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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
<p>My daughter, who just turned 6, was adopted at birth. We have an open adoption. She is smart, funny, outgoing (after some initial shyness), and confident. And, she has always had issues with separating from me, her mom. With preschool it was bumpy at times, but after some teary mornings, she bounced back and had a great time at school. This year, with full-time kindergarten, we again have had some tearful mornings (in the hallway outside the classroom) that required adult help. But, after those episodes have been remedied, my daughter bounces back very quickly and, according to her teachers, is very happy at school.</p>
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<p>So, recently we had our first parent-teacher conference. I had previously written the teacher a letter about my daughter's adoption, since she is starting to process issues around it and I felt it was important for the teacher to know. The teacher said great things about my daughter--she's so deep and articulate and smart and gifted--but then said that for a kid as "put together" as she is, she "should not" be having difficulties saying goodbye in the morning "unless there is something deeper going on." (i.e., her adoption).</p>
<p>She then went on to describe how maybe at separation my daughter is "processing being abandoned by her birthmom", etc.</p>
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<p>Now, there may be some truth in that. I don't know. I'm not completely discounting that. What I am really wondering about is the teacher's sweeping assertion that a child of 6 would not be having separation challenges when she/he is otherwise very "put together." I believe that just cannot be true. Can it?</p>
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<p>I wasn't sure if the adoption forum was the best place for this, since I suppose I am looking for anecdotes about biological children who have separation challenges in spite of being otherwise confident. But maybe folks with adopted kids and bio kids could share an opinion? Thanks!</p>
 

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I'm not an adoptive parent, just hope to be someday. But I think that it's precisely the most sensitive, gifted, and articulate kids who sometimes have difficulty separating from their parents!
 

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<p>My adopted daughter is 6 too, and definitely has extra challenges with transitions, among other things.  But I wouldn't appreciate the arm-chair psychologizing by the teacher.  Not helpful or necessary.  When my daughter was experiencing some sadness during the school day related to her birth mother, we were able to problem-solve with the teacher about how to help my daughter regain her equilibrium and continue to function well in the classroom.</p>
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<p>Yes, I think it's possible that your daughter will find certain life situations throughout her life will remind her of the loss of her birthmother.  OK...the more important question is irregardless of the cause, how do you help your daughter develop the self-confidence to handle difficult situations of all kinds?  </p>
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<p>Have you asked your daughter what she is feeling when you drop her off?</p>
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<p>I use to teach kindergarten and my first year of teaching I had 3 amazingly wonderful adopted children in my class... one from China. 2 from Russia. 2 had NO problems being left at school. One had very minor upset for a few weeks. I did have other children cry quite dramatically, pitch fits or be sad until mom and dad were out of sight... then it almost immediately would stop. </p>
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<p>I do think fear has something to do with it, but more than that I think most children are trying to communicate something to mom and dad... some times it is that they want to have control in their lives, some times it is anger, sometimes it is a habit.  </p>
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<p>Now the one little boy that did have problems he would mainly act "sad" (ie pouty and forlorn with quiet tears). His was more fear based and learning to feel safe in a new environment. That resolved quickly when we started having fun... I think this is a more genuine response to fear. Acting crazy, having fits seems to be a response to seeking control or bring angry about some thing or even because it has been a habit from toddlerhood... and the child probably doesn't even know why they act that way... it is just what they do. :) </p>
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<p>Really I loved those situations because it was sort of like a puzzle to figure out what was behind the behavior.</p>
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<p>HOnestly I would just ask... (at a later time)... "When I drop you off for school what do you do?</p>
<p>What are you feeling when you act that way (whatever her behavior is)?</p>
<p>Don't put words in her mouth... see what she says.</p>
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<p>Also I don't like bribing</p>
<p>But, what about a reward chart... set a goal like... This week no clinging to mommy... you can cry and be upset, but no clinging... If you can do that for one week or even 2 mornings out of the week (what ever is reasonable) then you get a date with mom after school...etc...</p>
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<p>Then the next week make a new goal... No crying loudly... just quiet crying... </p>
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<p>Make it so she can't fail at first and she will feel like that is what she can control... her positive behavior. </p>
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<p>The other thing that worked for one of my more dramatic girls was her dad and her made a deal that if she walked in, no tears and sat and got started on her morning page with no dramtics he would sit by her and stay for 5 minutes. If she had a fit he wouldn't be able to stay. It helped a bit.</p>
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<p>Hope that helps... Hugs... Also, I always told parents... I am sure they won't be doing this when they go to highschool... it is a season and it will pass. :)</p>
 

