November is National Adoption month, a time set aside each year to celebrate the uniqueness of families who have been formed through adoption. Each adoptive parent and adoptee has their own special story regarding how their lives have been transformed through adoption. Although November is a month set aside as a time to celebrate and be thankful for the children who have come into our lives in this special way, it can also be a time to reflect and acknowledge the losses that adopted children have experienced as a result of adoption. It is known that adoption is created through loss; and without loss there would be no adoption. Each member of the adoption triad experiences a level of loss; birth parents, adoptive parents and the adoptee. Though not intentional, the losses associated with adoption are often ignored by the general public, choosing instead to focus on the happily ever after ending. Because of the loss experienced by adoptees, do not be disheartened if you find that not all adoptees embrace the idea of celebrating National Adoption month. The publicity associated with National Adoption month can be a time that triggers an adoptee to revisit and think about the losses they have experienced as a result of their adoption. Adoptees can experience mixed feelings about their adoptions during the month of November. These feelings and emotions may vacillate between love, gratitude and loyalty to the family they have gained through adoption, later followed by feelings of sadness when recalling their first loss and the circumstances that led to their initial separation from birth family. In international adoptions this separation and loss can extend to recognition of the loss of their language, culture, and sharing a life with others who are of the same race, ancestry and genetic history as themselves. There may be struggles with issues of holding on and letting go, coupled with continued underlying fears of abandonment.
There are a variety of ways families can celebrate National Adoption month, from attending adoption events in your community, planning a family activity that celebrates your child’s heritage, watching a positive adoption movie with your child, reading an age appropriate book on adoption to your child, or retelling your child’s adoption story to them. These activities are a natural way to open up a discussion on adoption with your child. As children mature and begin to develop more complex cognitive skills their thoughts and questions about adoption also become more challenging and complex. Let National Adoption month be a time each year when you recall the past losses your child has experienced as a result of their adoption journey. Then make a conscientious effort to set aside a time and place to open a discussion with them, encouraging them to ask new questions related to their adoption story and giving them permission to share personal thoughts and feelings (happy and sad) about being an adoptee. It can be painful for parents to hear the losses and sadness connected with your child’s adoption. However, by taking the initiative to open up a discussion with your child about their losses provides them with a safe and accepting environment that will allow them to continue coming to you as they process their grief and loss.