Gayatri Abraham Interview with Times of India – Ipshita Bhattacharya
For families that are adopting and already have biological children, what are the specifics that have to be kept in mind? How different is it from families only having adopted children?
The specifics that need to be kept in mind, again parenting skills are one and the same in both situations, certain adoption nuances have to be kept in mind, barring that I think bringing up children with the normal challenges and struggles are the same. I would not basket and slot families of adoption differently from the biological route.
- Reasons to opt for adoption, introspection to see if it is arising from a charitable, or a noble deed space, or a social statement, some look at it as an easier option, or is it an option to look at it as another way of forming families. Adoption is not inferior or superior to the biological route. There are couples who come in from medical reasons as well, and that’s okay too. As long as the intention is not parent perspective but if adoption is opted from a child centric approach, then more than half the battle is won.
- Secondly, the age difference between the sibling and the age / category is important and the stage the couples themselves are in – looking at their physical, emotional, and financial resources where they are placed at this point in their lives. Any gaps in resources couples can explore how to find a way to build these resources.
- Comparing the child joining the family to be avoided, the initial period there could be gaps in milestones, finding a way to bridge the gap is important rather than putting the child on a comparison scale. Comparison is not advisable biological or otherwise.
- Thirdly, preparing the child for the addition to the family. Introducing the concept of adoption to the child and preparing adequately and age appropriately is important.
- Settling in challenges may arise, giving space and time for the child to settle in is important.
- Attachment and bonding takes time, the unrealistic expectations of child – parent attachment at an instant may not happen. While caregiving and nurturing ultimately leads to the process, one can keep in mind that the child joining in will have its own attachment style before settling in. This needs time and patience, especially if it’s an older child joining in. Each child is uniquely different so one may see it happening quickly or over a period of time most importantly in any case the attachment and bonding is a journey in parenting, so this can be evolving and changing due to circumstances or events in one’s lifetime. Secure/ insecure attachment is true for all relationships in family systems or in any relationship and this can’t be slotted or pegged due to solely on adoption.
- In any family system with more than one child there could be the normal sibling rivalries and challenges, so not to basket every concern to adoption.
- Also seeking counselling at pre pre-adoptive phase to understand specific nuances in this type of category is helpful. If things are overwhelming in the initial stages, then seek support from counsellors. If opting for an older child to join the family keeping mind on the trauma experiences of the child and seeking support as and when required.
Any particular incident from your experience that you can share (of course without revealing identities) which can highlight the challenges faced, and overcome in these families? Any dos and don’ts.
I can’t think of any one incident as such, though I do know of instances where settling in time varies and this can be mitigated by giving time and seeking help if it is overwhelming for parents.
Do you think that in last 10-15 years, more families are adopting even when they have biological children? Once it was considered as “last resort” for couples who can’t have kids or at the most, single parents. But have things changed and how much? (Figures can be given, can be approx. or it can be without figures)
I would think in the last few years many families are coming forward to adopt and hybrid families are growing, and new family formations are generally on the rise apart from the traditional form which exists, which is heartening. We have had at least about 5 -6 families coming forward for counselling in recent times.
Anything else you want to add which you feel is pertinent.
So, parenting skills are already in place for some of the parents coming from hybrid families, its highlighting and bringing in the awareness of adoption nuances that comes up in the session. Behavioural concerns or trauma events are not unique only to adoption and here again it’s important to discern between age related behavioural concerns in childhood and teens from an adoption perspective, if parents can view from a child centric perspective, then the process is easier.
Adoption is another alternate way to form a family, or a legal process to expand a family, so to be mindful, if parents can view themselves as a parent and the child as a child, rather than coming from I ‘m an adoptive parent or my child is adopted and to avoid the labelling of adoption through their entire parenting journey or experience. Languaging is important in adoption.
Nisha Lobo Interview with Times of India – Ipshita Bhattacharya
At any point, did you compare yourself with siblings who came into the family in a biological manner? I know that your family has multiple kids both adopted and biological, but do share with us your experience.
Nisha Lobo: No, I never did compare myself with my siblings who were biological. The “difference” never never occurred to me. We were nurtured differently according to our gifts and needs and age and NOT how we became a family. We all felt loved.
All children have bouts of irrational anger against at some point while growing up. Did you ever feel a sense of discrimination, as compared to your (bio) siblings? It mayn’t be real but just that, sometimes we feel things which has to do more with our state of mind. Or was it always a natural/organic way for you.
Nisha Lobo: I am not an “angry” person, especially in relation to the fast that i was adopted. I never felt discriminated against and actually felt favored!!!
