Adoption Books: Don’t Miss This List
Thank you to Mark Coen, Adoption Voices Magazine regular contributor. Mark has a feature story this edition, and is an adoptive parent and a talented therapist. He has put together this annotated list of books for parents of adopted children. Even if you’re adopted child does not have some of the more extreme behaviors that Mark deals with, I know some of these books will be very useful.
I read everything I could while I was parenting, and it does make a world of difference!
I offer the following book recommendations with the disclaimer that no one book should be taken as the ‘bible’ to raising adopted children.
In my experience, because so much of our children’s behavior is counterintuitive we often are in a hunt for that one book that will tell us exactly what we need to do. However, parents should realize that they need to maintain the role as parents and not therapists to these kids. I have seen many clients take on both roles and try to ‘heal’ their kids with no outside help. I have also seen many clients apply interventions they’ve found in books, but end up becoming too punitive with their kids. It is important that when possible, a therapist should be involved so that they can see the holistic picture of the family. There is often more to the puzzle when looking through an outside perspective than any book can piece together. Also keep in mind that each child has their own unique circumstances and will not necessarily fall into any one category outlined by the literature.
– Mark Coen
My go to book for parents is usually Parenting the Hurt Child by Gregory Keck.
Dr. Keck is a great clinician and an adoptive parent himself. The book is useful because it isn’t full of theoretical and abstract content. It’s written in a way that can be easily accessed by parents when they need to, with concrete suggestions. This is helpful for parents as they are often burned out and don’t have much energy to invest into things other than raising their difficult children. It also is a book that I know if it wound up in the most impatient parent’s hands, they would could not use it as a weapon against their kids. There are activities that promote bonding as well, which is a nice addition. This book can be helpful for kids that have experienced loss and/or trauma across the spectrum, and not just limited to adoption.
Another book I would recommend would be Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew by Sherrie Elridge.
This book sometimes elicits negative responses from newly or pre-adoptive couples or others who don’t understand children with attachment issues. When I was raising my son I was often surrounded by people that were full of hope that things would improve. Although they had good intentions, their well wishes didn’t help me and instead I was left feeling like I wasn’t validated. I wanted to know what I was dealing with and how to better understand my son, and this book was the first lifeline I found during those years. It’s a very realistic approach to how our kids think and what triggers them. Again, not all children fall into this category so don’t universalize the book. But if you want to hear a realistic perspective straight from an adoptee who ‘made it through’, I encourage you to add this to you library.
This is a little known book that I stumbled across in my work with kids with attachment issues. I needed a book that would help the kids relate to what they’re experiencing, and this book is great for that. It’s written through the eyes of a child who has experienced trauma and has developed trust/attachment issues as a result. It’s appropriate for preadolescent children and older, and they will be able to identify with the main character and some of the behavior he exhibits. It can be used as a tool for clinicians, or just read as a story by parents. There are few books that appeal to children with these issues, so this is a good resource to have around.
The classic 1942 books that tells the tale of a runaway bunny and a mother that just won’t quit trying to run after him and find him. Her steadfast and unflinching determination highlights the ’push’ ’pull’ dance kids with attachment issues engage in with their mothers. They run away but want their moms to be strong enough to contain their behavior and not let them go. They struggle with the question, “Am I important enough to be loved and kept by you?” and this book does a good job saying “YES!”
Mars Needs Moms By Berkeley Breathed
This book was made into a movie, but not before I gave a copy out to most of my clients. So many of my kids try not to have moms by parenting themselves or getting their needs met through others. This book does a good job reinforcing how important it is to have moms, even if you don’t like some of the things they do, like making kids eat their broccoli and carrots and do chores around the house. Written from the perspective of a boy who doesn’t think he needs a mom only to discover a deeper appreciation for them after his own is abducted by Martians.