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Some kids who are adopted think that all of their problems are going to go away now that they have a new family. They believe that once they have parents they won't lie anymore, or steal, or set fires, or continue doing the kinds of behaviors that have always gotten them into trouble. They hope that their grades will go up, and that they will make a million new friends in their new school, even though they've never had good grades and have never been able to make friends before.
Often, kids who are getting adopted think that their adoptive parents will never get mad at them, no matter what they do, and that kids will never feel anger toward their adoptive parents. Many children believe that their adoptive parents are going to be perfect, and they are very surprised and even disappointed when they find out that the adoptive parents make mistakes, and don't always listen carefully or understand everything.
There are children and teens who didn't want to get adopted, and who are mad that they didn't have a choice about the matter. They told their social workers that they didn't want a new family but the social worker placed them with one anyway, and they feel angry even before theyget to know their new parents. These kids often feel that they still belong with their birth parents, and they are afraid that now they are adopted, their birth parents will think they don't love them anymore.
There are also kids or teens who have waited a long time for a family, and who are very happy about being adopted. They like the new parents and they like the new life, but even happy children can have problems adjusting to the new home, the new parents, the new siblings, the new bedroom, the new clothes, the new school, and the new friends. Getting adopted isn't just about getting permanent parents; adoption changes everything in the adoptees' life.
Regardless of how you feel about being adopted, it can still be a confusing and lonely time. No matter how many other families you've had, you will still not be fully prepared for all the feelings that arise after the adoption. That is because once the adoption takes place, you are having the one experience you never had before: you are now living with parents who chose you, who can afford you, who can protect you, who will raise you, who will try hard to do what is right for you, who will teach you what is right and wrong, who will see to it that get a good education, who will teach you how to behave, and who will love you for the rest of your life.
When something is this new and this big, it can make you feel like your whole world has turned upside down inside out. You might find that your thoughts are swirling around faster than you can control, so nothing comes out making sense. Or, you might find that suddenly all of your feelings have disappeared and you are left numb inside. Some kids get nervous and twitchy, while others get angry.
You might find that you want to talk about this, but you're afraid to say anything in case you say it wrong, or in case people think you are stupid. You might be afraid to tell your new parents how strange you are feeling because you don't want to hurt their feelings or make them mad. You might be trying to tell them all of your feelings, but it just comes out in a jumbled rage. You might be trying to tell them all of your feelings, but it just comes out in a jumbled rage.
All of these feelings are normal. Most children or teens who get adopted are confused and unsettled-you are no different than the millions of other adopted children and adolescents in the world.
Jimmy, age ten, never thought much about being adopted. He had been in the same foster home for a long time and no one ever talked to him or to his two younger sisters about having another family. He liked his foster parents, but they were kind of old and sometimes they wouldn't let him do things that other kids could do, like have overnights or join soccer, but otherwise Jimmy thought his life was fine.
There were some aspects of his life that Jimmy really liked, even though he felt guilty. Whenever he lied or stole, Jimmy would blame it on his sisters and his foster parents always believed him. He hardly ever got in trouble, even though he deserved to, and his sisters weren't so lucky.
One day, a new social worker came to their house and told Jimmy and his sisters that they were going to be adopted soon. A forever family had been found for them and they would begin visiting, and then move to their new home, by the end of the school year.
That was a real shock for Jimmy. The social worker told him what was special about having a 'forever' family, but Jimmy didn't really understand-he just said he did so that he could stop talking to her. His sisters were really excited about the adoption, but they were always excited about everything so he couldn't talk to them about it.
Jimmy and his sisters met the new parents on a Saturday afternoon and they began to have visits every weekend. The new parents were nice, and they did fun activities that the foster parents never did with the kids. They also had a huge house with lots of outdoor play equipment in the back yard. The bedrooms that were going to be his and his sisters' had lots of room and big closets for all the new toys Jimmy thought his new parents would buy for him.
Jimmy and his sisters moved in with their forever parents, but after a few weeks, Jimmy began to think that maybe this adoption wasn't going to be so good after all. His new parents spent time with the kids and they let him join soccer, which he liked. However, they didn't keep buying him stuff, and they also didn't believe him when he blamed his sisters for what he did. They talked about him being a liar and often took away his privileges. In fact, it seemed like these people were kind of mean! Jimmy also wasn't very happy with the rules. He thought a forever family would let him do more of what he wanted, but instead they had more rules than his foster parents.
Jimmy was starting to feel kind of angry toward these forever people. The whole adoption experience wasn't turning out to be the way he thought it would.
One day Jimmy got so fed up with the rules that he phoned his social worker and asked to be moved. After all, that was what always happened before in his life. He was very surprised when his social worker said he couldn't be moved just because he didn't like the rules, as this was where he was going to spend the rest of his growing up years.
Jimmy's parents knew he was unhappy so they decided that the whole family would go to counseling to learn how to live together. The counselor saw all the kids and the parents together and the first thing she did was to help them learn how to talk to each other in a way that didn't involve yelling. That was really new and helpful to Jimmy, even though it was hard for him to do. Then, she family decided on rules. It turned out that his parents weren't going to change all of the rules, but they were willing to get rid of a few, and that made Jimmy happier. Jimmy also had to learn how to accept responsibility and not blame his sisters for every bad thing he did. That was really difficult for Jimmy, but the counselor helped his parents learn to speak to Jimmy in a way that didn't make him so upset when he was caught lying or misbehaving.
Life got better after that, and Jimmy has now lived with his family for two years. Sometimes he still feels frustrated, but he uses his words to tell his parents and they talk about the problem. Jimmy doesn't want to move anymore.
Up for Discussion: What I Wanted
Here are some 'I' statements you might want to discuss with your parents or your counselor. Some of them will apply to you, some won't. Just work on the statements that are right for your life:
I wanted to be adopted because ... I didn't want to be adopted because ... I hoped my new family would be ... I didn't want my new family to ... I wanted to stay in touch with my foster family because ... I didn't want to stay in touch with my foster family because ... I wanted to stay in touch with my birth family because ... I didn't want to stay in touch with my birth family because ... I wanted to stay with my birth siblings because ... I didn't want to stay with my birth siblings because ... I was afraid of what my new adoptive parents would be like because ... I would feel happier if my new parents would ... Here is what I could do to help with our family's changes & adjustments ...
What do you think Jimmy could do to help fix this? How could Jimmy's parents help fix this? If you have these types of feelings, here are some suggestions for you and your family to try:
Tell your parents how you are feeling.
Listen to the reasons your parents give you for why they have the new rules. If you don't understand what they mean, let them know. Don't be afraid to say "I don't understand".
If you don't like their reasons, tell them in a polite way. Offer to problem-solve and compromise.
Can't get everything you want? Ask your parents and your counselor to help you learn to cope with some of the changes and the new rules.
Excerpted from HELP I'VE BEEN ADOPTED by BRENDA MCCREIGHT Copyright © 2010 by Brenda McCreight . Excerpted by permission.
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