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Adoptive Moms Adoptive Moms

When to share their story?

Posted by on Sep. 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM
  • 10 Replies

My children were adopted through CAS 6 years ago at age 4 1/2 (dd) and just 2(ds). They are half sibs and were in foster care for 18 months before they became crown wards and available for adoption. Their story is a sad one involving drugs, physical abuse and severe neglect and their birth mom has passed away since from drug abuse. They know very little about their history including the fact that their birth mom has passed, but my daughter who is now 10 and is pressing pretty hard to hear her 'story'.   Is 10 still to young?

by on Sep. 18, 2012 at 11:43 PM
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teaguen
by teaguen on Sep. 19, 2012 at 9:22 AM

 I have a 9 year old and she has been asking lots of questions.  I answer her with as much as I can since we don't know very much about BM or BD.  I would consider age when speaking to them about how much information they need to know.  I tell her about being safe and her BM could not keep her safe and it seems to be as much infomation as she needs right now.  I also talk to her about who she tells at school about her adoption as some kids just do not understand what it means.  I thinks she feels very secure knowing that there are many kids who are adopted and it's a good thing.  She sometimes tells me that so and so from school is also adopted.  Good luck.

SarahSuzyQ
by Sarah on Sep. 19, 2012 at 9:24 AM

I don't think 10 is too young to talk with her about the decisions and events that led to her becoming available for adoption. Does she remember her birth mom? Do you have any photos or mementos from their time with birth family or in foster care?

If you do have any of that stuff, then making a life book is a great way to open that conversation... And something you could share with your son as well. Just putting photos into one of those books you can get from Snapfish or Walmart, and helping them to see the trajectory of their lives, is a really good place to start.

With your daughter, I have heard a lot of different suggestions as to how to talk about issues like drug abuse, neglect, etc. Perhaps you can begin by just letting her know that her birth mom was very sick and unable to take care of children. It had nothing to do with the kids, but because she took drugs (some people say "bad medicine" for younger kids), she could not be the mom they needed her to be. I don't know if you would feel comfortable saying this, but I know that I always reassure my son that his birth mom loves him very much... Because I have met her, and I know that she does love him as much as she is capable of doing so. Most of the terrible decisions that these parents have made don't have anything to do with the kids, but the kids end up being victims of that.

At any rate, if she's asking questions, I would encourage you to have as honest a conversation with her as you can... Obviously protecting her from the very ugly details, since she is still only 10. And especially if she hasn't talked about any of this stuff before, starting with the basics might be all she can handle. Let her lead, asking the questions and sharing her emotions. Let her know that you will always be there to answer questions and to take care of her.

That's my two cents, anyway. My son is only 4 and so hasn't started asking quite as detailed questions yet. But he does ask about why he doesn't see the birth parents anymore, and what adoption means... And we tell him, in 4yo terms. I would encourage you to tell your daughter in 10yo terms. Only you know how mature she is and what she can handle, but it is her story, and she deserves to know her truth.

doodlebopfan
by Bronze Member on Sep. 19, 2012 at 10:09 AM
Does she know that she's adopted? Now you are asking about how much information to share and how? IMHO, it's her story and they both should know it as well as you, but in age-appropriate language. Do you talk to your children about drugs in general? Surely, they've heard the talks at school about "Just say NO to drugs", right? If so, you might share with them that the reason they were adopted was because their birth parents couldn't take care of them when they were babies and they needed a mommy (and daddy, if that's the case with your family) who could take care of them because little babies/children need to be fed and changed and held with a lot of love so that they can grow up healthy. You can be honest and say that you don't know all the reasons that they were in care, but that their BP's didn't "say NO to drugs". They took drugs and it messed up their minds so that they not only could they not take care of them, but the drugs took away their sense of right & wrong and that they were hurt by their BP's. Sometimes, the drugs made them sleep too long and they didn't remember to take care of the babies. The state stepped in and tried to help the BP's do better, but in the end, the judge made the decision that they couldn't do it and made them available for adoption so that the could have a mommy (and daddy) who would always take care of them.