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<p>I'm both an adoptive parent and a teacher.  I don't think the teacher has a clue what she's talking about. </p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
<p>Thanks for the replies. I've been able to talk to my daughter about what it is she's feeling during a teary drop-off. She says that she just plain misses me sometimes during the day, and it's hard to let go. Also, the teacher did tell us that my daughter has difficulty joining in with other kids' pretend games. She prefers to help adults or work on her own things. So, I suspect that the issue is also that she gets to school, sees kids playing (it's "choice time" first thing), and doesn't quite know how to enter that. Except for a few days one week early on in the year when the teary episodes were more dramatic, she generally just gets quietly teary and clingy and says "I just don't know if I want to do it today." But, that's as extreme as it gets.</p>
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<p>Like I said, I would not dismiss the thought that adoption-related issues are somehow tied in with separation difficulties. But I don't know if my daughter would articulate that at this point. She does not have a close relationship with her birth mom, but I do know she is definitely processing feelings around having two families--biological and adoptive. "It doesn't make sense" was her most recent comment.</p>
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<p>And yes, I was a little irked by the teacher's arm-chair adoption specialist comments, but not surprised by them. She has kind of a I've-been-teaching-for-a-hundred-years-and-I-know-your-kid-better-than-you-do way of speaking sometimes.</p>
 

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<p>HOnestly to me it sounds like she is a typical 6 year old... with typical 6 yo fears. Some children have difficulties with this and some don't. I think what you've described is probably more about feeling comfortable or not being in "her comfort zone" with lots of children around. I'd just encourage her and let her learn to be comfortable on her own time. Being a teacher and now a mom I know that too many teachers think they know exactly what is going on with a given child... that isn't true. You are her mommy and you know her heart better than anyone! Hugs!</p>
 

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<p>I'm not an adoptive parent; I'm an adult adoptee. I was adopted as an infant in a closed adoption in the early 1970s. As a kid, I had a lot of seperation anxiety. I can't say if the adoption is an issue in your child's case, but I know it was in mine. I always knew that I was adopted, my parents had told me from a very young age. But I really didn't understand what it meant until I was around 6 or 7 years old. That's when I started to realize that I had somehow "lost" one set of parents. And in my child-mind I figured: well if it had happened once, certainly it could happen again. I had a lot of anxiety about it, although at that age I wasn't able to articulate it or even to connect my worries to the adoption.</p>
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<p>As I said, I don't know if the adoption is a factor in this for your child. I do think it's significant that she told you "It doesn't make sense" about having two families. She is getting to the age where she will want to start making sense of her own life story and will need your guidance for that. I think it's wonderful that you have an open adoption and I hope that saves her a lot of the diffiuclties and heartache I (and other closed-adoption adoptees) have experienced.</p>
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
<p>Lollybrat, thank you for offering your experience. I really appreciate hearing your perspective. As much as I wish I could get inside my child's mind, I cannot. I do wonder if she is feeling what you mentioned feeling at that age. If you are up for sharing, do you think it would have helped you if your parents had asked you specifically if you were feeling sadness/fear around that loss at age 6/7?  I often wonder if asking my daughter about it would be helpful to her. Aside from sharing her adoption story with her, which she loves to hear, I generally don't ask her questions about how she feels about it unless she brings it up. We are very open about talking about it, always have been, but I doubt that she shares everything that's on her mind. She surprised me with the "it doesn't make sense" comment, so I know she thinks about her adoption much much more than I thought she did.</p>
 

