It’s February

A month known to celebrate love, women’s heart health, chocolate, canned food, pies, dental health, and spay and neuter awareness.

In fact, one website, Holiday Insights, lists twelve special awareness campaigns celebrated in this one short month. (www.holidayinsights.com).

Probably the most important on this list is the official designation of Black History Month.

February gives us the ability to celebrate Black History Month.

There are special activities designated at sites throughout the state. The website Visit Indy (www.visitindy.com) suggests a tour of Indiana Avenue and the Madame Walker Theater Center or a visit to the Crispus Attacks Museum.

Visit Fort Wayne (www.visitfortwayne.com) offers the African/African-American Historical Society or Allen County Public Library as great places commemorate this part of our history.  

Live in South Bend? On February 23, 2019 there is a musical celebration of the African diaspora at the IUSB Civil Rights Heritage Center at 3:00 in the afternoon.  

For our southern Indiana families, Bloomington offers a fully packed schedule of activities that can be found at    https://bloomington.in.gov/sites/default/files/2019-01/2019%20BHM%20Calendar_draft

Is there a better way to honor and celebrate Black History month?

What about having conversations about race?

Looking at historical figures who have made significant societal contributions is important, but hundreds of thousands of people live their lives without the rest of us knowing about them.

What is their experience of living day to day? What does a person of a different race or ethnicity think about you? How do you define racism? Do you see examples of segregation around you? How will you raise your children to embrace their own culture and celebrate the cultures of others? 

How will you be celebrating Black History Month?


Love Makes the World Go Around…

(and how to help keep it spinning) 

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching!

Have you bought a card for your sweetie? Found a babysitter and made your dinner reservations yet? Bought the roses and candy? Remembered to send your child’s birth mom a card and warm greetings? (Hey, this is an adoption related blog! Of course, we were going to slip that in there!) 

While there are multiple explanations of how the holiday started, including at least three different saints martyred on February 14, it has been linked to romance since Medieval England when Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales. Over time, celebrating this holiday has morphed into sharing love with anyone significant in our lives, not only romantic partners. 

According to a February 5, 2019 article on the website retailcustomerexperience.com, “Consumers are projected to spend more than ever on Valentine’s Day yet fewer will be celebrating the annual February love event.” This same website projects Americans will spend $20.7 billion on Valentine’s spending this year, or an average of $196.61 per person on this holiday. 

On the other hand, showing love does not have to involve spending money.

Homemade Valentine’s Cards are another tradition that dates back at least a couple hundred years! With today’s technology, it’s even easier to snap a photo, decorate it, and send it on to someone needing a smile. 

Which brings us back to sharing the love with birth families.

It’s not too late to send something through ASC, if that’s how you normally communicate. It’s definitely not too late to send something directly, if that’s how you normally communicate. 

Not yet matched or directly involved in an adoption?

There are still ways to spread a little love. Volunteer at your local pregnancy care center, donate to a women’s shelter, or get involved with any cause that is close to your heart. After all, the world could always use a little more kindness. 

So whether you spend the holiday as a romantic extravaganza or a cozy time with family remember that ten different song writers who claim “love makes the world go ‘round” can’t be wrong. We all need to do our part to keep that world spinning.


All You Need Is… Empathy?

(Also known as Empathy Makes the World Go ‘Round?)

Why is it that there are no great songs written about empathy?

Love may make you go weak in the knees, but empathy builds connections and helps you through the rough spots.

Empathy is the ability to relate to another person in the midst of their pain.

If you’ve ever had any experience with adoption—as an adoptee, a birth parent, an adoptive parent, or professional, empathy is a foundation on which to build the rest of the relationships.

While an expectant or birth parent may not understand the pain of infertility, they can understand the sadness that this brings to the adopting family. While an adoptive parent may not fully understand the circumstances in an expectant mother’s life that lead her to consider making an adoption plan, they can listen and relate to the pain of the difficulty. Neither the birth parents or adoptive parents may fully understand the feelings the adopted child has regarding their identity, but being able to offer empathy connects both sets of parents to the child.

Empathy is understanding and showing concern for other.

It helps build bridges and resolves conflicts. To be empathetic involves being present and limiting distractions. 

Empathy may not make it to hit song status, but it will definitely keep adoption relationships on a healthy track. 

Noted author and speaker Brene Brown explains empathy in this charming video. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw


Roots and Wings

There is a frequently quoted inspirational saying which asserts the two greatest gifts we can give our children are roots and wings. This has been interpreted to mean as parents we provide the foundation for our children so that they can develop into their own personalities and be able to chase their own dreams.

When our children are young, we make all their decisions for them.

What they wear, what they eat, where they sleep, their schedule…all of these things are determined by parents. After all, babies don’t choose their own onesies! As they grow, they begin to make their own choices. Sometimes we agree with these choices, sometimes we don’t. Have you ever seen a pre-schooler who has dressed herself in her favorite outfit?

