Published in 1999, Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge has just reached its twentieth anniversary. When one searches for “Adoption Books,” this book is commonly highlighted by search engines, and there’s a good reason for it. Eldridge’s book showers readers with crucial information about the adoptee perspective while also educating adoptive parents. As an adoptee herself, Eldridge uses her unique perspective to educate her adopted readers on how they can process and heal from the trauma of their adoption while also gently guiding adoptive parents on how to better communicate with their children about their adoptions.
The book is broken into two parts: Part One: Adoption Through the Eyes of a Child, and Part Two: Twenty Things Your Adopted Child Wants You To Know. Since the second part is a lot longer than the first part, and contains a plethora of important knowledge, I’ve decided to split my book review into two parts. The first part of my review will tackle Part One of the book, and chapters 3 – 10 of Part Two of the book. I’ll finish reviewing the book in another book review post with chapters 11 – 20 at a different time.
Part One of Eldridge’s book focuses on the topic of loss. Adoptees, even the ones who were adopted at birth, have faced a major loss in their lives. They’ve lost their biological family, a major connection that many people have never had to deal with. Eldridge writes that “the very act of adoption is built upon loss,” and, as an adoptee she understands it in a very personal way. Though many adoptive parents don’t understand the concept of biological loss, or don’t understand why loss plays a major role in the lives of adoptees, Eldridge reminds parents that “to deny adoption loss is to deny the emotional reality of everyone involved.” In order for both adoptees and birth parents to have healthy discussions about adoption, everyone needs to understand that when a child is unable to stay with their biological family, loss is the outcome. As Part One comes to a close, Eldridge cautions parents that in order to help their child heal from their losses they will need to communicate in an open and honest way. By working through their own feelings around adoption, adoptive parents can support their children and allow everyone to heal by intentional and open communication.
Part Two then delves into different ways that adoptees process their loss, and how adoptive parents can assist their children in healing from it. The chapter titles from this section are…
3. I Suffered a Profound Loss Before I Was Adopted. You Are Not Responsible
4. “I Need to Be Taught That I Have Special Needs Arising From Adoption Loss, of Which I Need Not Be Ashamed.”
5. “If I Don’t Grieve My Loss, My Ability to Receive Love From You and Others Will Be Hindered.”
6. “My Unresolved Grieve May Surface in Anger Toward You.”
7. “I Need Your Help in Grieving My Loss. Teach Me How to Get in Touch With My Feelings About My Adoption and Then Validate Them.”
8. “Just Because I Don’t Talk About My Birth Family Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Think About Them.”
9. “I Want You to Take the Initiative in Opening Conversations About My Birth Family.”
10. “I Need to Know the Truth About My Conception, Birth, and Family History, No Matter How Painful the Details May Be.”
Since there are many chapters in this book, and each section has useful knowledge, I’ll be highlighting what I found most useful to me as a transracial adoptee. By writing a few sentences about some of the chapters that I found the most profound and educating, I hope to generate more interest in Eldridge’s book and give my readers a better understanding of how I’m and processing my adoption. Hopefully, this will provide more helpful details about the book and its contents to all of you.
One of the chapters that I re-read many times was Chapter Three. It reaffirms Eldridge’s point about loss that she put forward in Part One. In order to help children process loss, parents need to affirm that loss plays a major role in one’s adoption, and they need to be active and intentional in helping the adoptee process it. For me, this was a new idea. I’d never been told that as an adoptee I had been affected by loss, and that it was acceptable for me to mourn it. Learning about loss and how adoptees can acknowledge it was freeing for me.
Similarly in Chapter Four, I learned that as an adoptee marked by loss, I had “special needs.” My status as an adoptee made gave me a different family structure than others and, because of this my emotional needs are different too. Eldridge gives her readers a detailed list of some of the emotional, educational, relational, spiritual, parental, and validation needs that adoptees have. Two that were on the list, “I need friendships with other adoptees,” and “I need validation of my dual heritage (biological and adoptive),” were important special needs that I’d wanted acknowledged growing up but didn’t realize were essential to my wellbeing. Since many components tie into the special needs that adoptive children have, adoptive parents need to first acknowledge that adopted children have special emotional needs, and then, be consistent in addressing issues around those special needs and adoption. Adoptive parents need to make sure that adoptive children feel secure and emotionally well-cared for, and Eldridge reaffirms this in each chapter.
In Chapter Five, Eldridge gives her readers information on why grieving is so important. She reminds adoptive parents that “grieving is necessary, for grieving is a natural response to loss.” By helping an adoptive child grieve, adoptive parents help their children grow into healthier individuals through mourning. Chapter Six focuses on the outcome if one does not grieve – anger. Adoptees often times unconsciously feel that “whenever there is a lack of respect… the message is given: Your worth is none of my concern.” By avoiding talking about grief, adoption, and loss, parents are pushing their adoptive children towards anger instead of giving their children age-appropriate tools to process their loss. In each chapter, Eldridge launches in-depth discussions on different grieving techniques, talking points, and lessons that parents can utilize to help their adopted children. She acknowledges that it’s difficult to understand the unique perspective that an adoptive child has (unless the parent is an adoptee as well), but notes that continuous effort to help ones child is much better than inaction due to fear.
Though there are several other chapters to cover in the second part of book, I found chapters 3 – 6 to be the most relevant to me. As an adult adoptee, I’m now teaching myself how to grieve my loss of my biological family and am constantly reassuring myself that it’s acceptable to do so. I admit that I am angry. My adoptive family is very conflict-shy, and does not communicate with each other well. Adoption was a topic that was avoided, and when brought up, was only talked about in a way that glorified my parent’s adoption of my siblings and myself. As I continue to read the rest of Eldridge’s book, I’d encourage you all to read this book as well. There are so many lessons that adoptive parents and adoptees can learn from and I believe that it’s wonderful to learn more about how one can grow and flourish as an adoptee.
Until next time,
5 responses to “Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew – Sherrie Eldridge / Part 1”
Thanks for writing this review, I’m going to have to check this out! Always curious as to what kind of literature is out there that gives voice to the adoptees.
[…] Parents Knew. I’ve already reviewed Part One and Part Two, Chapters 3 – 10 in another review here. Today I’ll share my thoughts on the last chapters of Part Two, and once again, highlight […]
Thanks so much for writing this wonderful post. I am honored, sweet fellow adoptee.
As an adoptive mother I have found Sherrie’s book instrumental in helping me as a parent over the years. “Twenty things” was an adoptee viewpoint to guide me. Good luck always Keturah.
Nice read Keturah. I will have to read the book now. Another consideration is that adoptive parents have also suffered the loss of biological children they never had. The concept of loss is something both children and parents can understand and share to help each other.