“They say they understand, but how can someone who wasn’t adopted know what it feels like?”
Sixteen-year-old Lisa’s voice trails off as she explains the many frustrating conversations she’s had with her friends about adoption. The other teens sitting in the room nod their heads in agreement.
“I know, right?” adds Jake, 15. “How can they possibly know what it feels like to miss the mom who gave birth to you or why sometimes birthdays are really hard? Not to mention how uncomfortable it is to hear for the zillionth time, ‘Where were you born?’ because I’m a different race than my [adoptive] parents.”
More nods from the group.
“You guys get it,” laughs Adam. “That’s what’s so cool about this group. We don’t even have to explain ourselves.”
This conversation is one of many that seem to occur each time a group of adopted teens come together for the support group I co-facilitate in my community. In the group, teens can exchange stories and give and get support. Whether they are talking directly about adoption or not, the common thread of a shared experience puts them on a similar playing field and helps them “feel felt.”
Where Do You Belong?
Participants in Teen AdoptCONNECT, our support group, include teens who were adopted transracially and domestically, as well as foster and former foster youth. Bringing together teens with varying stories and experiences allows teens to normalize similar issues on a bigger scale. It also further emphasizes the fact that they are not alone, that they belong to a “tribe.”
AdoptCONNECT is another unique group that invites all adult members of the adoption and foster care community to come together to give and get support. Adult adoptees, adoptive parents, former foster youth, first/birth parents, and waiting parents sit side by side, exchanging stories, fears, challenges, struggles, and wisdom. Members share thoughts and emotions openly and honestly without the worry of hurting someone’s feelings, all while coming to the realization they are not alone.
You’re Not the Only One
Support groups are an essential place to express feelings, give and get support, build lasting connections, and ultimately “feel felt.” The importance of sharing experiences with those who are walking a similar path as you cannot be over emphasized. It is pretty powerful to witness the exchange between an adult adoptee and adoptive parents of an adolescent.
“What did you need?” the parents ask.
The adult adoptee takes a few seconds and tearfully responds, “I needed my parents to realize that I thought about adoption all of the time growing up and that being curious about my biological family wasn’t a threat to them. I wish I could have shared my thoughts with them.”
An adoptive mom cries in relief after hearing another adoptive parent express similar feelings about sometimes not feeling good enough as a parent. “Wow, I thought I was the only one who felt that way.”
Why Support Groups Can Be So Important
My colleague and I started these adoption support groups to serve an unmet need in our community. The groups provide a place for the adoption and foster care community to come together and share stories, ideas, and concerns in a safe environment. Support groups are an essential place to express feelings, give and get support, build lasting connections, and ultimately “feel felt.” The importance of sharing experiences with those who are walking a path similar to yours cannot be overemphasized.
I encourage you to join a group or start a group if you are a member of this community. If you need help with this, please contact me for guidance.
© Copyright 2015 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Lesli Johnson, MFT, Adoption / Foster Care Issues Topic Expert Contributor
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