Michelle McNally, a mom to two wonderful children through open adoption, recently shared a review of my e-guide, What To Expect From Your Adopted Tween, on The Open Adoption Examiner. Michelle parents young kiddos, pre-tween. She is representative of the parents that my new e-guide is written for.
“As an adoptive parent I read Judy Miller’s new e-guide, What To Expect from Your Adopted Tween, with great interest. So far, in this six-year journey as being the adoptive parent to two siblings in an open adoption, I’ve felt like I knew what I was doing. But as Ms. Miller outlines in her book, it’s the tween years when things may start to get sticky.
In hindsight, answering my daughter’s questions during the preschool years was easy. Even if they made me think for a minute, the questions she asked were on a superficial level. At four, she didn’t understand sex, economics, or the stigma that can be associated with relinquishment. As she grows into adolescence, she will begin to see things as she ultimately will as an adult, and laying the groundwork for a mature understanding is crucial.
Ms. Miller starts her book with in introduction to adolescence, and it’s a great reminder of all the growth and changes that take place during that time. I don’t think adults can ever hear the phrase, “ ….the frontal lobe [of the brain] is not fully functioning until the mid-twenties,” enough. The brain growth and development in adolescence is huge, and to expect even an older teen to react to a situation “like an adult” is a somewhat unrealistic expectation.
Ms. Miller then outlines the layers of adoption, as well as some of the inherent issues. These are the same layers and issues I’ve been reading about since my husband and I first considered adopting, but she has framed them with the tween in mind. She gives examples of questions a tween may ask, as well as how their behavior may change as they are working through a part of their adoption story. It’s worth it to note that while they may have known they were adopted since they could talk, they are probably only now realizing all that it entails.
From there, triggers are discussed, and it’s a good review of why what may seem to you like a reason to celebrate is not seen in the same light as your child. Ms. Miller brings up birthdays and “gotcha days” as examples. For families in open adoption, I would imagine communication or visits with the birth family could easily become a trigger. Watching for strong reactions during the anticipation or actual events is one way to determine what your child’s triggers may be.
After laying out all the emotions and issues that could come out during the tween and adolescent years, Ms. Miller then goes through, piece by piece, how to approach these topics. She covers the role of the parent, parental fears, and how to communicate with teens. Her approach is positive, affirming, and empowering. It is also an approach that reminds parents it’s not about them; it’s about their child. Her discussion of an adoptive parent’s role gently helps adoptive parents to realize that while they may be validating their family to friends, they may not discussing the hard truths of their family formation with their children.
I like Ms. Miller’s positive, pro-active approach to helping children process adoption-related issues during tweens and adolescence. She advises that your child needs all of the information you have regarding her relinquishment and adoption before she enters adolescence. She also advises to prepare for the next developmental stage before it arrives, which is why I was thrilled to read this book on the eve of my daughter’s sixth birthday.
Using this e-book as a guide, I am feeling empowered to help my children as they process their own adoption stories and build a relationship with members of their birth family. This is a book I have printed out and started to highlight, and I know as my children grow, I will refer to it again and again. Interested in reading What To Expect from Your Adopted Tween?”
Michelle’s personal blog, GotchaBaby, chronicles day-to-day family life, she is also a contributor to Grown in My Heart, The Savvy Source, and Persephone Magazine (as Sally J Freedman). She lives in the Midwest with her husband and children.