A letter to my younger self - Things I have learnt along the way >
I am 16 now and writing you a letter to give you some advice which I wish I had when I was hitting the teenage years. I obviously thought I knew all the answers when I was growing up and that I knew best. I rushed into things heart first, rather than head first and that means unfortunately I didn’t always have a smooth time of it, but I did survived and I learnt a few things on the way which I think are pretty important.
I can’t in reality share this with my 8 year old self, but I can share my pearls of wisdom with any other adoptee who is willing to listen, who thinks that they are the only one, or feels they have to deal with things on their own.
Here are some of the things I wish I had realised sooner;
- It isn’t your fault you were adopted.
- You didn’t have to tell everyone your story!! Make sure that there is someone that you can trust and you can talk to instead of bottling it up. Remember it is your thing to be revealed or concealed as you see fit. Don’t tell anyone and everyone!!
- Talking isn’t the only way of communicating – Find a method of communication that works for you. Whether that’s talking, poems, songs, art etc.
- It OK to say ‘no’ and be firm – you don’t have to be everything to everyone.
- It’s not OK to talk about other people’s business. It can hurt people and cause conflict, which is hard to cope with and can make you stressed and anxious.
- People can be genuinely curious, interested and supportive. If they are asking you questions it doesn’t always come from a bad place.
- It hurts your parents feeling when you are disrespectful to them. Although they can be annoying, it’s only because they care.
- There will be something out there that makes you feel better – Find an activity that helps you relieve stress and gets your anger out.
- It’s really hard sometimes, but its way better to be the bigger person.
- You know yourself better than you think -Listen to yourself.
- It ok to accept help – It’s not a sign of weakness, but of strength and courage to ask for help. Lots of people, adopted and not adopted, have extra support.
- It’s fine if you want to find your birth family, but use the proper channels because they are there to support you. If you want to find your family on Facebook seek some advice and talk to your parents about it – don’t add or message anyone until you have PROPERLY thought about it.
- It’s a waste of time chasing people who don’t show a genuine interest in you or who are unkind. Focus on yourself and your true friends.
- It’s not going to be easy, so try and think about the positives.
- It’s a waste of time comparing yourself to others, because everyone, including you, is unique and have their own amazing qualities.
- It hurts when your parents say no to things, but ultimately I’ve realised that they wanted me to be safe and didn’t want me to get hurt.
- It will be the last thing you want to do, but listen to your parent’s advice. They are saying what they are saying because they don’t want you to get hurt.
- Its OK to say “I don’t want to talk about this” you don’t need to lie.
- Your family won’t be upset as you think they will – If you have curiosity about your birth history or you need to talk about it then talk, don’t bottle it up or try and guess how they might feel.
- Sometimes it’s really important to think before you speak. It’s not always easy but saying less or giving yourself time to think about a response can save a lot of trouble.
- It’s really important to take care of your body and your mind – nobody else can do this for you.
- Friends who help you be the best version of yourself are the best ones. No friend should ever make you feel bad, guilty, or ashamed.
- When you are 13 you might think you need more information about your life history, but you might not be ready to deal with it then as you have lots of other things to think about (friends, school, relationships). Think about it, there is your whole life ahead of you to find things out when you are truly ready.
- Be kind to yourself, you deserve it.
Love from me xxx
Top tips for self care >
It’s been a rough day…you’re new to school & had to change class 6 times, dashing around at the end of the day to get to biology, your least favourite subject. Confronted by a supply teacher who didn’t know you, they told you off because you were late. You didn’t understand what they were on about in lesson and they snapped when you asked too many questions. It was hard to concentrate anyway as you were too busy thinking about the stupid remark another kid had said about your ‘real mum’ being a loser….
How would you cope?? This is AT-iD’s top tips for self care…
1. Talking to and stroking a pet. Not only does it calm you down but it really helps knowing they won’t talk back or tell anyone your secrets!
2. Write down one good thing about your day & one rubbish thing and pop them in a jar to read on a later day when your in a mood to reflect.
3. Listen to your favourite music, you cant beat a good tune to pick up your mood.
4. Colouring in or drawing, we like to loose ourselves for a bit in a good picture helps us forget our worries
5. Exercise… running, swimming, rock climbing, cycling, gorge walking… it all helps relive the stress.
6. Looking through a memory box can put things into perspective and reminds you of the fun times.
7. A trusted friend who ‘gets it’ and will let you rant is diamond.
8. Disney pixars ‘inside out’ is a great way to help you understand all the mad mix of emotions we feel.
9. Going to church and talking to people who listen & care.
10. Ever tried screaming into a pillow? Maybe when your parents aren’t around!
Feeling Angry? Here's some top tips to help you through >
Adopted young people tell us they often feel churned up inside. We all feel this way sometimes, whether it’s because we are adopted or just because we are teenagers.
Anger is a hard emotion to manage and it can leave you feeling guilty, shameful or defensive after an outburst.
First thing first though… Anger is a normal emotion that everyone feels, it is part and parcel of being human and it is important to allow yourself to be angry in healthy ways and deal with it. It is not helpful for anyone, most of all you if you push it away. Denying anger can lead to depression, anxiety and self harm.
Below are some helpful ways to deal with that gruesome gremlin ANGER!
