20 Things That Adoptive Parents Need To Succeed

Sherrie Eldridge.jpg

Adoption author Sherrie Eldridge

This interview with critically-acclaimed adoption author Sherrie Eldridge is the first of a four-part series.  Each part will focus on a different book that Sherrie has written.  This post includes a discussion of Sherrie’s newest book, 20 Things That Adoptive Parents Need To Succeed.  

For those of you who would like to learn more about Sherrie Eldridge and her publications, please visit her website:   Sherrie Eldridge

CG:  Sherrie, you are an adoptee, which explains your deep insight into the feelings of other adoptees. 

But what strikes me about your books is your compassion and understanding for the other members of the adoption triad (the adoptive parents and the birth parents).  How did you develop the ability to speak to the concerns and fears of adoptive parents so intimately in this book?

SE: Well, first I had to work through my own emotional issues about being an adoptee.  Of course, we’re never done working through our emotions, because adoption is a lifelong journey!  But I came to a place of peace, which was important for me. 

Anyway, as I traveled and met with different adoption groups, I noticed a spirit of discouragement among adoptive parents.  It was very subtle, an unspoken thing, and adoptive parents seemed to carry this burden about how discouraged they felt. 

They didn’t talk to anybody about it, because they wanted to be the perfect parents to their adopted children, and they didn’t want anyone to think their children were second best or that adoption was second best.

So I had an extensive database, and I polled 100 adoptive parents about their experiences.  I learned that adoptive parents love their adopted kids more than anything in the world! 

They would never in a million years choose not to have them, but they also admitted that parenting adopted kids was more challenging than they thought it would be. 

The parents I interviewed for this book all wanted other adoptive parents to be encouraged by hearing their stories.  I am not the expert on parenting an adopted child . . . the adoptive parents are the experts!  I interviewed the experts and they bared their souls. 

It was through these interviews that I developed an even deeper compassion and love and appreciation for adoptive parents.  I loved hearing their stories.  Not everyone was meant to be an adoptive parent.  Those who do so are special people, and they were meant to do this.  This helped me develop such love for adoptive parents.

CG:  You also treat birth parents with compassion and respect, despite the fact that you suffered a painful rejection from your own birth mother after seeking her out for a reunion.  How do you manage to keep your heart open?

SE: I love birth parents.  I had to work through the hurt and anger at my birth mother for cruelly rejecting me one week after our reunion.  For two years, I tried to reconcile with her and she would have nothing to do with me.  That was very painful.

After working through that rejection, I think I have a heart for birth parents as
much as for adoptive parents.  That was why I wrote another one of my
books, Forever Fingerprints, to honor the birth parents and honor that connection between adoptees and their birth parents.

CG: How do you recommend that adoptive parents honor birth parents who may have caused harm, such as abusive birth parents?

SE: 
When you honor a birth parent, you honor your adopted child.  If you
don’t ever talk about or honor a birth parent, then your child may
secretly wonder, ‘what is wrong with me?  I came from the birth
parents.  If my adoptive parents don’t talk about my birth parents,
then my birth parents must be bad, which means I must be bad
.’

When
a child has a negative or painful history, such as a history of abuse,
remember that you are honoring the birth parents’ position, not their
performance.  They gave the gift of birth to your child and they
deserve honor for that.  You can talk about that, even if it is the
only thing you have to talk about, so that your child will feel
unconditionally loved.

On my blog, I am actually starting a series on sharing negative information.  Please join!
Sherrie’s blog

CG:  What are some of the best ways to talk to adopted children about unhappy truths in their past?

First,
remember that as the mom or dad, you know your child’s heart better
than anybody.  Second, educate yourself.  In this book, on pages 66-69,
I have included a developmental chart to let you know how your child is
thinking at different ages. 

A child may seem very content
with his adoption at age three or four.  Older children will
cognitively be able to realize, ‘hey, there was a birth family that
gave me away
‘, and then they ask questions they didn’t ask before. 

From an adopted person’s point of view, we want the truth.  Gregory Keck, author of Parenting The Hurt Child, Adopting The Hurt Child, and Parenting The Adopted Adolescent said, “Truth is truth and it could be ugly truth, beautiful truth, neutral truth – it doesn’t matter.”  We want the truth.

Listen
to your gut and listen to your child, and reveal the truth in a gradual
way.  Reassure your child that you will tell her everything you can
when you know she is ready to handle it. 

CG:  How should adoptive parents respond when a young adopted child asks why her birth parents gave her away?

SE:
Tell your child that her birth mother and birth father were not able to
take care of ANY baby when she was born, not that they couldn’t take
care of her specifically.  That way she won’t wonder what is wrong with
her. 

If you have a situation where a birth parent is in jail
or in trouble, tell the child that her birth father made some bad
choices, and if her response is, “what’s for lunch”, then you know it is
enough information for now. 

You, the adoptive parents, are
wired to know your own daughters and sons.  You are the best judges of
how much to tell your child and at what point.  But I do believe in the
truth, even if it is gradual truth.

CG:  How do you want adopted parents to use this book?

SE: 
Sometimes, adoptive parents might be defensive about the idea that
their child has suffered a profound loss, and I want to give them tools
so that when their seemingly perfect adopted child falls apart, they
have help available.  There is always a way to heal and to turn sadness
into something positive.  I believe people can grow and open their hearts.

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