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We Adopted You: To Reveal or Not To?
By Oliver Sutari

September 24, 2012


To adopt a child is a very noble undertaking, but one that comes with a lot of challenges. The immediate questions that any adoptive father or mother is faced with are: should we reveal it to the child? If so, then when is the appropriate time to do it? And what should we tell the child? How to do it?
 
Adoption experts recommend that adopted children be told as soon as they are able to comprehend what is being revealed to them. However, as any adoptive parent will tell us, this is not easy. The fear of how the child will react is constantly there.
 
In my article “Wounds From The Womb” – appearing in this very portal - I have highlighted that an unborn child perceives emotions of the mother, and that this is no longer a belief, but a scientific truth. This is especially pertinent and important to understand when you talk about adopted children. Let us see why.
 
It is not easy for a biological mother to give up her child. For such mothers, the idea stems from extremely unavoidable circumstances, and coercion, and right from the time of conception the inner conflict of whether to continue with the pregnancy, or to terminate it, gnaws at the expectant mother. Take, for example, unwed mothers. When there is an “unwanted” pregnancy, many men panic and find the easy way out by running away from the responsibility. This leaves women alone to fend for themselves in an unforgiving world. As a woman agonizes over her predicament, her anxiety becomes palpable to the child within her. In other words, from a very early stage, the child begins to develop scars of rejection. This word cannot be taken lightly because nothing can cause more emotional upheavals than the feeling of being unloved and unwanted.
 
The biggest challenges come up during the adoptive child’s teen years. Among them is an identity crisis. Who are my parents? Who am I? Why was I rejected? These are questions that are often asked by them.
 
A few months ago, a couple called me and spoke to me about their adopted daughter. The girl had taken up to drinking alcohol, smoking, taking drugs and generally creating as much problems for her adoptive parents as possible. She was told about the adoption when she was about 10 years old. The seniors were very happy to see that there was absolutely no adverse reaction from the child – and it remained so for a few years.
 
Gradually, however, the girl began to feel “unwanted” and “worthless”. It did not seem to matter to her that her adoptive parents were genuinely loving and caring human beings. For them this child was nothing but a God-sent angel and their lives could not have been complete without her. Now, at the age of 17, this girl was slowly turning their heaven into hell. From feeling of low self-esteem, the girl was feeling downright unaccepted by everyone. She questioned her worth time and again.
 
Before she started intoxicating herself to escape reality, she had turned intolerable in school and her grades went downhill rapidly. She was shown to several counsellors, who surprisingly failed to see that the child was carrying scars that had developed long before she saw daylight. Even if the child did have a perfect pre-natal development, it can be psychologically distressing for a child to learn that he or she was rejected by her own parents.
 
In this case, the adoptive parents told me that all her previous counsellings were focussed only on whether she was suffering from any psychiatric disorder. They were surprised to learn from me that what they were witnessing had taken root when the child’s cradle first started to quake.
 
Before they came to see me, I knew that I could not work without God’s intervention and I prayed for the girl. I also called the local convent and asked them to include this family in their intercessory prayers.
 
A few weeks later, after much persuasion, the girl agreed to see me. She spoke like a person a lot beyond her tender years. The girl spared no effort in telling me that she hated her biological mother and that she would never forgive her. She could not see that this had already severely incapacitated her potential to love; and that one day she would end up a social recluse.
 
I asked her if she realized how unique she was. She looked confused and wanted to know how a child that was given up by her own mother could be unique. I told her that to me she appeared to be born twice: the first time from the womb; and the second time from the heart. She began to calm down with that.
 
I helped her empathize with the biological mother who had to give her up. I made her understand that no matter what, psychologists believe that a mother can never forget a child and that even today her biological mother was probably aching with remorse and grief. I asked her if she ever gave a single thought as to what humiliation and pain her biological mother would have endured when she was carrying her.
 
In total I had three sessions with her before she began to relent. I also reminded her that the way I looked at it, her biological mother could have been selfish and raised her amidst taunts from insensitive relatives; but, instead, selflessly gave her up so that she could have a good life. I then asked her if she believed it was worth considering. It was a huge relief to see her nod in agreement.
 
