In November we observe National Adoption Month to focus particular attention on foster children who wait and hope for families. As we give thanks for our own families, please consider how you can support finding a loving family for every child that needs one. Today, families embody diversity–step families, single-parent families, foster families and adoptive families. This post will review several adoption-themed books to help children understand that all families are valuable regardless of how they come together. This builds understanding, respect and acceptance.
In Our Mother’s House by the award-winning and gifted author/illustrator Patricia Polacco tackles a difficult subject with respect and honesty. As is probably obvious from the title, the story focuses on an adoptive family with two mothers. Readers searching for stories that include LGBTQ families will appreciate this upbeat and poignant tale. Written as a flashback from a now-adult adoptee who recalls some treasured and delightful memories of her childhood, In Our Mother’s House focuses on the positives, on how families can look different but still be about the love and care that connect them. Lesbian parenting is not the focus of the book; it is the backdrop. The story concentrates on the warm, supportive and “regular” family that the children and their two mothers shared. Love, tolerance and joy thread throughout.
While most of the neighborhood characters welcome and embrace this unique family, one does not. Polacco makes the point subtly—the children wonder why Mrs. Lockner grumps at them whenever they meet her. The mothers concentrate on reaching out to neighbors (all of them) to create community. The illustrations include a dazzling array of diversity. Many lend themselves to further exploration of cuisine, language and neighborliness, etc. Although the story is about a family formed through adoption, it doesn’t concentrate on adoption issues, makes no mention of the emotional struggles that adoptees often face nor does it mention birth parents, etc. In Our Mother’s House is a sweet, feel-good book about the wondrous blessing of a unique, loving family. Great book!
I highly recommend Motherbridge of Love, by story about a little girl adopted from China and how both her mothers love her. This wonderful book clearly champions respect for and validates a child’s feelings for his birth and adoptive mothers. When we open the space for a child to hold his birth family in a place of respect, we allow them to honor that part of themselves too. My daughter, an adult adoptee and I both believe this is one of the best adoption books for kids.
As an adoptive parent and adoption coach, I search for books that support adopted children and help them learn how adoption influences their lives. Mary Grossnickle’s sweet story, A Place in My Heart, is one great example of a story that validates the adopted child’s point of view. Charlie–a chipmunk adopted into a family of squirrels wrestles with the differences in their appearance. Adoptees commonly feel like they don’t quite fit so they will easily identify with Charlie’s struggle. He’s an endearing character, full of mischief and curiosity. His mother recognizes the stress factors that challenge Charlie and she responds in a supportive and adoption-attuned manner. Parents also can identify with Charlie’s desire to be reassured that he holds a special spot in the hearts of those he loves. We all share this need for connection. This is especially true for adopted.
I thoroughly enjoyed this story and in the important message of understanding acceptance and validation that it conveys. Alison Relyea-Parr’s pastel illustrations have a gentle, dream-like quality that reinforce the comforting tone of the book. Readers will want to duplicate the “Place in my heart” activity.
Families have evolved to include a variety of parent child combinations. Through friends and classmates, children come in contact with families that look different from their own. Sometimes this can confuse or worry them. Kids need information to help them understand whether bio, adoptive, foster or step families–they are more alike than they are different. It’s as easy as ABC: all families are “real.” The unifying factor is that they love and care for one another. Almost every classroom in America includes some adopted children so this is a topic that interests many children. ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book explores adoption in a gentle, respectful way. It relies on the familiar scaffold of alphabetical order to structure the book. ABC, Adoption & Me has won numerous awards and helps explain a complex topic to children whether they are adopted or not. It serves adoptive families particularly well and includes a guide to help parents and teachers.
The wonderful adoption classic, Forever Fingerprints by Sherrie Eldridge is being reissued by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. An adoptee and a staunch advocate for adoptive families writes, who LIVES the adoption journey, Sherrie connects with adoptees’ hearts and validates their experience. She has written many books about the adoption experience. Forever Fingerprints, a picture book serves a younger audience than Sherrie’s other books. Behind its simple story line, Forever Fingerprints models adoption-attuned* relationships. It speaks to child and parent. As an adoption coach as well as an adoptive parent, I know it is important for parents to clearly establish that adoption is a suitable topic for family discussion. While this may seem obvious, to children it is not. In the absence of expressed permission, kids usually assume that adoption conversations are off limits. They will fear that it might hurt their (adoptive) parents if they talk about their concerns, mixed feelings and sharing their thoughts about their birth parents. And so, many wrestle with heavy worries weighing down their hearts. Forever Fingerprints is an easy and enjoyable way for parents to talk about some of the “hard stuff” of adoption.
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