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<br><br><div class="quote-container"><span>Quote:</span>
<div class="quote-block">Originally Posted by <strong>bartleby</strong> <a href="/community/forum/thread/1283886/separation-difficulties-and-the-adopted-child#post_16101089"><img alt="View Post" class="inlineimg" src="/community/img/forum/go_quote.gif" style="border-bottom:0px solid;border-left:0px solid;border-top:0px solid;border-right:0px solid;"></a><br><br><p>Lollybrat, thank you for offering your experience. I really appreciate hearing your perspective. As much as I wish I could get inside my child's mind, I cannot. I do wonder if she is feeling what you mentioned feeling at that age. If you are up for sharing, do you think it would have helped you if your parents had asked you specifically if you were feeling sadness/fear around that loss at age 6/7?  I often wonder if asking my daughter about it would be helpful to her. Aside from sharing her adoption story with her, which she loves to hear, I generally don't ask her questions about how she feels about it unless she brings it up. We are very open about talking about it, always have been, but I doubt that she shares everything that's on her mind. She surprised me with the "it doesn't make sense" comment, so I know she thinks about her adoption much much more than I thought she did.</p>
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<p>For myself and for some other adult adoptees I know (and keep in mind that all the adult adoptees I know are from the closed records era, so your situation is different) the ages of 6-8 were often the start of thinking about adoption a lot and trying to make sense of everything. Many developmental psychologists refer to this age as the "age of reason" becuase it when children generally become capable of more complex thoughs and conversation. But it's very easy for a child to become confused at that age as well.</p>
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<p>My Mom & Dad were (are) wonderful parents and I am very close to both of them. But they really did not know how to talk about adoption with us (my brother is also adopted). Like many parents of that era, they got bad advice from people who were supposed to be experts, but who really only had theories about what should be best. When we were young, my parents made the common mistake of thinking that if we (the kids) did not talk about or ask about our adoptions, it meant we were not thinking about it. But as a child, I thought and wondered about my adoption a lot, but I only asked my parents about it occassionally. I thought that if I talked about it, they wuold think I didn't love them or that I wasn't happy that they were my parents.</p>
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<p>I also loved to hear my Mom and Dad tell me my adoption story. I loved hearing  about how they prepared my bedroom, how excited they were when the call came, what happened when the social worker placed me in their arms. But at that age I started to realize that this was their story, not my story. I started to realize that my life had not started in the visitation room at the adoption agency. Other kids talked about being born, not about being placed. I realized that "Mommy, where do babies come from?" and "Mommy, where did I come from?" were not the same question. They were very different questions indeed. Something had happened before Mom and Dad met me at the agency, and I couldn't figure out what that something was. Somehow I had lost one set of parents and I didn't even remember how it happened. It's hard for a little kid to understand the many valid reasons why birthparents place a child for adoption. So I somethimes thought that there must have been something wrong with me, maybe I was a bad baby. Somtimes I thought there must there must have been something wrong with them, maybe they were bad people. And yet, I was happy to be part of my adopted family, who I love very much. It was confusing because as a kid, I didn't understand that you can feel happy and sad at the same time.</p>
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<p>I think it would have helped if my parents had talked to me about sadness/loss/fear and adoption at that age. As an adult, I have talked to my Mom about this. She told me that they could see I had these feelings and they did wonder if they were related to adoption. But the "experts" at that time recommended against raising the issue, because conventional wisdom was that doing so would "put thoughts in the child's head". I doubt I really knew back then that those feelings were part of being adopted, but if my parents had talked to me about it, it might have helped me figure out the reason for the feelings. Also if my parents had in effect given me permission to feel sad (or angry or afraid) about the loss of my birthparents, it would have helped me later in my teen years.</p>
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<p>When I was in my early 20s I told my Mom and Dad that I wanted to search for my birthparents. I was so nervous about telling them. Mom immediately went into her closet and pulled down a box of newspaper clippings she had saved over the years. They were all stories about adoptees and birthparents searching and reuniting, articles about support groups, and changes in our state's adoption law. I was flabbergasted. Mom said she always knew that I would want to find my birthparents; she could always see that need in me. But she never knew how to talk about it with me. My whole childhood and teenage years she could see it, but we were both too afraid to talk about it. That's kind of sad, isn't it? Mom and Dad were (are) wise enough to understand that these feelings were not about them or their parenting. It was about me needing to resolve that loss I could never let go of. They were amazingly supportive during the emotional roller coaster that is Adoption Search and Reunion.</p>
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<p>When I was young, my parents had very little information about my birthfamily, only one typed page listing ethnicities and vague physical descriptions. My parents could only guess at the reasons why I was placed for adoption. You have a HUGE advantage in having an open adoption in that you can provide your child with more accurate and more detailed information as well as access to her birth family. Just don't be afraid to talk about her feelings, or yours.</p>
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<p>I don't know if any of what I've written here makes sense. I don't know if any of it applies to your daughter. This got really long and I've gone beyond the scope of your orgianl question (sorry!). But I hope you can find something helpful in it.</p>
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Discussion Starter · #11 ·
<p>Thank you so much for your reply. It is really so very helpful. I'm glad you had (have) such great parents. Indeed, times have changed and the "expert" advice leans toward openness and not secrets or lies. Still, there is a huge bias against open adoption, even with well-meaning folks. My daughter's teacher, for instance, felt compelled during our conference to give her opinion about it. ("I wonder if it's really the best thing for her to know her birthmom. That might be too confusing for her. What a big thing to have to deal with at so young an age.") My daughter likes to have information about things. All things, not just her adoption. So I don't doubt that she really does think about it a lot. She is right at the age where she is starting to make sense of it, and her conclusion so far is that it doesn't make sense, and that being raised by one's biological family is "just how it works." Doesn't mean she isn't secure and happy and bonded with us, but I understand that it must be strange for her to know that she has other family out there that she knows but rarely sees (which is an issue I know my daughter will be troubled by, and I suspect she is already....that her birthmom rarely connects with her, in spite of our openness).</p>
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<p>Thanks again for your wonderful reply. It truly is helpful to hear your perspective. It helps me to know what might be going on in my daughter's head these days. She is a bright, sensitive, perceptive kid (as it sounds like you were too), and I just want to be for her what she needs, always, even if it's hard for me to hear.</p>
 

