women, such as my son’s first mother, lost their children due to circumstances they could not control: mental illness, cognitive deficits, depression, alcoholism…the list goes on. These children weren’t rejected. Most, if not all, of them were wanted and loved, but things they couldn’t control caused them to have their babies taken away from them. Rejection isn’t part of their histories and it shouldn’t be assumed that ALL adoptees were rejected by their first mothers.


Von May 29, 2011 at 5:55 pm

How can a parent honestly tell an adoptee they understand unless they are an adoptee themselves?


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