I know how difficult it is to talk to your children about difficult things, especially when it involves the people who gave them life. I'm not sure if you believe in God and that there's a reason for everything. I do, and I tell my son that God watched over him and protected his life and brought him to our home so that we could be his family forever. I am grateful for his bio mom & dad because without them, we wouldn't have him. Even though they made bad choices, God worked it out for his good and we are truly blessed to be chosen out of all the people God made to parent him.
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maggiemom2000
by Bronze Member on Sep. 19, 2012 at 11:45 PM
If she is old enough to ask, she is old enough to know. Basic info, like if birth mom is dead or live, absolutely you need to tell her straight. How much detail you go into about the drugs and neglect, that will change as he gets older.

She is certainly old enough to know that birth mom was on drugs and was not able to take care of them.

Keep in mind that these children are going to be at increased risk for drug abuse themselves, and they really need to be armed with all of that information. My sister was adopted at birth and never knew anything about her birth parents. She struggled with drug and alcohol addiction most of her life. I often wonder if she had known about her genetic history if she may have done better. Her adult DD made the choice, seeing what her mom, her bio dad and step dad went through with addiction problems to never drink or do drugs.

You can frame it in a way that is not so negative. The fact is someone who is so addicted to drugs that they can't care for their children is a very sick person. It is not a character flaw, it does not make them "bad". It does not mean that they didnt love their children.

Explain to your DD that her birth mom was ill. That she was addicted to drugs and unable to care for her children. That she died as a result of her drug problems. Tell her that birth mom loved her children very much but she was so sick that she just coud not take care of them.

The more information she as, the more she can use that information as she grows up.

My DD is only 3 but I know that soon I'll be in the same place! My DD was born to a mom who was drinking, smoking and doing drugs through the pregnancy, gave birth to her in a campground and abandoned her. Her birth mom tested positive for alcohol and marijuana at the hospital after birth.

I think that there are a lot of us in this boat!
SarahSuzyQ
by Sarah on Sep. 20, 2012 at 8:23 AM

This is exactly what I meant when I suggested that you tell her birth mom was sick... Addiction IS an illness. Some are able to treat it and recover, and some are not. And when you are fighting addiction and/or under the influence of drugs, you are not in a place to care for children. I really like what doodle said about giving a few basic specifics about how being under the influence of drugs would cause a parent to sleep too much, etc.

Quoting maggiemom2000:


You can frame it in a way that is not so negative. The fact is someone who is so addicted to drugs that they can't care for their children is a very sick person. It is not a character flaw, it does not make them "bad". It does not mean that they didnt love their children.

Explain to your DD that her birth mom was ill. That she was addicted to drugs and unable to care for her children. That she died as a result of her drug problems. Tell her that birth mom loved her children very much but she was so sick that she just coud not take care of them.

I think that there are a lot of us in this boat!

Good point about wanting the kids to be aware of the genetic history around addiction... I have thought of that in regards to my son and his family history, both with substance use and mental health issues. I know we all want the very best for our kids, and that these are not the outcomes we are looking for, but the reality is that genetics are a factor of which to be aware.

mcginnisc
by Claire on Sep. 20, 2012 at 8:57 AM

You've gotten great ideas so far! 

Claire

Moderator: Healthy Weight Loss & Adoptive Moms

" I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Phillipians 4:13

Join theAdoptive Moms group

maggiemom2000
by Bronze Member on Sep. 20, 2012 at 10:52 AM

I highly recommend this book! Really good info on why it is important, how much info to reveal at certain ages etc  http://www.amazon.com/Telling-Truth-Adopted-Foster-Child/dp/0897896912/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1348152556&sr=8-1&keywords=telling+the+truth+to+your+adopted+or+foster+child






Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past
 
 

Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past [Paperback]


foxylady6781
by on Sep. 20, 2012 at 11:46 PM

Thank you so much everyone for your suggestions. I have already shared some of the basics with both children in age appropriate terms without being too specific. I have not really discussed the drug abuse though, but I like the the approaches suggested, I will start there. I'm really worried about revealing at this point that their birth mother died. Sam has no memory of her but Rachel still has some memory of her, howeveer dim.  There is a life book for each child but it was not maintained very well and there are even fewer photos of their time prior to care. I have only 3 photos of the bm and in each of them her drug abuse is clearly evident. When Rachel was in grade 3, she had to do a timeline of her life for school. It was difficult because we have so few pictures prior to the adoption and very sketchy details on milestones. She was so upset when all the other kids were able to tell the class when they first started to talk and when they were potty trained and when they took their first steps. Well to make a long story short, I did show Rachel some pictures for this project but as soon as I reached a shot of her with bm she lost it and started to sob. I have since put those picturs away and have been afraid to bring them back out. That was 2 years ago. Maybe it's time to bring them out again.

SarahSuzyQ
by Sarah on Sep. 21, 2012 at 12:07 AM
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She does need to grieve, hard as that is to see... She has had major losses in her life, and that she remembers her time with bmom makes it that much more difficult. Adoption only comes from a loss of the child's birth family, and it's natural for that to cause grief. Better to let her know that you love her and will work through those hard feelings with her than to shut it all away as soon as she gets upset... Because she does need support in processing these really big emotions.

Especially as birth mom is deceased. The longer you wait to tell her that, the more difficult it will be. 

It sounds like you are such a loving mom who is trying to protect her daughter. I think there are some things that it's better to walk through with our kids, rather than protect our kids from them... If that makes sense. Especially as they get older.

Of course you will know if it's too much: if she shuts down, if she goes into an emotional tailspin, if she starts acting out... You can tread carefully and slowly. But tears and grief are not necessarily a sign that it's too much. They are a sign that your daughter is coming to recognize her losses, losses that no 10yo girl should have to go through. But you are there for her, you love her no matter what, and you can let her know that won't change no matter how she feels about the situation.

I'll say a prayer for you, for wisdom and for comfort for your DD as you engage in these really difficult conversations. I know I will be walking that road with my son someday, too, and I will be needing all the prayers and support I can get... So I will send some your way this evening.

maggiemom2000
by Bronze Member on Sep. 22, 2012 at 12:27 AM
1 mom liked this
Quoting foxylady6781:

Thank you so much everyone for your suggestions. I have already shared some of the basics with both children in age appropriate terms without being too specific. I have not really discussed the drug abuse though, but I like the the approaches suggested, I will start there. I'm really worried about revealing at this point that their birth mother died. Sam has no memory of her but Rachel still has some memory of her, howeveer dim.  There is a life book for each child but it was not maintained very well and there are even fewer photos of their time prior to care. I have only 3 photos of the bm and in each of them her drug abuse is clearly evident. When Rachel was in grade 3, she had to do a timeline of her life for school. It was difficult because we have so few pictures prior to the adoption and very sketchy details on milestones. She was so upset when all the other kids were able to tell the class when they first started to talk and when they were potty trained and when they took their first steps. Well to make a long story short, I did show Rachel some pictures for this project but as soon as I reached a shot of her with bm she lost it and started to sob. I have since put those picturs away and have been afraid to bring them back out. That was 2 years ago. Maybe it's time to bring them out again.



As hard as it is, it is time to bring them out again and when you do, explain to her that she is no longer living. You can tell her how hard it has been for you to tell her because you wish you could protect her from the pain.

It is quite a bit different from this situation, but in any ways is the same: when I was 8 yrs old (and my siblings were 7, 10 & 12) our 20 yr old brother committed suicide. My parents were very up front with us about what happened, what they knew about why he did it. We had regular family meetings with our minister to talk about what happened and our feelings. When people asked how my brother died my parents always told the truth, they did not try to sugar coat it and say he had an "accident" or anything if the sort. Looking back they did an amazing job. It must have been hard for my parents to face the fact that their son took his life and to have to explain it to four younger kids.

I honestly believe it will be the same with your children. Honestly, you should have to,d them that birth mom died when you learned of it yourself. The longer you keep the secret the harder it will be for everyone. This is something you can face together and your children will end up stronger because you did.
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