I reminded her of the latent power of forgiveness, a grace from God that can reach immeasurable depths to heal wounds, and asked her if she was willing to unleash that power. She agreed and no sooner did she start the process, she began to stabilize mentally and emotionally. She is changing slowly and her adoptive parents’ home is gradually changing from a place of conflict to a place of acceptance, from a place of despair to a place of hope.
 
I am no expert in dealing with adopted children, but I know that an adopted child has a lot of prenatal issues. Adopted children can particularly go berserk when they find out from an outside source that their parents are not their own. This happened to one girl I know in Mumbai. A woman in the building, who was not exactly in good terms with the girl’s parents, sarcastically asked her if she knew she had been adopted. Two days later the girl ran away from home. The parents went through a great deal of anguish to get her back.
 
I know of another couple who lied to their adopted son that his biological parents were dead. The boy then wanted to see the graves of his real parents. Imagine the adoptive parents’ dilemma.
 
Some children may want to meet their biological parents. This is basically an instinctive desire and there is no need for the adoptive parents to feel threatened and react negatively. Any support you show the child will go a long way in showing him or her that you care. If the ultimate goal is love for the child, then the adoptive parents should not shy away from this possibility. It may be very painful, but genuine love conquers all emotional hurdles.
 
What and how an adoptive child should be told cannot be specified. Each person has their own unique personality traits and I believe, as one expert says, that adoptive parents must speak from their heart. After all, adopting a child – knowing its complexities – in itself requires a magnanimous heart. It is best to be truthful and supportive. The child need not be overloaded at once with too much information - this should be progressive, depending on how much and what a child can take.
 
In Western countries, many adopted children’s prenatal issues also include addiction problems of the biological mother. I am fairly certain that we are also seeing this trend in India as more and more girl students in professional colleges call it fashionable to indulge in alcohol, recreational drugs and sex. In a university environment, the locals will tell you that the girls are more “daring” than the boys.
 
Depending on the severity of the mother’s addiction in the prenatal stage, a child may suffer from certain developmental problems and learning disabilities. This point is not meant to scare any couple that wishes to adopt a child (because there are no issues that cannot be resolved, if love remains the driving force), but only to build an understanding of such possibilities. Armed with this knowledge, such parents will be in a better position to deal with issues should they arise.
 
There is nothing worse than telling an adopted child – if his or her problems seem to become unmanageable – that “after all you are not our blood.” A biological connection means nothing as the world is already witnessing a breakdown in parents-children relationships in more and more homes.
 
If an adopted child is carrying certain unwanted baggage, then adoptive parents who make such harsh statements also have a similar problem. Problems don’t always stem from the adopted child, but also from the adoptive parents. Adopted children may not hug their parents as often and this may leave feelings of emptiness in them. Parents who seek “some gratitude” from their adopted child are placing a rider that runs counter to the concept of unconditional love. If love in all its beauty has led the adoptive parents to give life to an abandoned child, then it is only love that will take them the distance.
 
I believe what one spiritual counsellor says and that is “God puts His mark in making an adoption happen.” This is purely faith-based, knowing that God knows best. Many would-be couples have to wait for years to get a child from an adoption centre. Perhaps this wait – that becomes a yearning – helps them realize even more how precious the gift of a child is.
 
The bond that is borne from the heart is equally strong - if not stronger - than the bond that is borne biologically. In the final equation, only love - not the umbilical cord - holds parents and children in concert.

 

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Comments on this article
Oliver Sutari, ManipalTuesday, October 02, 2012
Thank you for your comments. One cannot be sure if the situation would improve with multiple adoptions, but there is no doubt that more than one child in the family is definitely better than just one - whether adopted or not. Children can learn to share and love only when they are together. Also, neither child would feel that his or her situation is unique and, therefore, terrible. I know one couple that adopted a girl child and later feeling that it would be nice for that child to have company, adopted another girl child. Both know they were adopted and both girls seem to be doing well.
Also, please read the comments from Mr. Dev (taking the adopted child to ashrams). I believe there is something in it for all adoptive parents to learn and practice. I will certainly guide adoptive parents to practice it.
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Alex Sequeira, ManipalTuesday, October 02, 2012
A fine article by Oliver Sutari dealing with a sensitive theme ...covering ticklish areas openly. A good mix of scientific and spiritual angles ... An easy read for parents of adopted children to be better prepared as the child grows up.