Based on your experience, do you suggest any kind of counselling/preparation for hybrid families. Do you think the chances of comparison is higher say in families with 2 kids, where one is a heart baby?
a) I personally have not felt the need for any counselling. However, in chatting with my parents, as a general policy, All prospective adoptive parents should be prepared for adoption. The biological children should be informed of the child just as they would have been informed of an impending birth sibling.
b) I really wouldn’t know about comparisons with two kids. We are a family with six children. No absurd comparisons. I am not a “heart baby”. The biological kids in our family are not called uterus babies after all!!
Any other point you feel is relevant or you want to share.
I have a disfiguring genetic condition and I’m also visually impaired. I was raised to believe in myself and in who I am. I blame no one. I have all that i need or want. Happiness is a decision.
Nisha Lobo, In college studying Business
Age : 21
Feeling Wheel – A handy tool to articulate emotions
To start with what is emotional regulation?
“Emotion regulation” is a term generally used to describe a person’s ability to effectively manage and respond to an emotional experience. People unconsciously /consciously use emotion regulation strategies to cope with difficult situations many times throughout each day.
How many emotions do you think humans can experience?
Take a guess?
It is around 34,000. With so many emotions, how can one navigate the turbulent map of feelings without being confused and getting lost in the trail of feelings that the emotion leaves behind. What helps me is the feeling wheel.
The Feeling Wheel can help to develop coping strategies
Through years of studying emotions, American psychologist Dr. Robert Plutchik proposed that there are eight primary emotions that serve as the foundation for all others: joy, sadness, acceptance, disgust, fear, anger, surprise and anticipation. (Pollack, 2016). So while it’s hard to understand all 34,000 distinct emotions, we can learn how to identify the primary emotions and act accordingly.
Assigning feelings to an emotional experience: Starting early can be beneficial to your child
Assigning feelings to an emotional experience may be difficult for some children and adults. To be able to recognize and identify many layers of emotions allows an adult / child to get closer to the thoughts that fuels the emotions. These thoughts are mostly core beliefs about ourselves and the world outside; these can be at a conscious / subconscious stratum. The feeling wheel is an aid to unravel feelings and label it appropriately. By doing so there is clarity between a thought and a fact, and when a thought is no longer a fact, the feeling of threat is lessened and then consciously choose how to respond to situations.
Feeling wheel and how it works
- Helps to identify what triggers big feelings in children/adults.
- How the body responds and becoming aware of the physiological response/reaction
- What can it do in the here and now; to mitigate and regulate emotions and feelings and distinguish between a thought and fact.
Tips to use the feeling wheel for children and adults
Looking at the middle of the wheel you will see the six basic emotions, which are primary emotions. The primary emotions is the first emotional experience to a situation. For example if the primary emotion is ‘mad’ then the secondary emotion may be ‘hurt’. The tertiary emotions will be more specific and give an explanation of the original mad emotion.
So using the feeling wheel it may translate as;
I feel mad, then I feel hurt, and as a result I feel furious
Primary emotion ( mad) → Secondary emotion ( hurt) → tertiary emotion ( furious)
Using the feeling wheel in times of uncertainty
The child may be experiencing myriad of feelings in the day especially in the current situation with the pandemic. “It is especially useful for moments of intense feeling and when the mind cannot remain objective as it operates from an impulsive “fight or flight” response” (Watkins, 2014)
1. The new experience of virtual learning and being disconnected from friends for instance can be challenging for children. Parents / Caregivers can use this feeling wheel and children can share their day with you, talk about how they felt. Using the tool children can identify the thoughts from fact and assign feelings relevantly.
2.Recording their emotional experiences can aid them to identify the pattern of triggers.
3.Referring to the wheel as you discuss how others may have felt in a similar situation that you are discussing will help children to develop empathy in self and for others.
Finding a place for the feeling wheel at home
At home, hang the wheel at a place where it is easily accessible. (At our home, the wheel is on the refrigerator). This will help family members to share their experience and identify how they felt about their day.
Challenges one may face implementing the feeling wheel
Now this is not as simple as it sounds. You need to be conscientious in doing so, and it takes time and patience
Ø Taking cognizance of the fact on how the socio / cultural / family systems can play a part, as some of us either dismiss, minimize, suppress, or not acknowledge it
Ø To bring in new patterns can be tedious, and you can slip back into old shoes of response / reaction to triggers. That is fine; being aware is a start, and keep working at it.
Ø Prepare for some resistance or push back from family members as this is all new and uncomfortable at the start.
Ø There could be a family member who may not wish to assign feelings on some days and that is permitted as well. Coercion may not work and may lead to negative experience.
Ø Extended family and friends can be curious about the feeling wheel, and if this interests them, a healthy dialogue can be initiated. (You can decide to talk about it, or not)
Forming new patterns takes time, as old habits die hard. Nevertheless, one can try!
Gayatri Abraham, Mental health Professional
Life for me is a work in progress!