An adoptee reunion is tough enough without family making things harder. Today’s story –
My daughter will be 18 on March 11th. My aunt adopted her. She had the money and a judge sided with her for custody.
My aunt told her bad things about me. That I was a drug addict for 10 years (became sober in 2014).
The aunt has not allowed me any space in my daughter’s life. But at age 18, she is mature enough to make her own decision about contact with me.
I know my daughter has had some mental health issues. I don’t want to make things worse for her but I do want to reconnect now that I can.
How do I do this well ?
So, there comes this advice from a woman who just finished a clinical rotation at a women’s recovery center and worked on this topic a lot! It was recommended to many of them to have these types of conversations with a family therapist as a 3rd party if possible, or have the child/adolescent have at least a session or so with one following the information. This can help alleviate some of that “she said – she said” type of stress from the conversation. A professional has the empathetic perspective to guide regarding the right things to say.
I understand having a professional can be financially difficult and complicated by COVID. Many therapists are doing TeleHealth appointments now. Please know that there are a lot more affordable options than there previously have been!
If that’s not something that’s possible – just remember that this is confusing for her, and to be gentle with the approach. She will likely be able to tell if anything doesn’t feel genuine because she’ll likely be on high alert in her nervous system expecting a difficult conversation. Be careful not just drag your emotional feelings about your aunt’s behavior into your conversations (I know that will be difficult but it is important). Come from a place of love, positivity, and most importantly, showing her respect will go a long way.
Congratulations on your sobriety, that’s a HUGE accomplishment and I truly hope you’re proud of yourself. Best of luck! Your daughter is lucky to have you!
Someone else had similar advice – I suggest you find a therapist with experience working with adopted teens. Your story has many layers and you may find working with a therapist will help guide you through the coming years. It’s hard to walk the path of reunion alone or alongside others who are struggling. A therapist is trained to guide your journey.
From another adoptee’s own experience – I was back in contact at 17 (almost 18) with my mama. Very much like it has been for your daughter, I was told horrible things about her growing up, some were true, some were not. She was a drug addict as well. When we first met, she wanted to clear her name. She really laid it on thick – how this and that wasn’t true, and this excuse and that excuse. The entire time, this made me very uncomfortable and nervous. I remember just feeling like she was talking to me – not with me. What I wanted was for her apologize, to tell me she loved me, to ask about me, to show interest in me… the main thing I wanted was just to be near her, and feel important to her. My advice, from my adoptee point of view is – just apologize, go by her lead, answer questions honestly but don’t put too much on her at one time. Don’t play the victim card (even if you truly are). Everything doesn’t have to happen in one day. It takes time for separated person to regain trust in one another and build a new relationship. Go slow. Adoptees want the truth but it is also true that we cannot always handle all the weight of the truth at one time… Good luck Mama, you already are taking a great first step in reaching out for guidance, before going forward.
Another woman amplified this message – your actions will show who you are over time to her as she grows a relationship with you. Give her baby steps and gentle love – without a ton of defending yourself, or defaming auntie. You can only prove yourself with time and character!! Invest in her and listen to her. You got this, momma.