May 12, 2011
Yes, I am a closet celebrity news junkie. TMZ, Insider –you name it, I will read it. This morning I was perusing one of my favorite celebrity websites – People magazine – when I came across an article on Angelina Jolie. She is certainly one of the most prominent international adoptive parents and has created her family through a myriad of races and cultures. While her comment that struck me was not the purpose of the article, I feel compelled to mention it here. I was thrilled to read that Jolie stated for all the world to hear that the words “orphanage and birth parents are happy words in our house”. She further stated that “it all seems very normal….”
There are many reasons that adoptive parents hesitate to be as open as Jolie professes to be. For some, unresolved issues of fertility contaminate the adoptive relationship and parents can demonstrate a lack of empathy for children and their birth parents leading to actual resentment. Other adoptive parents just feel that if they talk openly about adoption, children will begin to search for their birth parents and will no longer love them. Some feel insecure as parents and cleave desperately to children, hoping they will never uncover the people to whom they were originally born. Still other adoptive parents feel that they want to spare their children from what was surely a horrific start to life. But we cannot rewrite a life story no matter how much we might want to do so, and every child is entitled to his or her personal history.
All children garner self esteem from their parents and this is particularly true of adoptive children. When adoptive parents fail to recognize the importance birth parents or birth culture; children often internalize this as shame. They quickly understand that if their race, culture, heritage or genetic lineage is not celebrated, then there must be something wrong with it. By placing barriers to these conversations, it gives children permission to seek answers to their questions elsewhere.
Openness within the adoption allows children to feel a sense of positive self esteem and gives them control of their situation, which many adopted children desperately need. It also allows children to ask questions directly to their parents or other family members providing a natural avenue for communication. I like to tell future adoptive parents that families should talk about adoption so much that they never have to talk about it. In other words, candidly discussing each child’s adoption should not be a onetime occurrence but an ongoing dialogue. How exciting to see such a high profile mother such as Jolie, speaking unabashedly about her children’s adoption and clearly understanding the value of adopting openly.
Credit: Angelina Jolie quote from www.people.com 5/11/2011