Book Review

Book Review: 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

This is a really hard book to read, especially with an infant lying in your lap or in the next room. It’s not hard because I disagree (or even want to disagree) with Mrs. Eldridge. It’s because Little Man is my son and I hate to think that he will experience any pain ever in his life.

I had heard mixed reviews about this book before I read it, but since reading the companion book for adoptive parents, I decided to read this book. Mrs. Eldridge is an adult adoptee and adoptive grandparent. I’m not sure if she’s an adoptive parent, too, but she has a heart for adoption and adoptees.

This book presents and honest assessment of the possible struggles adoptees might face. She is very clear that not all adoptees will experience all of these struggles, but it’s a good bet that at one time or another, they will ask the questions presented in this book. And that’s why it was hard for me to read; I shudder to think that Little Man has already experienced huge pain in his little young life. However, Mrs. Eldridge is quick to point out that adoptive parents shouldn’t feel guilty or responsible for the pain their child may have experienced – it’s part of the losses that surround adoption.

Basically this book encourages wide open communication with your adopted child. I can’t believe there was even a time when adoptive parents were told to ignore adoption, not share with their child and change the subject should questions arise (or worse yet, lie!). And while there are still closed adoptions, for whatever reason, in this day and age of adoption reform, we, as adoptive parents, have the responsibility to be open and honest with our children.

This book covers the following topics, from the adoptee’s perspective: loss of birth family, grieving loss, attachment & separation issues, birthdays (totally changed my opinion on how we’ll celebrate LM’s birthdays!), opening communication between parents & children, fear of being “given away” again, abandonment issues, celebrating differences (cultural, phyiscal, talents, tastes, etc.), and searching for birth family.

This is an excellent book. I got it from the library, and someone had underlines huge parts of it (leading me to wonder…are they experiencing these things or wanting to help their child?) which was distracting. But it’s on my list of books to own when funds are available!

It is hard to read. Again…not because I want to disagree that these things can/may happen to Little Man, but because like any parent, I want to totally shield my son from any pain in his life. This book pointed out that I cannot do that, but I can learn to help him cope with pain in a positive and healthy way. If you’ve not read this book, you should.

Having said all that, this is probably the last adoption book for me for a while (although I am reading “Talking to Young Children about Adoption” and it’s also good). I have read a few of these books now, and every time Little Man cries, I torture myself with thoughts that he’s crying because he misses his birth mother, he’s crying because he doesn’t know me, etc. etc. Generally he’s crying because he’s wet or hungry!! And in order to be focused on him and his needs, I need to not be thinking such self-centered thoughts. Besides, if he is crying because he misses S, then I need to acknowledge that with him and let him cry and grieve – according to Eldridge, it’s the healthiest thing to do.

Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew
Sherry Eldridge
New York: Dell Publishing (Random House), 1999

6 thoughts on “Book Review: 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew

  1. I'm glad you are reading the tough books..I know it is probably very difficult, but believe me..your adopted child will thank you later for being as educated and supportive as you can be.

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  2. My adoption agency gives “Twenty Things…” to their domestic infant adoption families at finalization. I agree that it is a tough read, but very good information to have.

    I enjoyed reading “Talking…” a few years ago, and it inspired me to write down my daughter's conversations with me about adoption.

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  3. You said, “Having said all that, this is probably the last adoption book for me for a while…” and that stood out to me because I also reached that point. I'm a reader, always have been…but I read several hard-to-read books (including this one and I wholeheartedly agree with your review!) when C. was a young infant and there definitely came a time when I just needed to take a break and let it all settle for a while.

    As a side note, the other really difficult but really good one I read was, “Black Baby, White Hands.” You might consider adding it to your list if you haven't already, once your reading break is over.

    There is so much information out there, it's hard to know what to read and what to skip. I'm glad you're doing these reviews, they really help!

    Melba

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  4. I read it too, long before Boy's advent. While I'll agree that it's eye opening and gives certain insight, it was the only book I've ever possessed where I wanted to throw it across the room. I resented the guilt trip that threaded through every chapter.

    …aaaand I'll stop right there. I've managed to not do a tear-down blog entry on said book. I still am tempted from time to time, but where am I going to find the hours required to do it justice? 😉

    –A

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  5. I too am glad you're reading some of the hard books. And, I'm also glad you're taking a break if that's needed. Adopted kids need their parents to be able to affirm that they've lost something, and they need to be able to process dome of the deeper feelings associated with adoption without fear of hurting/offending their parents. Reading some of the hard things can help you be in a place where you can provide that space for your child.

    But, adopted kids also need our parents to just be our parents.

    Yeah, we're crazy like that. ; )

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