In honor of May being National Foster Care Month, Strengthening Families, Changing Lives is running a special series designed to give a voice to the many different perspectives of foster care and adoption. This series will feature guest posts by people with widely varying experiences.
by Emma Mildon
Peek-a-boo, a game many of us grew up with as children. You see your parent, they hide, and they come back. But what if they don’t come back? This blog post discusses the ‘peek-a-boo affect,’ and the abandonment issues many foster and adopted children face throughout their life.
I was adopted, and experienced a reluctance to let anyone get too close to me. By my mid-twenties, I was self-sabotaging a lot of my intimate relationships; not just testing my adoptive family (checking they were not going to leave), but also my girlfriends and boyfriends. I had this underlying fear that I was going to be left behind . . . and so, often cut people from my life before they had a chance to leave me.
The ‘peek-a-boo affect’ is common in children who have experienced adoption, foster care, or even divorce. A fear from childhood becomes ingrained in our behavior and set into our mind as a constant worry, and becomes part of us as we grow up into adulthood. It is the constant fear of being left; left out, left behind, excluded, and abandoned.
So how do you work with children to help them develop confidence in facing their abandonment issues, and develop skills and exercises to change their frame of thought? It is not rocket science – it is actually cartoons! It is as simple as Spiderman and Harry Potter, fictional characters who have been inspiring children through comics and books and film for years. And they were inspiring because they came from abandonment – orphaned, fostered, adopted. Cartoon heroes who transformed their lives from abandoned to amazing. The kids who wanted to change their circumstances, make the world a better place, make others feel safe, loved, protected – all the things that they had missed in their childhood and relationships.
Take, for example these characters:
- Harry Potter was orphaned. His parents were killed by evil wizard Lord Voldemort.
- Batman (Bruce Wayne) and Robin (Dick Grayson) – their parents’ murders turned them to fighting crime.
- Mowgli of The Jungle Book was lost by his parents and raised by wolves.
- Superman was sent to Earth without his parents from his doomed home planet.
- Tarzan was raised by apes after the deaths of his parents.
- In Nemo, Nemo’s mother dies, leaving him in a single parent family.
- Cinderella was orphaned and left to live with her step-family.
- Spiderman was orphaned and brought up by his grandparents.
- Wolverine was abandoned by parents for being a mutant.
- Snow White was orphaned by the death of her father the King.
- James Bond was orphaned by the death of both of his parents, who were killed in an accident.
Some Tips for Parents
- EDUCATE – Books! Growing up I was actually told I was adopted through a children’s picture book titled “Why Was I Adopted.” (Editor’s note: For kids in foster care, the book “Maybe Days” is a good option.) Books help children to understand why, and help them recognize the different start to their life, and why they are special. Also, I always made the connection between my favorite super heroes and what I had in common with them!
- COMMUNICATE – Openness – children are curious. I would constantly ask my adoptive mother questions about adoption. Try not to take curious questions personally, and try to remain open and honest. Your children will appreciate it when they are older.
- LOVE – Accept your child’s journey through adoption. And never fear about your relationship with them – you are raising them, you will always be thought of as their mother or father even if you are not blood. Your relationship with them is sacred.
- INSPIRE – you are an inspiration for adopting or fostering a child. You gave a child love, hope, and a second chance! Inspire others to do the same, there are so many children in this world with no home. Everyone deserves the presence of love in their life.
Tips for Foster and Adopted Kids
- KNOW – Know that you are special. You were chosen by your new parents, not unwanted by your old ones. You are part of a very big family full of successful leaders, innovators, and inventors who also started their life with abandonment.
- INSPIRE – Surround yourself with inspiration. Learn about others who have walked in your shoes and the things that they have achieved. Focus on your goals, dreams and aspirations and know that you can achieve great things!
- GRATITUDE – Thank the people around you who are helping you, loving you and inspiring you. Let them know you appreciate what they do for you. Let them know how they have changed your life.