"If I'm Adopted, What Do You Call the Other Children?"
by Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D.
I have two adopted children. Although they both physically resemble my husband and myself we have always been open about their adoptions. They both know their adoption stories. We have books in our home for adults and children on the subject of adoption. I have a framed poem about adoption on their bedroom wall. Whenever their teachers used the family genealogy assignment at school, we have taken the opportunity to do a special adoption presentation for the class. And when the U.S. established National Adoption Day in May and issued the first adoption stamp, we have used this opportunity each year to celebrate adoption as the way our family came into
Still in spite of this openness about the subject, family, friends and especially my children continue to surprise me with questions I didn't expect. Like one day for example, my youngest child looked at me very seriously as if she had been thinking on this question for quite awhile. She asked, "If I'm adopted, what do you call the other children?"
To tell you the truth I was stumped and this is one question that I still do not have a very good answer for. But it represents the very real truth that if you are adopted, or if you are an adoptive parent, or if you are a birthparent, you are in the minority. Like all other minorities you are defined by what you are not. In my daughter's case she realized that she was not a member of the dominant group who did not have to define him or her at all. She is adopted but other children do not have a label. This one distinction alone is the reason that members of the adoption triangle (birth parents,child and adoptive parents) need to educate themselves about how the life-long process of adoption plays out in your lives.
Raising adopted children and growing up adopted is different than for other families. There are many similarities, but the exceptions to the rule need to be examined too. It is foolish for adoptive parents to raise their children without education about the effects of adoption on the lives of their children and themselves. So in addition to the regular books and seminars on effective parenting, adoptive families should be reading and talking to adoption professionals about the special needs of their families. People often locate a mental health professional in their area by asking their doctor or pediatrician for a referral or contacting one of the mental health organizations.
Copyright 2002 Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D.
Kathy J. Marshack, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist with over twenty-five years of experience as a marriage & family therapist.
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