Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Families Grown through Adoption: Tips

This is the final installment of a series of articles I originally wrote for Regarding Nannies web site. Check them out, they are amazing.  It is written in an effort to help nannies care for their charges and support their employers but the information will be helpful for anyone that knows families of adoption.  

The first job I had as a Certified Professional Nanny was for a family going through a divorce.  I knew nothing about divorce and how it affects children.  I tried very hard to be compassionate and understanding.  However, there were some things I just didn’t know and wish someone had told me.  

Nannies have a great desire to help and support the children in their charge and the parents that employ them.  Sometimes we don’t know how best to do that, especially in situations that we don’t know much about.  Through these articles I am hoping to give you – my nanny friends - some of the background information about adoption.  I would have found background information about divorced families helpful during my first job.  

Today I have 5 tips to help you navigate dealing with adoptive parents and children. 

1-      Find a friend
There are many challenges that face families grown through adoption.  These challenges become stresses on the family and then of course on the nannies too.  We need to make sure we are dealing with the stresses without taking it out on our charges.  Make sure you have some people you can reach out to for advice, help and to just relax with.  If you need help contact me or Regarding Nannies to connect with other nannies that have worked with families of adoption so you have a friend to go to that has been where you are before.  

2-     Be Sensitive
Adoption is a sensitive issue.  Most of us that adopt are very protective of our children and do not want them to ever feel “different” in a bad way.  They can be sensitive to a variety of comments from a child not being their “real” child to comments about multiracial families.  Be cautious with the words you use to discuss and refer to adoption.  So be sensitive when talking with your charges and their parents.  Tara says:
People mean well, I think, but do not understand how hurtful certain phrasings or words can be...or how confusing they can be to a child. They ask about the child's "real" parents...when they need to ask about birth parents. They ask "Are they really siblings?" Well, yes...we have the papers to prove it! What they really mean is "Are they biological siblings?" ...as if that means they are "more" to each other than they are through adoption.”

3-     Communicate
It is vital that you have a detailed conversation with your employers about how they talk to their children about adoption and what they want you to say.  It is very important for all caregivers to use the same language and answer questions in the same way.  Make sure you discuss what questions, if any, your employers would like you to answer and how they want you to handle the questions beyond that.  If you disagree with how an employer is handling a question or concern your charge has, bring it up to the parent.  It is worse for the child to be given two different answers than to be given a wrong or half truth that is unified.  Esther says:
The truth is that Peach can be a handful at times which is why we felt it was important that Rachel [our nanny] have all the details about Peach's past - some of which are really gut-wrenching - but we knew she needed the full context in order to help address the behavioral and emotional challenges ahead. What I appreciate so much about our nanny is that she loves the kids like I do and she's been someone I can confide in throughout this sometimes very difficult adoption process. I want to make sure she's up to date on all the details of the case so that she feels part of the process too. We also try to coordinate helping to explain concepts (like adoption) to Peach and make sure we all use the same words/phrases/metaphors so that we're all clearly communicating the same messages.

4– Don’t give too much information
Be careful how much you tell children.  You want to be honest with them, but small children do not need to know that their mother gave them up because she was too addicted to drugs to care for them.  Use simple straightforward comments.  And be careful not to imply there was something wrong with the child.   Tara says:
One very important thing I learned was that a child will usually ask something along the lines of "Why couldn't/didn't my tummy mommy/birth mommy keep me or want me?" and that it is CRUCIAL to answer in a way that removes the "me". If you answer "She couldn't take care of you." a young child often misinterprets that to mean there was something about them, personally, that caused the birthmother to choose adoption. They think there was or is something wrong with them. However, if you answer something along the lines of "Your birth mother wasn't able to take care of any baby by herself..." and go from there. It helps the child see that it was the situation and to not personalize it so deeply. 

5 – Expect a change
Children that have open adoptions and visitation with their birth families often return from these visitations different children.  The complicated feelings that these events stir up often take days and weeks for the child to sort through and sometimes are never resolved.  The best thing for nannies of adoption to do is to double their efforts in providing a stable, predictable and consistent atmosphere.  They need to be lovingly reminded of the rules at the house but also encouraged to express their feelings and frustrations after returning home.  Cassandra says:
Describing the behavior and emotional changes in either of my charges after interacting with her birth family is somewhat of a complicated task. Both children wrestled with complex and mixed emotions after time with members of either birth family.  [However] Knowing that families were willing to work together across what could have been a barrier of adoption for the greater purpose of raising a healthy, happy child and seeing those families grow to sincerely care for one another was a true tribute to the vastness of the human heart. Providing truth to the saying, It takes a whole village to raise a child.” 

The truth is that every family has its own struggles and issues that it faces.  We as nannies learn to adapt to and support families with their unique issues.  In this way families formed through adoption are no different than families formed through blood.

I have thoroughly enjoyed writing these articles and interviewing the families and nannies I did.  Adoption is very near and dear to my heart.  I hope what I have said has helped you to understand adoption a little more, helped you to support adoptive families you might work for and maybe even consider adopting someday yourself.  

Links to previous adoptions articles
Families grown through adoption: BOOKS
Families grown through foreign adoption
Families grown through private adoption
Families grown through public adoption


Sharon Wrighton said...

Marcia, I absolutely loved this article you wrote and I can't agree with you more about not giving a child too much information. I learned great tools on this website http://onlineceucredit.com/edu/socialworkceus-iap about how to tell my child about his real parents and when is the appropriate time to do so.

Marcia Hall said...

Thanks so much Sharon. I am glad you enjoyed the articles.