The moment of adoption is a joyous occasion for parents who have prepared their hearts and homes to welcome and love a child. For the child, however, that moment is a transition—a colossal change that can invoke a range of emotions.
Even children who are adopted at birth subconsciously feel a shift as they begin hearing unfamiliar sounds and voices and sense emotions that are different from those experienced in utero.
Regardless of the point in time a child is adopted, trauma of some type always precedes the adoption, and the level and type of trauma experienced by the adopted child varies widely.
This week on my Emotions Mentor Podcast, I spoke with family trauma specialist and counselor Kimberly Erickson-Nichols about the changes the child experiences and what adoptive parents can do to help the adopted child heal and process the emotions that come along with adoption—whether those emotions are immediate or surface years after the adoption.
Here are some great takeaways from our conversation that adoptive parents can use as a starting point on this important healing journey:
1. Recognize that the adopted child sees this process from a completely different perspective than the parent. It is a forced change which, in the child’s still-developing brain, is full of uncertainty and fear. Children react to fears in different ways.
Some children become angry, others act out or withdraw completely, some will experience depression or anxiety. While troubling, these emotions are usually a natural reaction to trauma. And because the brain is still developing and capable of change, there is hope that these feelings can be quelled and replaced with confidence, joy, and empathy.
2. The adoptive parent’s role is not to immediately fix these negative feelings (that would be impossible), but, rather, to provide an environment for the child to work through these emotions.
As such, parents will do best to focus on the present rather than looking to the future with set expectations or obsessing over the past. The goal is not to fix the child but to provide a space where the child can step from survival mode to growth mode.
3. The adoptive child’s emotions can potentially influence the emotions of everyone in the family. Self-care can help the adoptive parent face these challenges with more strength and a clearer mind. Individual care and attention to other children in the family can help ease their worried minds and reinforce how much they are loved.
4.This process doesn’t need to be done alone. Parents and children can benefit greatly from counseling. Seek out a licensed professional to guide you through this journey.
5. A holistic approach to the situation can help families to heal and better cope during periods of tough transitions and growing pains.
6. An ideal holistic approach can be found in harnessing the natural power of essential oils. Aromatic use of oils, for example, can create an immediate shift in a child’s mood. Topical application can often calm a child’s neurophysiological state when he or she is hyper-aroused and on alert mode all the time. Many oils can promote rest and recovery whether used topically or aromatically.
Essential Oil Tips
Encourage rest, which will leave everyone better able to face challenges and stressors, by diffusing lavender or ylang-ylang in a young child’s room at night. For older children and adults, apply lavender to the bottoms of the feet before bedtime in addition to diffusing the oil.
Foster a cheerful mood in the home by diffusing any number of citrus oils in combination with various spicy or woodsy oils. Some great blends to try:
4 drops wild orange with 3 drops frankincense
3 drops each lemon, wild orange, and grapefruit
3 drops wild orange, 3 drops lemon, 2 drops clove, and 1 drop ginger
3 drops bergamot, 2 drops lime, and 2 drops arborvitae
Calm tensions by diffusing 2 drops juniper berry, 2 drops grapefruit, and 1 drop Douglas fir
• Use doTerra Balance daily—on the bottoms of the feet each morning and rubbed on the wrists throughout the day.
• Roll doTerrra Motivate Touch over the back of the neck and on the temples throughout the day.
PS. To learn more about healing your family and understanding family patterns, check out our book Healing Family History
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