Adoption adds another layer to all of this.

Adoptees have roots with both their birth AND adoptive families. Both sets of parents contribute to the person that the child becomes.

But what about wings?

What happens when all the days and years of love and choices and decisions made are done and the child—who had no voice or choice in the adoption to begin with—is now an adult?

When the adoptee becomes an adult, the decision for contact with birth families and adoptive families becomes their own. The person who was adopted at birth or during their childhood now can say if they want to meet their birth families or not. They can continue to develop adult relationships with the parents who raised them, or they can become distant from them. They can embrace the circumstances of their lives, or they may choose to reinvent themselves and have little to do with either birth or adoptive families.

These newfound wings can be stressful for both sets of parents.

Will the adoptee want to meet the birth family? Some birth parents want to meet; some birth parents do not want to meet. Will the adoptive parents welcome the birth parents in their adult child’s life? Or will this be stressful and unwelcome to the adoptive parents?

Many of the answers to these questions depend on how the adoptive family tended to the roots.

Did they water the seeds of love planted by the birth family? Did they provide opportunity for discussions about identity and adoption? Did they speak of the birth family with gratitude, kindness and respect?  

Some adult adoptees use their wings and fly toward their birth families. Others fly in a different direction. Yet the flight does not have to be between the two families who gave the adoptee roots; the adoptee can fly along side both. 


Grief and Anger

Most people recognize sadness as a part of grief.

If you see someone crying, it’s easy to make the assumption that something is wrong. Tears and sadness are a combination that everyone seems to understand. 

Anger is also a part of grief.

It’s that little understood part, because let’s face it. No one likes to be around an angry person. It’s like standing next to a can of pop that has exploded. It’s unpredictable. You don’t know where the pop will spray or what kind of mess it will cause.

Anger is one of those things that build.

One little thing after another adds to the emotions that are stirring inside, and it only takes one thing to cause an explosion. 

So what can be done to prevent an anger explosion? 

First, know that being angry is perfectly ok.

Own your feeling! Anger is just an emotion. A powerful one, sure. But so is joy.

After a loss, it is quite natural to feel anger. A word of caution, though. If expressing your anger causes you to hurt yourself or someone else, you may need to do some damage repair. Apologize for the action, but don’t apologize for the emotion. If you apologize for the emotion, you may find yourself caught in a cycle of rising anger that has nowhere else to go.  

Second, recognize anger for what it is.

As we tell toddlers, “use your words”! Recognizing and naming anger takes away some of the unpredictability associated with how anger is expressed. Mark Twain famously said “When angry count four; when very angry swear.” This is really good advice! Swearing gives voice to the anger and is a way to express it without it building up inside to a greater level.

Third, know that anger doesn’t last forever.

Remember that other old saying, “what comes up, must come down?” We aren’t designed to stay in a heightened emotional state forever. Think back to your last ugly cry. Did you need a good long nap afterward? That’s because our bodies aren’t designed to carry that much intensity all the time.

Finally, find someone with whom you can safely let off this anger.

A close friend, a counselor or a therapist are good places to start. If your anger is related to adoption, find a therapist who understands adoption issues and can help you find ways to express it.  


I HEREBY RESOLVE…

So here it is, another new year. Welcome to 2019! 

For almost half of Americans, making a resolution for the new year is a part of the tradition of the holiday. These generally are self-improvement based…lose weight, add a fitness routine, improve personal finances, or stop smoking. 

Do these resolutions work? Do those Americans who make resolutions become thinner, fitter, and richer?

The statistics aren’t good.

One recent study suggests that a full 80% of resolutions fail by February. To combat this, the internet and other media are full of suggestions designed to help resolution makers be successful. 

One of those suggestions is to frame your resolution in positive terms. Rather than giving up something, add a little something to your life. One study suggests that people who are motivated to make a difference in the world tend to keep those resolutions as it leads to a sense of peace and happiness while contributing to society.

So here’s a new year challenge from ASC.

Resolve to make the world of adoption a better institution.

Like all resolutions, making the world of adoption a better place is much to broad of a goal. Psychologists also suggest taking small steps that are concrete and lead to an immediate sense of reward tend to keep propelling us forward.

What can you do to improve adoption?

Here are a few suggestions.

  1.  Resolve to listen to one perspective other than your own each month. For example, if you are an adoptive parent, listen to a podcast from a birth family or adoptee to better understand their experiences. 
  2. Resolve to provide assistance to an organization that advocates for members of the adoption triad. Assistance can be given in the form of your time, your finances or your positive recommendation and encouragement. 
  3. Resolve to speak up! Share your story. Comment on social media on the stories of others. 

Here’s to 2019! What do you resolve?