We live in such an internet driven, open society and yet I was reminded recently by someone inquiring about recycling wine corks (which we haven’t done for years now) that it is nearly impossible to get information off of google once it is there. Sometimes that is good, other times not so much. I said once it is out there – it’s eternal. This story from a kinship guardian reflects some concerns that many caregivers have.
Kinship here (legal guardianship). Not a “traditional” adoption, but this is regarding my 10 year old niece whom I have custody of. Her parents are not in the picture at all. How do I express my concerns to my 10 year old niece regarding her disclosing information to her peers, without shaming her for it ? My niece is VERY open about the fact that she lives with Aunt instead of with her parents. She even includes the “why’s” behind it. Again, I am NOT trying to silence nor shame her. I, however, have some concerns:
1.) Whatever my niece shares now, cannot be “unshared” in the future… for MANY years to come. Children live in the moment. Many of us have made public “mistakes” as young kids, that we now look back and cringe at — whether it’s a bad haircut, odd fashion styles, or an obsession with pink glitter Barbies everything. But those are temporary. Information is permanent. What if my niece changes her mind in the future, and decides that she doesn’t want people knowing who/what/where/when/why??? It’s too late… people already know.
2.) As my niece gets older, she will feel differently about her parents. My niece sees her parents in a positive light now, and seemingly has “no issues” with her kinship placement. However, things change as people get older, and they begin to realize that life isn’t all about rainbows and unicorns. There are things that she’ll need to process down the road.
3.) Other people’s responses. I can’t control nor protect my niece from people who respond in a cruel manner. I worry that my niece isn’t emotionally mature enough to handle various different types of responses — both good AND bad. She is a sensitive child. Also, some people assume very very terrible things about kids who do not live with their parents.
Adoptees were quick to point out – It is her story and she should be able to share it as she chooses. Even if she is 10. Even if she may grow into a more nuanced understanding. There is nothing shameful about a child talking about her life and she should feel that nothing is too much to ask the world to handle with her.
An adoptive parent shared – I struggle with this too. My daughter is not quite 5 and so we are just getting into the stage of other kids asking questions, some of which she has never asked herself because to her it’s just normal to have two moms and two dads. I have to remind myself to trust her to make her own choices, since like one adoptee said, it’s her story. But I also worry about the fact that you can’t “unshare” things you have told people. Her class is working on a project right now about babies and her mom has been helping with some of it, and I was wondering if this is going to lead to more questions and whether or not I ought to be managing that more explicitly… but I think we are going to just keep on keeping on, showing what’s normal for our family.
Though there is this practical consideration – it’s totally reasonable to have periodic, age appropriate talks about boundaries and privacy, but at the end of the day, she needs to lead. She will figure out where she missteps, and what she wants to censor/disclose as she matures.
One adoptee shared her real life experience – I wouldn’t say anything. Just show support if something happens and someone is mean. I think the period of me telling my peers was the most important when it came to how I choose to disclose my adoption. I was able to learn and make the decisions based on other people’s reactions. At no point did I ever feel like information was chasing me or out of control.
Realistically – help her with handling cruel responses. It is not your job to protect her from the real world. It is your job to prepare her and help her handle it. She is going to experience the cruel world one way or the other, let it not be a surprise after a sheltered life,