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Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew — A Book Review

November 18, 2014

Following is a book review on Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Eldridge; article written by Sarah Pyle. We offer this and several other adoption books in our new Lending Library.

As my husband, Nate, and I anticipate adopting our child, we are learning as much as we can about what it means to be adoptive parents. We are acutely aware that as adopted children grow, they face unique challenges directly related to their adoption experience. 

To care with excellence for their children, adoptive parents would do well to understand these challenges in order to best help them process their experience. Conversations with adoptees, talking with counselors, and reading books are all ways parents can prepare.

In Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, Sherrie Eldridge illuminates the distinct issues often hidden or buried in adoptees’ lives. This unique adoption book presents information in a guidebook style, and as the author states best in its conclusion, helps adoptive parents learn how to “access the world of your child, become sensitive to his unspoken needs, and then validate his emotional reality.”

Following an informative introduction, the book has twenty short chapters. Each chapter introduces one of the complex emotional issues parents should understand about their adopted child. Chapters 3-7 focus on loss and grief issues, chapters 8-11 on birthfamily and birth detail issues, and chapters 12-22 on specific needs and fears. The chapters I found particularly helpful were those about birthdays, the fear of abandonment, and privacy in adoption—all issues I had not considered at length.

What I appreciate about Eldridge’s approach is that she does not present these challenges as “problems,” as other similar adoption literature may, but as needs that result from unresolved loss and grief and the trauma that precedes all adoptions. This idea of unresolved grief is reiterated throughout the book, as it seems to impact the majority of the needs outlined. But, it is also clear that complete healing is very possible when parents fully understand how to accept and address the profound loss all adopted children experience. She gives suggestions for how to open the lines of communication in the home and offers ways to help the child grieve the loss so he or she is able to fully receive love in the future.

Additionally, and also so important in my opinion, is that Eldridge is sensitive to the presence of shame in the adoptive relationship. She repeatedly reminds readers that shame is neither helpful nor necessary. As an alternative, Eldridge coaches parents how to respond in a healthy way to each issue they might face.

Eldridge offers courageous approaches for this healthy and shame-free response early on in the book and returns to them often. The approaches include acknowledging the reality of adoption from an early age, using adoption language, initiating conversations with your child, validating the special challenges adoption presents in a family, and providing a nonjudgmental and safe environment to explore these issues. Furthermore, she suggests celebrating differences and being sensitive to the child’s biological past, all while paying attention to the unspoken needs of the child.

As an adoptee herself, Eldridge includes her own personal experiences and disclosures, but also the stories of many other adoptees and adoptive parents, which helps the reader to effectively enter into the inner feelings that lie beneath the needs presented.

I highly recommend this book; it is a resource I know I will return to frequently as our adopted son or daughter grows. It is immensely beneficial to parents who want to address the needs of their adopted child at the deepest level—at the heart

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