Many of us look forward to celebrating Mother’s Day. This special day is dedicated to honoring mothers and caregivers in our country. However, it can be complicated for the adoptee or child in foster care. Mother’s day is a time when adoptees and children in foster care think about not only their adoptive mothers, foster mothers or caregivers, but their birth mothers too. At BPAR, we notice that many of our clients struggle and can be conflicted about this day.
Mother’s Day for the adoptee or child in foster care can be complicated. Some of the emotions around Mother’s day can be expressed with hyperactivity, feelings of grief and loss and well as anxiety. It is a time when many are trying to make sense of their adoption or foster care story. It can trigger sadness and confusion as well as bring up the endless questions that adoptees have around birth families and how they came to be.
We are with you on this journey and recommend the following tips during this time:
Normalize– Let your children know that what they are thinking and feeling is normal and O.K. It is the day that we honor all mothers. Many adoptees can feel divided loyalty and worry that it is not possible to love both birth and adoptive parents at the same time. They may express anger or have guilt around caring for both mothers. Help to remind them that there is enough room in their hearts for both. And that they do not have to choose. Let them know that they are safe expressing their feelings about this complicated issue.
Rituals- For some adoptees or children in foster care, it is important to honor their birth mother with a tradition or a ritual. There are many ways that you can acknowledge and honor her. This can be done by lighting a candle, visiting a grave, or writing a poem, prayer or a letter and sending it up in a balloon. It can also be kept in a journal as part of a memory book. Ask your child how they would like to show respect her on this day.
Predictability– honoring your child’s needs. If you notice that your child is struggling around this day, or on this day, accept that. Know that it is their way of expressing themselves and they need a safe place to be able to do it. By creating a space to allow them to feel their emotions you are showing them that you care about how they feel. If your child choses not to celebrate this day with you, understand the pain they are in. Ask your child what he or she needs from you. Remember that intense emotions are about loss and grief and acknowledging this loss can help ease the pain that your child may be feeling.
Happy Mother’s day to all mothers and caregivers!
Written by Jennifer Eckert, LICSW
Boston Post Adoption Resources