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<p>I certainly know lots of biologically related 5 and 6 yr olds that range from uneasy to quite upset at seprartion from their parents. Going to kindergarten is kind of a big thing with lots to adjust to, even for children that have been in child care. It's natural to want your mom when you are feeling unsure. Sometimes kids who have it most "together" want their moms the most because they know they are held (and they even hold themselves) to a high standard for doing what's needed and right.</p>
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<p>Lollybrat, such wise words!</p>
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<p>I think your child could be fine and also could be processing some adoption issues, which is also "fine." Lollybrat has some great advice.</p>
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<p>I've only read some of the replies. I remember being so upset at being left at school when I was 6 that I would scream hysterically and try to follow my mom home. (And her reaction of, "If you won't quit crying I'll give you something to really cry about.") </p>
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<p>My bioson will be five in 12 days. He pitched a huge fit this evening because I needed him to step out of the room into the hallway so I could uncover the Christmas stash to look for something. "But I need to be with you," he wailed. He gets upset any time we are apart. </p>
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<p>I can't imagine what it would be like if we sent him to school. One of the reasons I am so glad we are homeschooling. He will never have to go through that. Actually, it just occurred to me. We did send him to preschool about a year ago (family issues required it even though we all hated it--and it was a great Reggio Emelia school.) He adjusted to being there, but he hated me leaving. He was so glad when we were able to pull him out after a couple months.</p>
 