Could the situation improve with multiple adoption by couples?
Comment on this message     

Sandra D'Souza, ManipalSaturday, September 29, 2012
Dear Oliver
Your article on adoption is very well written. Came to understand so many things about adoption. Thank you so much for the article.
Comment on this message     

J Rebello, DohaFriday, September 28, 2012
Thank you dear Oliver for your beautiful article, a must read article by all. Definitely you have taken lots of efforts to write this article and covered every angle about the adoption and how to deal with the adoption related issues. I am sure, this article will be useful for many.
I was just reading a news article about a new born baby girl dumped in Afghanistan on the roadside, found by Polish troops while patrolling in the Ghazni province – south of Kabul on 19th September. They rescued her and transferred to the local hospital after treating her in their base– has begun a new life as a treasured member of a childless couple, who was initially thought the little bundle wrapped in a towel was an IED bomb (improvised explosive device). Surely, every child is a God sent Angel.
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christine, mangalore/kuwaitFriday, September 28, 2012
Dear brother, Thank You For sharing this, all of your articles are nice, and very good,somthing have lesson,advise in it. I really likes.God Give you time to write more and use you more to advise others.God Bless You.
In this adoption has to Reveal the truth because it is more important for the medical problem blood groups and all.if they dont know than difficult.
And all will not go perfect in our own choice, some children when they know the truth after difficult to accept this is sad part, and parents will be broken in heart later who loved,like thier own child, so some they dont have than also not ready to adopt too.
So for evrything trust in the Lord and take step in prayers. let him take control for every situatins in this matter.He will lead and not put down who trust him.God bless all who adopted and give wisdom how to handle the situation
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Stanley D'Souza, Manipal Friday, September 28, 2012
Thank you very much for this Very Important Article on Adoption.
Now we can understand what to do and how to go about when the child comes to know about the Adoption, yes now all Parents will know in advance what and when to say to the child the truth. I felt very nice how you handled the girl when she was in distress, & how she changed later. It’s really good to see your affords on this matter. I once again say thank you and keep writing more.
Comment on this message     

M.SHAMEEM ANSARI, BANGALOREWednesday, September 26, 2012
Dear Oliver Excellent Article.
But in the case of Adoption childrens. If a man called another's son ''his son '' or ''his daughter ''. it might create complication with natural and normal relationship if taken too literally. It is pointed out that it is only A FACON DE PARLER in mens's mouths, and should not be taken literally. The truth is truth and cannot be altred by men's adopting ''sons'' or ''daughter''. in the technical sense it is not allowed.
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Peter, Bolkunje/Mangalore.Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Excellent article. Full of information.the motive of those undertaking this plays a very important role. May all who adopt receive the grace and strength.
Comment on this message     

Fr Victor Machado, GulbargaTuesday, September 25, 2012
important article. Though we think adopting is a noble task and even encourage people to adopt, when we think of the trauma of explaining them the truth, it is frightening. I myself have encouraged many people to adopt, but find it difficult to tell them that they have to reveal the truth to the child.
Comment on this message     

Shabnam Huda Sheikh, Uchila/DubaiTuesday, September 25, 2012
Dear Sir,

First of all i must thank you for writing such a wonderful article and upholding the spirits of many parents who would find it as a solution for their children they have or willing to adopt in near by future.

May the almighty give hearts to thousands of parents throughout the world to shelter a child that is denied parental love and also give the same strength to the children to accept their parents who have rightly given birth to them from heart.

Peace.

Shabnam Huda Sheikh
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Arun, MumbaiTuesday, September 25, 2012
Very Imperative Article,
For the adoptive parent's "Adoption" is a process of emotional experience and at the same time it is also a sensitive experience to share with the child the fact of adoption which might cause anxiety to them.

