Helping Adoptees Gain A Sense of Personal Power

By now you understand the sense of helplessness many adoptees feel when they think about their deepest wound: being separated, partially or permanently, from the people who made them. In order to help your child heal from this wound, you need to continually teach her to own her personal power and take healthy control of her own life. Your call at this particular junction in her development will be much like the eagle as she teaches her young to fly.

Eagles build their nests high in the mountains or high up in a tree. They take sticks and branches to form their nest and then line it with softer things for their young. As the eaglets grow, the mother tears away the soft things that once made them comfortable. In the midst of their complaining, she flutters over them and their attention is drawn away from the painful sticks to a language in her wings. As she spreads her wings abroad, they marvel at her strength.

When they are ready to learn to fly, she stands on the edge of the nest and lays her wing down so that the eaglets can climb on. She then takes them up one at a time. They ride on her wings for a while, feeling safe and secure, and then, without notice, she gives a sudden lurch and the eaglet rolls over, beating his wings in the air as he tumbles toward the ground.

The mother keeps a close eye on the eaglet, and when she sees that her baby is at the point of  desperation, she shoots downward with the accuracy of a bullet and catches it on her wing. The process is repeated until the eaglet learns to fly.

Eurasian Eagle Owl - Bubo bubo (6 weeks)

Wasn’t it the same for you when you readied your nest for your adopted child? Even though your nest was built with the sticks and thorns of loss, you did whatever possible to make your home as welcoming and comfortable as possible. You got up in the middle of the night, changed diapers, warmed bottles, soothed nightmares, and delighted over her day and night. When you saw that she felt secure with you and within your nest, you began removing some of the soft things from the nest. “You were adopted.” “No, you didn’t grow in mommy’s tummy.” “Yes, birth mommy is gone.”

In the midst of her grieving, you fluttered over her and she began to learn of your strength and your ability to protect. “I am here for you.” “I will never abandon you.” “You are safe with me.”

Now you stretch out your wing and she climbs on. Through the skies you soar together. Higher. Higher. Higher. As you soar, a desire grows within her to develop her own sense of power. “I want to learn how to fly like Mommy.”

When you are sure she has seen empowerment modeled by you, you give a sudden lurch and let her try her wings. Perhaps it’s going to preschool, perhaps a visit with a neighbor. As you tip her off your back, the chaotic, painful feelings from the past flood her soul. The abandonment. The loneliness. The panic. She flutters her wings furiously and makes a valiant attempt at trying to fly with a sense of personal power like you do. When she is about at wits end, you swoop down and carry her once again and she rests in your strength.

In time, your child learns how to gain her own sense of personal power. “I am no longer a victim!” “I have choices!” “I can feel secure in spite of the losses of the past.” “I can feel safe even when I am away from those who love me.” “I can fly!”

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© Copyright, 1999 Random House. Excerpt from Chapter Fourteen of Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew. Printed with permission of publisher.

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