How Adopted and Foster Kids May Be Triggered Upon Returning to School

Parents, this is a learning curve not only for your child, but also for you.

Standing before you, as school begins anew for your child, you have the privilege of learning to reflect the strong emotions of your child and then teach him how to navigate them.

Even if your child is doing extremely well and you send him/her off with a smiling face,  there are always triggers that parents and teachers must keep in mind for the first day of school.


Adoptees have a hard time entering new places.

It is wise for parents and teachers to be aware of this unspoken reality when anticipating a new school year.

Remember our back story and you will gain understanding. This understanding pertains to babies, young kids, teens, adults, and even old ladies.

Many of us were whisked away after birth. Others were removed from existing families by social services and placed (oftentimes, multiples placements) into a foster family.

Here is how we may feel entering a new place:

  • Alarmed, like hearing the blast of the smoke alarm when sound asleep
  • Fear, like want to run and bolt the other way from smiling faces and open doors
  •  Traumatized, like our hearts racing out of our chests while our palms sweat
  • Unworthy, our mouths are dry, like cotton.
  • Withdrawal, like the only safe place is found in withdrawing and welcoming shut-down.
  • Quiet, like going to our personal “safe place” inwardly.
  • Broken-hearted, like knowing others want us to succeed and faking a smile

Parents, you must accept the facts that:

  • You are powerless to change the repercussions of your child’s past
  • You ARE responsible to teach your child how to recognize the unsafe feelings and to regulate his own feelings. We will talk more about this at the end of this post.


Take a step backward to adoption day. No matter how old the child, it is trauma city. The person we were the most intimately related to–our first moms–suddenly disappeared after birth, or else if later in life, she was taken away from us by the police, drugs, or death.

Let me assure you that we still love our first mommas.  She is our DNA. Her womb was our soft place. Her face was what we longed to see for nine months. And, we love her even if she has fried us as babies in a skillet. Our arms will always reach for her.

Moms and Dads through adoption, you are just as important. I believe in God’s sovereign plan for each person’s life. It is no mistake your child was born and it is no mistake that you are this child’s parents.

However, when we come to you, you are strangers…no matter how much you love us.

What comes to mind immediately is the popular advertisement of a grandparent with shingles welcoming a grandchild. Instead of the grand parent’s face, technology imposes the face of a fox.

For the non-adopted person to get a feel for what this dynamic, imagine a bride and groom on the night of their honeymoon. They fall asleep in one another’s arms, but upon awakening, they are shocked to see that a stranger is in bed with them instead of the spouse.

Accept the sovereignty of God here, parents. God can and will do anything to bring glory to Himself and good to His children.


When child is demonstrating either melt-down emotions or “melt-in” emotions, don’t run from them. Embrace them as an opportunity to teach your child how to deal with his painful past and move and grow into his future.

Here’s how to teach the basics to your child:

  1. Parent identifies emotional present….you’re feeling angry…..and it’s okay
  2. Assurance of parental presence: I want you to know that I am right here with you.
  3. Remind child of past trauma: Remember that you’ve been through a lot of hard stuff.
  4. Parent gives verbal reminder of the past and present. That kind of stuff isn’t happening now, though. 
  5. Parent reiterates safety: Now you are here with me and I will keep you safe.


Connecting with Your Incredible Adopted Child

Dear friends,

We adoptees look through glasses that are cracked by trauma and loss and oftentimes, it’s so hard to see. We need you as our journey mate. Here are some tips about entering the delicate world of your adopted kids:


  1. Acknowledge the reality of adoption from day one (with newborns, foster kids, adoptees). Talk realities!
  2. Initiate conversations about the child’s pre-adoption perceptions.
  3. Validate the adoptee’s identity by never speaking ill of the birth family. Show respect to the role of the parent but not the performance.
  4. Create a safe, non-judgmental place where the adoptee can freely express any thought or emotion. “I hate her.”
  5. Celebrate the differences between the adoptive and birth families that you see in your child.
  6. Be sensitive to the child’s unspoken need for a sense of connection to his past. A photo?
  7. Respect the adoptee’s ned to consider searching for birth relatives, or in an open adoption, for a “date” with birth mom or dad.
  8. Be emotionally present.
  9. Become an expert in helping your child learn how to regulate emotions. Tell her you want to stay and connect with her when she’s hurting.
  10. Learn how to play!


