There's this common theme around foster and adoptive parents. It's this struggle for how to interact and talk about our kid's bio or first families.
We say we're protecting our kids.
We say they're better off without them.
Or we just don't know what to say or how to interact.
And it puts our kids in this incredible difficult position. Often when our kids talk about their birth families they are met with foster or adoptive parents who speak poorly of their first families or shut the conversation down.
So they learn not to talk about them. That it's not a safe conversation.
But here's the thing.
We're biologically wired for connection. We were made for belonging. We desire acceptance.
And so do our kids.
They have questions we don't have the answers to. They desire to know where they come from. Who they look like. Who else has their dimples. The same shade of eyes.
Why do we take something that's so innate in them and try to shame it away?
I believe it's usually one of three reasons.
We view it as competition
If my kids miss their parents and want to move back with them, what does that say about me? If they bring up their first families is that because I'm not enough?
Our kids can love two families at once. Just like we can love to be healthy and love eating chips! It doesn't have to be a one or another. Our kids expressing love or missing their family of origin doesn't mean they aren't grateful for everything we've done and that they don't love us. Stop making them choose.
We struggle with how much to say
How do I answer their questions? Do I tell the truth or try to save some of their feelings? How do I know when they are ready to hear the reasons they couldn't live with their first family?
With my own kids, I have found it best to start the conversation and answer the questions they have now. You can state facts about the case, while being respectful and kind. The truth is that bad and scary things have happened for some of our kids in care. And they need to know it wasn't their fault. Their parents made poor decisions but they loved you. There's nothing you could have done or not done that would have changed you coming into care.
We fear losing our kids
What if after all the love and energy we have spent on our kids they want to go back to their first families when they are older? What if their birth families tell them a different story?
I get that this feels scary. Especially if you have birth family holding this over you. But our responsibility as parents is to raise our kids the best we can. To love them, connect with them and give them felt safety. When we live in the fear of the unknown of the future, we're not really living. I remember when my kids were young and this fear of losing them was strong. I heard this song on the show Nashville and it really spoke to me. I'd play it over and over again.
So many places I want to go
So many people I want to know
I want to stay
But I want to leave
I want it all
Got to believe
You can roots and wings
You can have everything
You can know where you're from
And still want to fly
Two feet on the ground
Two hands in the sky
You can have roots and wings
At the same time
At the same time
At the same time
Our kids can be firmly planted in our family. They can love the family they are part of. AND they can want to know where they're from. They can want to fly.
Don't make your kids choose. Don't make them feel bad for wanting to know a part of them. Focus on giving them firm roots so when they want to fly, they fly from a place of safety and security and strength. That should be our goal, rather than wanting them never to fly.