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<p>BG:  I have three boys; my oldest is bio and my younger two are adopted and were in excellent foster care until they came home. Mye oldest had a lot of trouble separating until he was around 3 or so, but by preschool he got on the bus and didn't even look back. He was a 30 week preemie with a 6 weeks NICU stay, so was considered at risk for some attachment issues.  He did have some general trouble transition from one activity to another, separate and apart from the separation issues, that was fixed by giving "2 minute warnings" and making changes be highly structured and routine. Even now at 12yo, though, he likes to be close and spend a lot of time together.  My middle child was adopted at 5 1/2m, had an easy transition, and never had any separation anxiety in particular.  When he started preschool/daycare at 2, he cried a few seconds at drop off for maybe a week, and other than a couple of days after Christmas break last year when returning to school (pre-K) has never had any issues with it.  My youngest, adopted at 1y, had a difficult transition, a difficult adjustment, a difficult everything LOL He cried hysterically for Sunday school, babysitters, Mom or Dad leaving (even when the other was there).  He started daycare in January at 2 1/2y, and he cried hysterically every morning for 5 months, and cries now if his routine is different (ex.  I drop him off instead of dh or another child is already on the computer).  And this is an incredible, supportive environment that he LOVES.  He gets upset on the weekends because he is not going to school/seeing his teachers. </p>
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<p>So from my perspective, what you describe seems very normal to me. To me, the difference in "normal separation issues" versus "problem separation issues" is the level of intensity.  My older two children could be calmed by me staying a minute longer and reassuring them; my youngest requires me to leave immediately so that he can get past the scary feelings of knowing I am going to leave and he can get on about the business of going to play.  As long as I stayed there with him, it increased his sense of dread that I was about to leave, if that makes sense, and makes the transition all that much harder.  We work really hard to keep his morning routine exactly the same--the structure provides familiarity and lessens the chance, in his mind, that today will be the day we don't come back. He even went through a phase for several months, when he would ask his teachers where I, dh, and his 2 brothers were.  We developed a ritualized answer, and he would ask when he was feeling anxious, and find comfort in hearing the same answer each time.   I suppose there is a bit of chicken and egg--does he have a more anxious personality in general, so maybe that makes him more sensitive to adoption trauma, or has the adoption trauma change him to a more anxious person? </p>
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<p>The fact that your daughter is able to verbalize that she just wants to be with you, to me, is another indication that this is normal versus adoption stuff.  My youngest is truly fearful--you can see it in his face, his eyes, his body language--and there is something very primal in his cryong that sounds like when he first came home and was grieving.  Your daughter sounds like she misses you, which is good and normal at that age.  One of the things we did with my oldest to help him transition to a school day was to give him a picture of our family in his backpack that he was allowed to take out at any time during the day.  I think he only looked at it 1 or 2 times, but knowing it was there was helpful.  We also gave him a routine--we did everything in the same order, we taught him what the clock looked like when it was time to leave school and when he would get home, they used a picture schedule in his preschool.  So perhaps give her a tangible reminder of you--my Mom used to put some of her perfume on me (I jsut remembered that, how odd!), make the transition predictable.  If she is having a hard time joing the free play, perhaps give her a specific play activity to always start at or see if the teacher can assign her a buddy that would initiate play with her. </p>
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<p>Lollybrat, thanks for your insight.  It is a good reminder that I need to remember to bring adoption up more often with my 5yo and not wait for him to ask.  He is just starting to process in bits, but is mainly just too busy being a kid to sit still and ponder much.  Although, we did have to clear up that all kids are not born, then go to Korea to live with foster parents for a while, and then come home! </p>
 
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