  1. Avoid the topic of adoption as long as possible. Hope that the child never asks about his/her past.
  2. Deny any differences between the adoptee and adoptive family. Tell child she fits right in because she looks like you.
  3. Correct any expression of uncomfortable emotions about adoption by “accentuating the positive.” Count your blessings. Be thankful.
  4. Pretend the adoptee’s life began on adoption day. Don’t mention the child’s birth or birth family.
  5. Enforce the unspoken “no talk rule” through various expressions of body language. A quivering lip or a shaky voice speak volumes. Staring with head down also effective.
  6. Take offense if the child uses words like “real parents.” Interpret them as a slam.
  7. Foster silent shame about the adoptee’s need to consider searching for the birth family. Sarcasm works great. Why not let sleeping dogs lie? Let bygones be bygones.
  8. Just pretend you’re really listening to child. “Lights on, but nobody home.”
  9. Avoid “doing your own emotional and spiritual healing work.” Don’t worry…it’s not about you. Really?
  10. Send your child away to room during temper tantrums.

Love to all as you parent those incredible kids!

Contact me anytime through this post.



Excerpt from Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew: Purchase here: Http:// 


The Real Reason Adoptees Push Themselves

I could just hear Bob saying, “You didn’t have to do that, Sherrie. Such a familiar phrase.

He said it when:

  • I accompanied a fellow adoptee up the steps of the Indiana Capitol building when I was just 10 days out of knee replacement surgery.
  • I invited neighbors in for wine and cheese on the day I got home from my second knee replacement.

You, see, I love to give, give, give.

I give because I want others to feel special or to help lift a heavy burden from their shoulders.

That’s my nature.


I also overextend, go the extra mile, and do what my heart tells me.

Just about every fellow adoptee I know has similar desires. My friend, Jody, and I laughed at ourselves one evening long ago when we gathered for a meeting. We were the only ones that brought a gift and we wondered at the time if that trait is characteristic of many adoptees.

Why is it that we are such givers? Why do we over-extend ourselves? Why do we work like dogs?

No matter what the cost, be it rain or shine, by golly, we will be there. We are as faithful as the day is long.

You Didn’t Have to Do That

Yesterday, I was reminded of Bob’s admonition.

While preparing for a meeting at our home, I baked homemade blueberry muffins, washed and used my mom’s china tea cups, picked fresh flowers from the garden, and served salami, cheese, and crackers because the meeting went longer than expected.

The dear women who attended didn’t care if we sipped coffee out of mom’s china tea cups.  They didn’t care if the muffins were homemade. They were simply there to start planning a community outreach.

But, I cared! Big time.

Adoptees Overdoing

Yes, most adoptees love to give and help meet the needs of others. But, when do they draw the line? When do they take care of themselves?
















Aha! I think we’re getting down to some issues.

Addictive Thinking

First, I get an absolute “high” when I use mom’s tea cups or bake homemade muffins. It is my way of saying, “You are special.”

The high?

That can be characteristic of addictive thinking.

Second, why am I exhausted after over giving? Why am I spent? Isn’t that what God calls us to do and be? To love others more than we love ourselves.

No…God says to love others as we love ourselves.

Because I care more about the needs of others than I do my own. I sacrifice my health for others. I would get zero on a quiz about self care.

But, what if others don’t feel special or know that burdens have lifted?


Honestly, in my exhaustion, I get mad. Really mad.

Over the years of being an over-giver, I have discovered that when I am in need, people don’t serve me coffee in their mom’s china tea cups. They don’t accompany me by post-op hobbling up Capitol steps.  Nor, do they come bringing wine and cheese when I’m a few days out of knee replacement surgery.

They never meet my expectations.

How could others be so unthoughtful?

I expected tit for tat. I thought if I did it for them, then they would certainly do it for me.

That is stinking thinking.

I believe what our hearts are saying, fellow adoptees, is: ” I want to feel special. I am the one that needs help, not only up Capitol steps, but every step of the way. I am the one who wants to have wine and cheese brought to me.

Someday, that will happen.

Jesus is preparing something phenomenal for those that love Him–a wedding banquet in heaven.

And, in my adoptee heart, I believe He’ll be serving coffee… in exquisite china tea cups.

I’ll feel special, not because of the tea cups, but because of the nail-scarred hands that pour the heavenly coffee.

I can’t wait!



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