The best way is to start as soon as possible depending on the child's emotional maturity, say at the age of three years. Being comfortable with the fact of adoption is very important for the parent's, it is then that there are in a position to tell the child. The child should be very comfortable with the word "Adoption" and consider it to being loved and wanted and so should be used frequently in the house.

It becomes very important for the parents to explain the fact of adoption to their child. At the age of three to six the child will start asking silly questions and it is important for the parents to answer it in a very simple form. The child gradually starts understanding how babies are born and might ask question as to how he/she was born. The best way is to reveal the fact in a very innocent way and make the baby feel that he / she was wanted by parents and so was adopted.

What is said is not important but how it is said is important. Parents should often hug and kiss the child and say things like "we are very happy to adopt you." The whole process has a deep emotional meaning for both the parents and the child.
Comment on this message     

Santiago R., MangaloreTuesday, September 25, 2012
Very good article by Oliver. We have adopted a girl when she was just a small baby. As explained by Oliver we were in a dilemma whether and when we should inform her. When she was about 8 years old, we explained to her about the adoption and her behaviour changed from an extrovert to an introvert. When she had become a Teen, she almost began to hate us saying that we are not the biological parents. She was finding solace from her friends especially boys where she was openly telling that she is the adopted child.
Only after the age of 21 years, she has accepted us as her loving parents and reciprocates the love. However she has continued not to mix with our relatives and other family members and keeps her distance. Perhaps she is not feeling the sense of belonging to them as at the young age she may have faced the taunts from them.
There are many foster parents who feel at sea when their adopted child behaves this way and they require guidance and counselling at this stage. This help is sadly lacking in our society, though 'Prajna Counselling Centre' is giving some help in this regard.
We should have some workshops or seminars for the parents so that they can guidance from knowledgable persons and other parents who have faced such problems which will benifit them immensely. Fredrick
Comment on this message     

Prasad, Mangalore/W.AfricaMonday, September 24, 2012
Nice article. Its my pleasure to read your articles on the Daijiworld. God Bless You.
Comment on this message     

Dr. Lavina Noronha, MangaloreMonday, September 24, 2012
Dear Sir, Great write-up on an important issue.

Every child has a right to know about his/her origin but how a child reacts to this knowledge can not be predicted.

Being honest about the adoption process as early as they child can understand is a better option. Children are resilient and will learn to deal with it sooner or later but may not be able to tolerate concocted stories or lies.

It is ideal for the child to learn about his/her adoption from his adoptive parents than from others.
Accidental discoveries will be far more damaging to the child psychologically.



Comment on this message     

Savio Cardoz, MumbaiMonday, September 24, 2012
Very Important Article, ust read to all the people who adopt child
Comment on this message     

R.Bhandarkar., MMonday, September 24, 2012
Dear Oliver-
'To adopt a child is a very noble undertaking'-the starting line in itself is open to many a debate. Many I repeat many or almost all have their own 'selfish interests' to pursue or have 'great anticipations'in mind when they get down to this 'noble' task as you put it! There in lies the crux. Whether you wanted to give a 'decent life' to the child or had other motives. This 'foundation'in itself holds the key from where every thing begins to take shape.
Your article has indeed dwelt excellently on the happenings
'later on', but I feel that it's
the 'feeling' with which this 'adoption' process is approached that holds the key and nothing else.
Comment on this message     

Dev, MangaloreMonday, September 24, 2012
I know 2 cases- of adopted parents revealing even before the child grew & the other not revealing though the child is an adult.
The first child grew knowing the truth. She was taken to Ashrams on her birthday & she celebrated with them, realizing how she might have grown & what lifestyle & education she got because of her adoptive parents Love. That child is well settled in a foreign country now.
The second child is still ignorant about the truth, but what might happen when he comes to know about, is unpredictable at this late stage. I personally asked them to inform him the truth like a story & asking his opinion what he might have done in that situation, but they declined & I can only offer my prayers.
Now decide which is better. The first child gave more love for her adopted parents than biological kids.
The second kid disobeys them & doesn't concentrate on his studies, though he has every potential to outsmart anyone.
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