Monday, August 06, 2007

How to Stand Up for Your Adoptive Child

Copyright 2007, Thomas Rockwell Photography, Indianapolis, IN
Guest Columnist: Sherrie Eldridge

Standing up for your kid is a hot topic among those with adopted children.
Adopted people, no matter what their age, are often the brunt of ignorance, insensitivity, or cruelty. Take, for instance, the school-aged child that is asked to do a family tree and then singled out by the teacher who wants him to tell what makes his family different because he’s adopted. Adopted people, in fact no one, likes to be singled out as different. That is judgment! Or, take the kindergartner that is singled out and pushed from a circle in a game, listening to taunts that she’s adopted. That was me, and I won’t tell you how many years ago! After talking with many adoptees, I know that they receive many taunts today:

• How much did he/she cost?
• Why is your skin dark and your parents’ skin is light?
• Where did YOU come from?
• Who are your REAL parents?
• Where are your REAL parents?
• Oh, you have three of your OWN and one ADOPTED kid?

The Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute reports that 60% of the U.S. population is directly touched by adoption. Either one has a relative or close friend that is an adopted person. However, the media is usually the source of the public’s education about adoption, and the media, for the most part, is back in the 1800’s!

Not all insensitive remarks come from bad intentions. Sometimes we feel awkward and don’t know what to say. Nevertheless, I try to teach parents, kids, teachers….anyone who will listen…how to stand up to insensitive remarks and/or bullies by using the method created by Marilyn Schoettle, M.A. from the WISE-UP Power Workbook. She recommends four ways for kids to “take their power back” when misunderstood or mistreated, for we all feel victimized when hurtful things are said. Learning these four options helps adopted people, or anyone. The letters in the word WISE are the acronym that represent the four choices:

• W=Walk Away. Turn your back and walk away. This communicates a strong message to the sender. “Your message was terribly inappropriate.”
• I==It’s Private. “I don’t feel like talking about it right now.”
• S=Share. Share some of your feelings. “I feel embarrassed when people say things about adoption or adopted people that aren’t correct.”
• E=Educate. Educate your listener about adoption. There is such a need for this. “Who are my REAL parents? Well, I have two sets of real parents—one that gave me my personality, body, and birth, and my mom and dad that give me love, nurturing, character building, and everything a kid needs. Thanks for asking.”

I applaud Vicki for writing this book because it meets such a need for adoptive families and I predict her book will be popular among them.

Speaker and author, Sherrie Eldridge, an adoptee herself, is passionate about assuring those touched by adoption that they can grow because of the unique challenges adoptive family living presents. She is the author of the highly acclaimed books Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew and Twenty Life-Transforming Choices Adoptees Need to Make and Forever Fingerprints…An Amazing Discovery for Adopted Children. As President of Jewel Among Jewels Adoption Network, Inc., a non-profit adoption educational organization, she offers extensive online resources, including inspiration, encouragement, projects for parents and kids, newsletters, and workbooks. For speaking, contact her at