Sunday, November 8, 2009

Adoption Awareness Month & Some Thoughts...

What a great way to start Adoption Awareness Month!!

My children and I spent the afternoon of November first at the MacMillan Farms Pumpkin Patch in Kelowna, where we explored our way through the corn maze, took a great wagon ride, drank tons of hot chocolate, and had lots and lots of fun!!! There were so many families, and mentors, there for us to mingle with and I was able to promote my book, sell a few copies, discuss the series yet to come, and inform parents about the True Colours Mentoring group that I run for all children touched by adoption or foster care.

In response to some queries by some families at the event, I am going to explain again a little about who I am, the importance of why I am writing this series of books and why I am running the mentoring group.

Having been adopted at the tender age of two, I was young enough not to know, or realize, that I was different than those around me. As I started growing up, I was not as oblivious to the realities of my differences. My parents did not have the resources that are so readily available to the parents of today and so I had to either learn to live with being different, or ignore it. Unfortunately, I learned from my surroundings that the best solution was to ignore it. I was not fortunate enough to have a group of children that looked like me, that were adopted like me, nor did I have any reading material to help me deal with my differences. That is where the differences lie in what is available today.

What I have to offer the children growing up today is the series of books that I am writing, with topics relating to transracial adoption, racism, fitting in, questions about family, identity, and, most of all, about building self esteem and self confidence within. With the mentoring group, I also offer the opportunity to come together, as a group of families, on a monthly basis, and embrace our differences together in a fun, warm, friendly, supportive and compassionate setting.

So on that Sunday, I had an interesting response to my first book, Why Can’t You Look Like Me, that is now available as a bilingual book, in french and english. One of the parents wondered why I wrote it and when I explained about the positive messages built into the story to increase a child’s self esteem when feeling like she doesn’t fit in, the response I received was, “Well, my daughter is too young to notice anything yet, so I don’t even have to think about it.” I was a little taken aback at the statement and really had to choose my words carefully when I responded to her. I really wanted to yell at her and explain that she has to start now, when her child is young, to prepare her for the realities of how the harsh world will treat her daughter when she is older. Of course, I am not telling parents to go out and traumatize their children with the cruelties of this world but to ensure that the children will understand that there are some people that will expect them to be a certain way because of the colour of their skin. Okay, and yes it is true that the child is only six years old but it is not true that parents shouldn’t be thinking about their child going through those feelings of being different, even at that young age.

Issues come up all the time for children - whether or not they choose to share these issues with their parents is one the children will decide to do or not. There are those who have parents that don’t want to see, or perhaps don’t want to admit what may be happening, and those are the children that will probably choose to not share. A child can sense when parents don’t think something is an important issue to discuss and so the child will tend not discuss it and may push it away or hide it within. That is not the kind of attitude that will help this little girl as she is growing up.

Children are more than likely not going to want to discuss areas of discomfort with parents who show the type of concern described in the example above. When I say this, I mean that a child who has open, honest parents that are willing to open their eyes, and trust me, open their hearts to their child who was transracially adopted into this white sterile world, those will be the parents that the child will generally feel free to open up to about all topics that he/she is going to go through. Don’t get me wrong though, because there are still sometimes when a child will decide that the situation is one that can be brushed off and will choose not to share. A vigilant parent who wants to ensure an honest and open relationship with the child, will continue to ask questions of the child and will always be open for discussion when, and if, asked.

I find it so interesting when I start talking with some parents about issues that their children will probably experience, that for some reason, it’s as if I am commenting about them as a parent. I don’t go around bashing parents, saying they are not doing enough for their child - my whole issue is that there has to be more done for the child - please don't think that because there is some connection with a bunch of families that met when having traveled to pick up their child, that somehow parents are done. There is more to this world than that one connection that some parents think is going to be the saviour for their child. Support comes in many forms - counseling, mentoring, books, friends, family, play groups, workshops and many more.

There is a reality that I notice some parents not willing to admit to. That reality is that yes, your child was adopted and is loved by all of his/her family very much, and yes, your child is still young and why introduce any negative attitudes into his/her world of happiness and goodness. What parents need to see is that it’s also true that by sheltering and covering for any of the bad things/issues that you do not want to deal with, can be the most traumatic experience for your child. When a child has been sheltered and/or cushioned for any blow that might happen, that child is more than likely to not bring home any thoughts or concerns about issues that do end up happening. So parents, you need to be willing to trust yourself - trust that the more help and support that you have to offer is going to benefit your child, in more situations than you would have thought of. Trust that I am not an enemy to you, nor of you. I am here to support you and be there for you when you call!

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