How words of advice can make you miss what is right in front of you

06 Feb

When an adopted child is misbehaving or acting out and the parents ask other adoptive parents why, they are often told that biological children do this too.  I understand that they mean children who are raised in their biological families misbehave or act out too.  That whatever is happening is typical as the child moves through the different cognitive stages to test out boundaries and have shifts in emotions.

Yet, I can’t help but cringe every time I hear this advice.

It is perfectly natural that an adopted child would act like biological children do at the different childhood cognitive stages, because we are biological children.  We’ll go through the same stages children raised in their biological family will, act out, push boundaries, be sassy, moody, you name it, we’ll go through that stage.

But there is more when you are adopted.

Being adopted adds complexity to a child’s normal developmental stages, added layers that can be missed because you were just told to treat it as if the child was biological and not to worry because it’s just a stage.  We have added layers (feelings and things to process) because we are adopted on top of what children do at a particular stage/age.  One or more of those added layers may also be in play at that stage.  Parents need to be aware of the layers, look at both the current situation and history, and see if one (or more) of those added layers are part of the reason the child is acting that way, or even the driver of that action.  If you don’t, and it does include adoption feelings, you won’t be there to walk through it with your child, they will do it alone.

I read ‘Being Adopted – The Lifelong Search for Self‘ by David M Brodzinsky, Ph. D., Marshall D. Schechter, M.D., & Robin Marantz Henig years ago.  The way they describe the different cognitive developmental stages and stages across the lifetime and how the layers come into play was spot on to me.  It’s an easy read for adoptive parents, as in, you won’t want to throw the book across the room.  If you want to be more aware of the added layers your child may experience, this book is a handy reference.

This is an old post about this book: One of my favorite books…



Posted by on February 6, 2017 in Adoption, adoptive parents, biological child


Tags: , , , , ,

18 responses to “How words of advice can make you miss what is right in front of you

  1. Dannie

    February 6, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    I need to read this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. My Perfect Breakdown

    February 6, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    I appreciate this and have added the book to my list of “must-reads”.


  3. eagoodlife

    February 6, 2017 at 10:30 pm

    One of my faves too TAO.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. eagoodlife

    February 6, 2017 at 10:36 pm

    Reblogged this on The Life Of Von and commented:
    Re-blogging this from TAO, thank you TAO, just in case you missed it. It is my go to book on adoptees, always, and if I had to chose just one book on adoption this would be the one. It’s no youngster now but as relevant today as it was when it first came out.


  5. Heather

    February 7, 2017 at 8:02 am

    Thank you for making (another) very important point about missing what’s right in front of you. You explain important issues very well.

    ‘Being Adopted – The Lifelong Search for Self‘ is one of my favourite books too.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. TAO

    February 7, 2017 at 3:15 pm

    Dear David L from an adoption agency.

    If you had read the post and wanted to discuss what the topic actually was, even if you just wanted to give a shout out for the book I talked about, or even speaking about how Dr. Brodzinsky was a highly knowledgeable and respected authority on adoption – I would have approved your post. Of course, I would have stripped out the obvious promotion of your adoption agency first.

    Instead you said you agreed with me and something to the effect that if the adopted child is above 5 years of age it takes time to adjust to new parents. And then tried to point out to my readers that they needed to talk to professionals like yourself.

    Try reading the post first, then read a few more posts and understand that we are adoptees who’ve actually lived being adopted. I’ve felt what it is like to be adopted at the many stages of this adopted life. If you won’t actually read the post – the takeaway is this. My advice in this post is to be aware and knowledgeable about the different cognitive developmental stages every child goes through, learn from the book of what feelings may come up at each stage, so if adoption feelings are present, they recognise it, understand the basics – so they can walk through it with their child, instead of the child walking through it alone.

    Your advice that it will take awhile for a later adopted child to adjust to being adopted on it’s face is valid, but has nothing to do with the topic, and, a once and done is not part of any adoptees experience that I personally know.

    You have a good day now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • beth62

      February 8, 2017 at 2:13 pm

      Thank You TAO, for allowing me to avoid…all that.


  7. beth62

    February 8, 2017 at 2:53 pm

    “If you don’t, and it does include adoption feelings, you won’t be there to walk through it with your child, they will do it alone.”

    That hits home hard.
    And that is the not-so-simple truth so many of us have attempted to live with. I know, knew, many that just weren’t able to do it alone and eventually just gave up trying. Most were taken from their family at birth.