Write stuff down. When rubbish thoughts are in your head, they whizz round & round, getting bigger and bigger and generally like to be very unhelpful. Once your feelings/ thoughts are down on paper they are out of your head and this makes them into something solid that outside of you. You can do other things with these thoughts then such as putting them in the bin signalling you no longer want them. You can also keep a diary of them along with what time of day it is, where you are and who your with, that way you can learn what triggers anger for you.
Try naming your anger. Giving anger a different silly name that you find funny can really help. I’ve called mine Deirdre (thick Yorkshire accent), Maurice (thick French accent) and Mrs Von Luptonstine.. Naming the emotion helps separate it from you and makes it external. Something you have experienced, rather than a part of you.
Sounds so cliché but breathe – Ever been crying uncontrollably and then taken a deep breath, it actually does slow those tears down! It allows the muscles in your body to relax, causing you and your brain to relax.
Get a really great memory that you can conjure up when you’re sad or mad and think of it. People find this quite hard at first, but once you’v’e got the hang of it, it can really help. I like thinking about lying on a beach in the sun, with my favourite song on and doing a toe dance.
Know what makes you mad and try to avoid it if you can. Hard if its stuff at school, but talk to a teacher about this (who you trust ) and maybe work out a method for taking time out when you need it, like a secret signal or a code word so other kids don’t know your business and you don’t feel different.
The great outdoors… you might think I’m an old fuddy duddy or a tree hugger and you couldn’t think of anything worse that seeing that dreaded GPRS sign on your phone, but being outdoors is great for the soul… its pretty much scientific fact! Even if it’s a 5 minute walk to the local shop. It can work miracles. I was lucky enough to live by the sea growing up so I would walk down to the beach and throw stones into the waves.
Be kind to yourself. Even if you do loose it and shout at someone or do something that’s not really you, try not to beat yourself up. You’re not that person, you’re the person you want to be. So if you want to be happy, funny, kind and awesome that’s who you are. When you’re angry you’re just having a tough time and you have more than most to be angry about.
Getting bullied >
Bullying can happen to anyone, but many adopted people experience it and it can be very hard to deal with.
The first thing to remember if you are experiencing bullying is that it is not OK, you are not alone and it is not your fault.
I could talk about why adopted people experience bullying, but the best thing to do is NOT to ask why you are being bullied, but to talk to someone you trust about it. This may be a teacher, parent, counsellor anyone who you feel safe with. Most adults want to help so don’t be afraid to speak up and think it will get you in trouble. If you really don’t feel comfortable talking to someone you know, you can always call child line 0800 1111
Coping with bullying can make you anxious, affect your self-esteem and confidence, as well as affect your friendships, concentration and overall school performance.
It can also lead to self harm, depression and long term mental illness so it is really important to speak up and address bullying of any kind. ust laid back’ You need to speak up about it and don’t try to deal with it on your own or (as tempting as it may be) retaliate.
Often adopted people are bullied because we are perceived as different, you may even feel different and not like other people. You might feel like it’s hard to fit in and not understand why that is and you may find it harder trusting people or making friendships, but that’s OK. It’s not unusual and again its not your fault. If you feel like this it may help to talk to someone you trust or other adopted people on our forum.
“I was bullied in school for being adopted among other things. It was easier to deal with when I understood that the people who were making fun of me just didn’t know anything about adoption or being adopted. They didn’t know the difference between fostering and adoption. This made it easier because I could make myself think that their comments didn’t upset me because they didn’t even know what they were talking about. I’m 20 now and I found that as soon as I went to college and then to university people were a lot more understanding.”
Need to know more about your story >
It’s understandable and common that adopted young people want to know more about where they came from and why they came to be adopted. This curiosity about ones roots, background and family connection is perfectly normal as is th
e wish to know more about the reasons for placement for adoption and what has happened to your birth parents since.
You have something called your adoption file which is a group of documents that were put together at the time of your adoption.
Once you are 18 you can look at your file, but if you are under 18 and want to see this it can sometimes be worked out between the adoption authority and your adoptive parents. Bear in mind that this information can sometimes be sensitive and it may be upsetting to read.
Thinking about birth family contact? >
Once you are 18 you can make your own decision to look for your birth family. If your nearly 18, see below for our advice.
In some special circumstances your local authority or adoption support agency can support you to meet your birth parents before you are 18.
Remember if you want to find your birth parents the search no matter what age you are can be very frustrating and disappointing, even scary. For some people it all works out very easily, for others it may be more complicated. There is no way of knowing in advance. Either way having support from family, friends, experienced counsellors and others who have been through a similar situation, makes a great deal of difference.
Facebook and other social media is a very tempting way of trying to find people. However, one click or one message can change things and not reversible.
Worried about talking to your adoptive parents? >
You may feel worried about talking to your adoptive parents about your adoption in case this upsets them.
Your adoptive parents may have worries about you finding your birth parents because they are concerned that the information you find, or that meeting your birth parents will be difficult for you.
They also may not bring up the topic of your birth family in case it upsets you or they may not realise how much you want or need to know about your past. They may be waiting for you to bring it up first or they may find it difficult because of the feelings associated with why they originally adopted you.
However, all of this does not mean that once they know your honest feelings they will not be able to support you and help you with your needs.
If you are don’t know what to say then an adoption support worker can help you think about it, or you can speak to our project worker.