Adoption Awareness Month Featured Blogger: Leslie Sharpe, “Difficult Topics”

Happy endings are the goal for all of us, but the experience of being adopted and processing what that means is not always easy.

One of the things I have struggled with as a parent is how and when to talk with my child about the complex issues that have resulted in so many children being available for adoption in China. Issues like China’s One Child Policy and the reasons for its implementation, as well as cultural traditions that go back thousands of years, are not exactly topics of casual conversation with a six-year-old.

So how can we introduce these issues to our children in a way they’ll understand them, and not feel hurt by them?

Borrowing an idea from a friend who adopted domestically, my husband and I approached these issues early on. Our friend had made a book for her nieces and nephews explaining a bit about adoption and introducing the newest member of their family. I was inspired to do something similar and put together a book that featured photos of Petunia, as well as some factual information about China and adoption. We had received our match in early December and were to travel in mid-January, so it fell at a great time, as we were seeing our extended family at Christmas.

We have all probably experienced well-meaning but invasive and sometimes inappropriate questions, so this was in part an attempt to head those off and to make sure everyone was operating with the facts as we understood them.

We have not yet discussed the One Child Policy with Petunia, but we did address it in the book we had prepared for our relatives — writing about the policy’s attempts to avoid another Great Famine, which had resulted in millions of deaths in China in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

A friend’s daughter recently learned about China’s traditional preference for boys from an older classmate and took it quite hard. This was a wake-up call for us.  We needed to tackle the subject before Petunia heard it somewhere else. Fortunately, I had recently purchased the book, Ruby’s Wish, by Shirin Yim Bridges. The book, an Ezra Jack Keats Award winner, is a true story about a girl growing up in nineteenth century China. She was part of a large household and was sad that, unlike her male cousins, college was not in her future.

Image source: http://www.chroniclebooks.com

We found her struggles to be a good way to introduce a difficult topic and tried to put it into context by talking about perceived gender roles in the U.S. as well as in China. We also discussed the Chinese tradition that boys take care of their parents in their old age, and how that might contribute to a tradition of more advantages for boys.  Petunia is not alone in her questions, though.  We are all learning as we go and will do our best to figure things out together.

How have you brought up these difficult topics with your child?  I am a firm believer that families formed through adoption should share ideas and information. Please share your ideas on this topic in the comments section below.

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This is a personal post. The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily represent the views of, nor should they be attributed to, CCAI.

Leslie Sharpe is a former counselor and nonprofit manager who blogs at www.kudzuasheville.blogspot.com.  Her dream of being a mother came true when she and her husband journeyed to Chongqing with CCAI’s Group 1111. Petunia is a pseudonym used to protect her daughter’s privacy.

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