Thu | Feb 22, 2018

Be honest with your adoptive child - Charles

Published:Saturday | June 11, 2016 | 12:00 AM
Dr Patrece Charles.

Halfway around my little world

You had no idea that you were my girl

You found my arms not a moment too soon

I couldn't see past me 'til I saw you

Sweet Naleigh Moon - 'Naleigh Moon' Josh Kelly

A married woman who never thought the day would come when she would have a child, convinced her husband to go the adoption route. She wanted a child so badly that she was not going to allow not being able to biologically produce one stopped her. The dream was realised when she adopted a one-year-old baby girl.

Few years later something miraculous happened, not only did she give birth to a son, but two years later, another child, a daughter was added to the family. Everything was okay until her adoptive daughter who was sitting her Grade Six Achievement Test found out the true story based on information on her birth certificate.

Since then, her behaviour underwent a drastic transformation. She became unruly and in the end, the Child Development Agency now has her in their care.

Adoption is an honourable thing and gives stability to children who are in need of love and care. But it can do more harm than good if all the steps are not taken in ensuring every phase of that child's life is handled properly.

In dealing with this issue Family and Religion reached out to Dr Patrece Charles, counselling psychologist of the Phoenix Counselling Centre on how honest parents should be to their adoptive children once they are old enough to understand.

"You should most definitely be honest with your child in regards to the fact that they are adopted. The consequences of not doing so is your child finding out on their own and feeling lied to and displaced, having a feeling of not belonging anywhere and being unloved by the parents that gave them up can generate emotional problems," she said.

According to Charles, the parents will know when the timing to have 'the talk' is right. She said as soon as the child is able to understand parents should find an appropriate way to communicate the information.

"Parents ought to nurture their adopted child (not spoil) in order for that child to feel special, wanted and acknowledged. On deciding to disclose the information an easy way is to stay positive, e.g. you know when we met you we thought that you were so special and we loved you right away," she said.

According to published research, adoptive children can suffer from psychological effects as they struggle with their real identities.

It is for this reason that parents must do everything to answer as best as they can whatever questions the child has.

Charles encourages that parents should allow the adoptees to be as free as possible in their questioning.

For her, children should get the chance to express their emotions after the truth is revealed.

"Parents should also keep the door of communication open and be mindful that their adopted child may have questions about their birth parents. Remember to stay positive and patient," are her sage words.

Addressing the above scenario of the mother who ended up losing the daughter she groomed from a baby, Charles said when more children comes into the union, an effort should be made to keep them involved and equally display the four elements of effective parenting - nurturance, create equal structures, recognise both children equally and empower both children equally.

Acknowledging that even with all this, the child might still be in need of special attention as insecurity could become a problem with the adoptive child, which could see them beginning to display attention seeking behaviour, one which can be interpreted as inappropriate behaviour.

"If you're unable to handle it, seek counselling from a family psychologist quickly to help guide both parents and child through the transition process," points out Charles.

For the family unit which included 'adoptees', Charles gave some 'do and don'ts'.

"Don't become permissive in fear of disciplining your adopted child, don't spoil your adopted child in order to make them feel more comfortable with your family, don't lie to your child in order to protect your child, don't treat your adopted child different from your birth child. Do be understanding of the emotions of child that is adopted, do ensure that your adopted child knows they can come to you with questions re their birth parents, be an involved parent at home, school and within your community and do look for red flags that may indicate emotional distress such as bed wetting, withdrawal from the family, loss of appetite, sleeping a lot or too little, general depression."