Friday, August 19, 2011

Ask an Adoptee: Returning to Your Child's Origins

Is it good for the internationally adopted children - as children - to be taken back to see their first family , by their second family? And if so - under which circumstances? What are the possible dangers one should be aware of if planning to do so? What are things that should be taken into consideration, from the point of view of an adopted person looking back at the child's perspective?

I don't have the time I'd prefer to cover this topic.

In short, as an adoptee who has traveled twice to Korea to reunite with my original family and who still maintains contact, I answer with a resounding, YES, to the initial question. Yes, it is good for adoptees to be able to return to their original countries and families.

And yes, of course, there are always complications involved. There are always potential "dangers" emotionally, socially, etc., but that's just part of the package, folks. And you're not going to avoid emotional hardships by not engaging with your child's origins. In fact, you might ultimately end up doing more harm than good, particularly if you have a child that clearly shows signs of wanting to engage with his or her origins.

However, I say all this with some caveats. Firstly, reunion does not "fix" anything, and it can further complicate an already complicated situation. Secondly, the emotional complexities of reunion and maintaining contact with one's birth family require wisdom, patience, compassion, understanding, and maturity. I recommend seeking out your child's origins based on your child's maturity, circumstances, and desires. If your child is already expressing interest and initiates with you, then, heck yes, listen to your child and provide the appropriate support.

Ultimately, however, there are no simple answers to the above questions. How to proceed must be considered on a case by case basis. But in my small opinion, you want to always keep the door open, and if your child expresses a desire to walk through the door, don't prohibit or inhibit him or her. Of course, the delicate and fragile nature of reunions and maintaining contact with the original family requires discernment and wisdom, but let your child lead--meaning, read your child, both the overt and covert signs and expressions. And don't let others make you second guess yourself. You know your child better than other parents.

I will also say to be ready for heavy emotional processing if you do take the leap, both for you and your child. The processing might be veiled or it might be in your face, but either way, pay attention and realize that returning to one's origins, whether the adoptee is 5 or 55 will have profound effects. This is not dangerous, just scary at times for both the parent and the child. Face it head on, though. Don't fear it. You don't want to teach your child to fear his or her emotions about his or her adoption and reunion. You want to teach your child to deal with it all in a productive and healthy way. Avoidance accomplishes the exact opposite.

My parents took me back to Korea when I was 10. Neither they nor I knew what to look for back then, but as I recall that time in my life, I was heavily processing. I wish my parents and I had known how to make the most of it. But instead we let those opportunities slip by and I became a darkly suppressed individual.

The "dangers" adoptive parents should concern themselves with are not whether returning to your child's country is good or bad, but rather whether you are creating an environment that suppresses or cultivates those origins. Whatever you decide, remember that your child's origins are always with him or her. The very thing that you fear will not be avoided by avoiding your child's origins. They are inextricably who your child is.