This guest post is by Rachel Garlinghouse, an adoptive parent and author.
I see it often. Social media posts from parents who are new to adoption asking what books to read to their kids, how to answer their child’s questions, how to answer strangers’ questions (when asked in front of the kids), and how to explain adoption to children.
There have been moments where I wish I had a pause button so I could have the perfect answers.
There is something we can prepare in advance, a right thing to say that is just waiting for the right time.
Affirming our children is incredibly important, especially when there are misconstrued and negative stereotypes surrounding adoption.
Whether you are tucking your child in to bed, driving to gymnastics practice, or enjoying a visit to the park, there’s always an opportunity to affirm your child.
Here are five affirmation suggestions to help you get started.
1. I am so lucky I get to be your mommy/daddy.
Adoptees often hear how lucky they are. Though you may promptly correct the person who verbalizes this (to the adoptee: “you are so lucky to have such great parents,” or, “you are so lucky to be adopted”), it’s good to revisit the “lucky” conversation during a non-confrontational and surprising time.
Stating that you, in fact, are the lucky one, teaches your child that you don’t require him or her to express gratitude for the adoption.
2. I’m so thankful that of all the possible parents, your birth mother chose me to be your mom.
This demonstrates that you are the thankful one and that you acknowledge and respect the child’s biological parent(s).
It also encourages the child to feel free to continue the conversation about his or his or her biological family. Doing so isn’t taboo or uncomfortable or off-limits.
3. You are incredible, just the way you are.
Sometimes adoptees may feel that they have to choose between nature and nurture, between their family-by-adoption and their birth family.
Affirming your child for exactly who or she is, the authentic self, teaches your child that you love the beautiful blend that he or she is. There is no need to choose sides or feel obligated to one person. Co-existence is possible, and not just possible, but beautiful and acceptable.
4. I’m here for you.
What this says to your child: It’s okay to have questions and big feelings about adoption. And it’s okay that we talk about them and work through them as a team. It also means that you are there for your child with any challenges and joys they face throughout life, not just adoption related.
5. I can’t wait to see what great things you do in your life!
The past and present are important, but so is the future. Let your child know that you are in this for the long-haul and that you are proud and excited to be the one to nurture and guide your child through his or her life journey.
Assume that your child is going to continue to flourish, and greet that assumption with enthusiasm.
Rachel Garlinghouse is the author of five books, including the popular Come Rain or Come Shine: A White Parent’s Guide to Adopting and Parenting Black Children. Her adoption writings and experiences have been shared on MSNBC, Huffington Post, abcnews.com, Yahoo!, NPR, Huffington Post Live, Scary Mommy, Today Parents, Babble, Medium, Fatherly, The Good Men Project, and many more. Rachel and her family reside in St. Louis. To learn more about her family’s adventures, go to White Sugar, Brown Sugar.
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