    I know even more who weren’t able to do it so well alone, but kept trying, like me. I’m happy that I/we kept trying, alone, and with other Adoptees working on their own too, regardless of many of the common things most Adoption professionals and Adopted parents had/have to say about it.

    I will report that when doing this alone, while feeling alone, knowing you are alone, can lead to a very independant person who becomes accustomed to “alone”. Many I know have remained in “alone” far past middle age. My advice – I’d avoid that if possible, it ain’t always so pretty 🙂


    • TAO

      February 8, 2017 at 3:17 pm

      I wonder if that plays into whether or not you can talk about your feelings as an adult. I struggle. Is it those experiences, personality, both?


      • beth62

        February 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

        I dunno. It’s certainly possible that it could be both, or either. When becoming accustomed to handling many of your deepest thoughts and feelings alone, it may just become a habit that is really hard to break. I do know the want or need of “alone” leaches in all sorts of directions.. trust being a big area that is very compromised by “alone”.


      • beth62

        February 8, 2017 at 4:29 pm

        I struggle too.


  8. beth62

    February 8, 2017 at 5:44 pm

    “It is perfectly natural that an adopted child would act like biological children do at the different childhood cognitive stages, because we are biological children.”

    This might not be a typical response or thought line of an Adoptee to this comment/idea of adopted children being biological children too and the same as…
    But I have heard from many the following thoughts, probably have thought it myself at one time in one way or another – it may be the Pinnochio not a real boy thing…but I’ve heard many say something like this:
    I am adopted, I am the same as my parents biological children, I am not biological, I am better than biological, I am different, I am special – yeah, I AM DIFFERENT than everyone.

    Guessing the hatched from an egg stuff might grow from here, alien ship left me here, could have the same parents as superman, maybe I really do have super powers, I’m not like either (adopted or bio)

    What I know about it – if you want to believe you are invincible and connected to nothing on your planet, perfectly free, disconnected from all so it’s not possible to harm others with your actions, words, ideas, feelings, “differentness, aloneness” – this is a perfect way to think to make that happen… err make it seem to happen LOL

    I think I hooked on that alone way of functioning. I’ve struggled with it in dangerous ways. It does have it’s perks. Like chocolate, a little is good, but you can’t live well on chocolate for very long.


    • TAO

      February 8, 2017 at 6:42 pm

      I think many of us struggled with the alone thing in definitely not safe ways, especially as teens…

      It always irks me when they say it’s normal, biological children do it too…


      • beth62

        February 10, 2017 at 1:30 pm

        Irks me too. Sometimes the thought line can go in this direction when hearing
        “biological children do it too”
        oh yeah, that’s right, I’m not biological, different.
        I’m adopted, different and similar, but what reason would a biological person have to cause them to think/act like an adopted person? I learned biological was different, by comparison, adoptees are constantly compared to biologicals, in all sorts of ways. Heard and overheard that line many, many times. Pretty sure I did it to myself too. Always comparing how I was to how I was “supposed” to be… Me, I get pissed, defiant and so frustrated with that crap I turn away from the BS and return to “alone” where it’s sane 🙂 I can recognize it now. I hide in my work. I still yearn for the wilderness, feel so comfortable when there is no human within dozens or hundreds of miles around. And at times I know I thought – haha, compare me now suckers :}
        Now when I get out there, I start thinking about the several severe hermit adoptees I know, and run back to my house asap. Glad I know these guys LOL they saved me by just be being. No way do I want to be that alone, ever.

        Liked by 2 people

  9. Davidlewis

    March 7, 2017 at 10:47 am

    Nobody like comparison whether its between biological kids or between adopted one. Infact nobody like comparison. Every kid have their own way of growing, thinking etc. We can do take advice in upbringing the kids. But it does not mean that advice which was applicable on your friend’s kid, will also work on your kids.


    • TAO

      March 7, 2017 at 4:04 pm

      David L – I’ve approved this one comment.

      I can’t help but wonder if you’re being deliberately obtuse, didn’t actually read the post, or you just don’t know about the seven core issues an adoptee may face throughout their life. Perhaps it’s the latter which is worrisome seeing as you work for an adoption agency and should know this.

      Here is a link to the seven core issues an adoptee may face at one or many points in life.

      The book in the post above that I recommend adoptive parents own, refer to as needed, explains the different cognitive stages a child goes through and which of the seven core issues may ALSO be at play. It is up to the adoptive parent to do their research, gain the knowledge they need to know so that if it is adoption related, they walk with the child through it, rather than, the child trying to deal with it alone.

      Being adopted isn’t all sunshine and roses, despite some people in adoption trying desperately to pretend otherwise.



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