Sorting Through Conflicting Feelings on Adoption Day

This year on National Adoption Day, approximately 5,000 children will be formally and legally adopted into “forever families” across the United States. Celebration cakes will be shared and extended families will honor the newest members of their families.  We at Boston Post Adoption Resources recognize the importance of this day. Permanent families are created and expanded. These are life-changing days that most surely will have a profound effect on each family member.

How do child adoptees view adoption day?

Children of all ages are adopted on this day.  Those that are adopted as babies will have little memory of the actual day.  As they grow older, the photos of this significant day will carry much importance.  For older children and teens, this is a day of mixed emotions. Making sense of their many disparate feelings can be confusing for the child, and at the same time hard for family members to understand.  During this celebration, a child might feel excitement and joy, but also worry, sadness and much trepidation.  

Often not acknowledged is this sorrow and sadness the child might be feeling.  He or she might feel sad that his or her birth family cannot raise them.  They might be struggling with the loss of the fantasy that Mom and Dad would someday be healthy enough to care for them and give them the happy life that they dream of. Indeed, there are many losses that a child might be grappling with: the loss of the fantasy that mom and dad would someday be healthy enough to care for the child; the loss of biological siblings and relatives; and the loss of culture and heritage, to name a few. Many of these children have struggled with profound feelings of sadness and fears that they were not wanted and loved, or not worthy of love.  Adoption Day will trigger some or many of these feelings and emotions. Some children will show their feelings of sadness, by crying, or being angry; others may be quiet or overly pleasing. These deep-rooted feelings come out in different ways.  This can be confusing for everyone: “On such a joyous day why am I feeling this way?” Adoptive parents may wonder the same thing, and they often experience their own mixed feelings of excitement and worry.

Many adoptees have said, “Being adopted is like starting a book on Chapter 2.”  For the child who has been living with birth parents or foster parents, he or she may know parts of their “Chapter 1.” However, most likely there is confusion and missing information or misinformation. For the child who has had multiple placements in foster homes, the “Chapter 1” can include painful and sad memories.

How can families ease the adoption transition?

The more educated families are regarding adoption issues, the stronger their families will be. Building trust, and feeling safe and truly loved takes time. The more open and truly empathetic caregivers are to their adopted children, the healthier their children will be. The more comfortable parents and families are talking about adoption and challenges on this adoption journey through life, the more resilient that adopted child will be.  Once strong foundations are established, the secure scaffolding goes up. Step by step the relationship is formed, slowly built upon, and continually strengthened.

Securing solid relationships is the goal.  At different times in our lives we may need some guidance and extra tools to help with making our connections stronger. Asking for supports is a strength not a weakness. The beauty in this is that there are open hands and arms to help adoptive families.  Knowing how and when to ask for guidance is the key. When the adoptee knows and feels that he is not alone on the journey, the road becomes hopeful and safe.

Boston Post Adoption Resources provides support for children and families throughout this adoption journey.  Visit our BPAR website and learn more about our services and our book, Adoption is a Lifelong Journey.

Written by Jennifer Eckert, LICSW
Boston Post Adoption Resources

About Jennifer Eckert, LICSW

Jennifer Eckert, LICSW, is the founder of Boston Post Adoption Resources. To read her bio, please visit BPAR's Team page.