Last week, I had the pleasure of joining Quiver Full Adoptions’ new podcast series to discuss how the primal wound and trauma affect children who were adopted. I’m grateful for the opportunity to share insights and talk with Casey and Elizabeth. We discussed what adoptive parents can do to support their children and ensure they are getting the help needed to process losses and trauma and move to a place of security and well-being. You can listen to the episode in your podcast app by searching for Quiver Full Adoptions and scrolling to the January 29th episode: Interview with Emily Belknap of Bridgepointe Therapy, or check out the podcast page of their website here.
This year, I was able to spend National Adoption Day (November 17th) with over 100 kid and teen adoptees at a conference for adoptive families. I’m always impacted by the kids’ and parents’ feedback after opportunities to participate in group activities with other adopted children and teens. I heard a mother of an adolescent say, “this is the first time in her life she’s been proud to be adopted,” and I heard a 10-year old say, “it’s a lot less pressure to be with other adopted kids, I can just be myself and not have to worry.”
Peer relationships have such a profound impact on how children and teens see themselves. As a result, groups with same-age peers are a powerful way for adopted children and teens to have positive social experiences and be in a space where everyone was adopted just like them. In these groups, there is a feeling of belonging and being understood that kids don’t often have the opportunity to experience.
It is for these reasons that Bridgepointe Therapy will be hosting a series of groups for adopted children and teens on Saturdays in January 2019 at our adoption therapy office in Charleston, SC. The focus of these groups will be how to handle questions or comments from peers or adults about adoption. Often, kids are asked personal questions about their adoption story or may be singled out to say something about adoption if the topic arises in class. This can make children and teens feel uncomfortable and forced to share private information about their history.
Often times, other children and even adults ask intrusive questions, use insensitive adoption-language or highlight a child’s adoption history in a public way. Even when others have good intentions, adoptees are often left trying to answer or respond while experiencing strong feelings of sadness, embarrassment, shame or anger. Your adopted child may even be getting asked questions by peers and not telling you about it because of how troubling the experience may be.
Common questions that adopted children and teens are asked include:
- Why were you adopted?
- How come your “real parents” didn’t want you?
- Are you REALLY adopted?! (As if adoption is such a strange thing)
- Why don’t you look like your parents?
- Why did your parents give you up?
These questions can be extremely private and might be questions that you haven’t fully explored with your child due to their age or difficult information about their adoption history. While some children are comfortable and happy talking about adoption and their adoption story, many others may feel forced to share more than they are comfortable disclosing, feel “different” or the questions may bring up sadness about missing their birth family or birth culture.
The purpose of the Bridgepointe Therapy Adoption Groups is to prepare children and teens for handling these questions, helping them understand why others ask questions about adoption and practice strategies for dealing with these difficult situations. In addition to these hands-on skills, children and teens will also benefit from the adoption groups by having fun with other adopted peers and exploring feelings and experiences related to being adopted in a safe space. For more information about supporting your child in how to handle questions, read PACT’s article with ideas for parents.
Bridgepointe Therapy Adoption Groups for Kids and Teens will be held in Charleston, SC on Saturdays in January 2019:
January 12th 10am-12pm: 2nd – 4th Grades
January 19th 10am-12pm: 3rd-5th Grades
January 26th 10am-12pm: 6th-8th Grades
The registration fee is $60 and includes materials and a snack. Register early to ensure your child’s space in the group! Registration will cap at 8 participants per Saturday. Contact Emily for more information or to register.
Check out the press release announcing Bridgepointe Therapy’s opening:
A new counseling office, Bridgepointe Therapy, recently opened in Charleston to specialize in working with adoptive and foster families. This is Charleston’s only counseling center exclusively providing adoption therapy. Based in West Ashley, Bridgepointe Therapy serves families from Charleston, Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
“After talking to over 20 professionals in the adoption and mental health fields, I consistently heard how significant the need is for a therapist who understands adoption,” said Emily Belknap, Bridgepointe Therapy’s owner and therapist. “There are complex needs to address when working with adoptive families, such as identity, loss and grief, navigating open adoption, trauma, attachment, and how to share difficult information about a child’s adoption story in an age-appropriate way.” Emily has been providing therapy to adoptive families for the past few years at an agency in the Washington, DC area, and relocated to Charleston eager to help meet this need for an adoption therapist in the community.
“One thing I’ve realized is that parents and professionals don’t always recognize the impact that adoption has not just around the time of the adoption, but throughout childhood and adulthood,” explains Emily. “Children may go years without struggling, but then reach a new developmental level where they understand their adoption story in deeper ways both intellectually and emotionally.”
It’s common for adoption-related struggles to mask themselves as other feelings or behaviors. Emily explains, “A lot of times a child or teen is struggling with anxiety, depression, or anger, but when we get to the root of the issue, we uncover that the anxiety is the child worrying that he has to be good enough in order to earn the right to stay in the family. Or the depression is about the adolescent feeling worthless because of the misbelief that her own birth mother didn’t love or want her. Or the anger is because it’s easier to feel angry than to feel sadness and grief about being separated from his birth mother.” Parents are often surprised to learn their child was experiencing these thoughts, and children are relieved to no longer have to carry these worries alone.
Emily encourages parents to consider the connection to adoption if their child or teen is struggling emotionally or behaviorally whether they were adopted a week ago or a decade ago. “When the adoption piece is missed in therapy, it can lead to worse outcomes for the child and the family as a whole.”
Emily’s goal is to help adopted children and teens improve their confidence and self-esteem, and to strengthen their relationships with their families and friends. Often, this requires exploring thoughts and feelings related to their adoption story and birth family. For this reason, Emily offers complimentary phone consultations to talk through parents’ concerns and determine if counseling with an adoption therapist is necessary. Visit www.bridgepointetherapy.com for additional information or call 843-628-6381 to schedule a consultation. Bridgepointe Therapy is located in West Ashley at 1365 D Ashley River Rd, Charleston SC 29407.
You’ve done it–your family has survived the first month back at school! As a parent, you already know that children and teens who were adopted or are in foster care struggle with this time of year because it’s a transition, there are a lot of unknowns that cause anxiety, and it may be a separation from spending time at home with you.
Having worked for years providing therapy to children and teens, I know that it’s usually the one-month mark when I see parents start reaching out for therapy for their child or teen. It’s around this time that kids are required to do more challenging academic work and they’ve already had several tests and quizzes. Here in Charleston County, they are halfway to report cards and may already be worried and stressed about their grades.
If you haven’t already, now is the time to connect with your school to give them information about how to support your child throughout the school year. Even the best educators can inadvertently make comments or assign projects that are upsetting for a child who was adopted or spent time in foster care if the educator hasn’t ever been given information about adoption. Just being aware that certain topics or times-of-year are difficult for your child will help your teacher better understand changes in behavior and better intervene to lessen uncomfortable feelings that your child may experience. This makes it better for everyone!
Bridgepointe Therapy has several resources on our website written by experts in the adoption field specifically for educators. We also have a one-page School Counselor Tipsheet with considerations for supporting your child and a brief overview of how adoption may affect children at different stages of development. Share these resources with your child’s teachers and school counselor. To discuss getting started in therapy for your child or teen or to discuss ways that your school can better support your adopted child or teen, contact me for a consultation!