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Last week’s Tuesday Topic was:

We have two daughters who were adopted at an older age.  They came with stories and a history that they can speak about.  One of these daughters attended a sleepover and I was told that “scary” (silly) stories were being shared as the girls lay in their sleeping bags before sleep.  It got me thinking about how to counsel my girls about what they should not share about their past lives.

I certainly do not want them to think I am ashamed of their past and they both love to tell stories about their country.  However, the older one especially, has some pretty serious, delicate life experiences she remembers vividly and I want to be able to give her advice on what she should keep to herself.  I may be worrying unnecessarily and she might do a good job of filtering for herself.  I would really like to know how others have handled this issue or if it has ever come up.

Here are your responses:

Julie wrote:

Our daughter is only 6.5, but her life experiences involve lots of scary situations. Although it doesn’t come out in story form, it does show up in her play time. Often, she’ll say, Let’s pretend there’s a bad guy, and he….” Sleepovers are scary for me, because they can be such an opportunity for unhealthy conversation or worse. I really thought our little one would never be able to attend a sleepover because of her past. However, we are going to have to cross that bridge someday, and I would love to hear what others say. Here’s my thought process right now. It may change tomorrow. :-) Her story is hers to share. As her protector and the one who cares the most, you should be sure to help her understand that not everyone is trustworthy enough to carry her life story with honor. Only those who have earned her trust deserve to know the deepest truth. I would also coach her to only share private/personal information with you and her therapist, so that you can help her to heal and process that kind of pain. In Christ, Julie

Melissa wrote:

When we brought 2 older kids (10 and 14) home from Uganda we had the same issue. They could speak English so they were able to open up fairly quickly. I talked to the 14 year old about how some of her stories would scare some of the kids her age. She didn’t get it at first but I made up a pretend scary story that was similar to hers and she said that it scared her. I also told both of them that anytime they want to talk about their time in Uganda that they should talk to me or their dad about them. This also helped with bonding because they learned to trust us with their fears. The oldest is now 19 and wants to eventually become a counselor and move to an African country and counsel kids in orphanages.

Michelle wrote:

We are just dealing with this with our 6 year old twins from Ethiopia. We are starting the W.I.S.E up Powerbook so we can work through it this summer and review it before they start school in September. It was recommended to us as being a great way to help our kids answer questions about their lives:

Kathrin wrote:

What a great question. I was wondering about that myself. If people ask me questions about my girl, do I answer and how much do I share? I feel that her story is for her to share. And yes I do think, that we need to protect our children from getting hurt again. People might react in a painful or unhealthy way. They might even blame the kids for what happened to them. Parents might not want their children confronted with such bad stories. I think I would ask my children to talk about the friends they had, the food they liked and everyday things like that and to talk about the more private things at home.

Eileen wrote:

We have a child with a health condition that while we’re not ashamed of, we don’t necessarily think it’s an appropriate conversation starter. We had a Family Home Evening (a once a week meeting where we’ll have a lesson, treat, and game) about how some things aren’t “secrets”, but they also aren’t really appropriate casual conversations. This is a lesson all of our kids need. We added some fun into it by telling some funny stories of things our older kids said when they were little and let the younger ones tell us if they thought that was appropriate or not. Some of those were obvious no-no’s. Once we were at church and a sweet lady in the pew in front of us asked our toddler son how he was doing. He answered, “Pretty good…..but my rear itches.” Honest, yes, but not necessarily something to share. From there, we moved onto things like money (how much our house costs or how much they think their dad makes), private conversations they’ve heard at home, health issues (and we didn’t even mention our youngest daughter’s condition, but used an example of her older sister and how when she had a bladder infection many years ago, she announced to a room full of people that she was having “problems with her tinkles” and that she had a “tinkle affection”. After that story, our youngest daughter then brought up her own disease and said maybe she shouldn’t talk about it to everyone. “Wow,” we said, “that’s great thinking. We agree.”), their sibling’s grades, stories that are deeply personal or highly emotional (and we gave some examples), etc. We also stressed that all of these topics were not off limits, but they need to be spoken of at the right time with the right people. If you have a problem with an itchy rear, well, there are people you can talk to. We role-played with a few conversations I’d printed out so they could see how it’s hard to be on the receiving end of awkward personal revelations. None of these stories pertained to us, so I could make them kind of silly, but I think it was good to realize that when you’re just chatting with someone and they mention their inflamed bowel or their aunt’s nasty divorce, it’s hard to come up with a response. Anyway, I think it was a successful family night. Even as a 38 year-old, sometimes I think I share too much in casual conversation. It’s a life-long lesson.

I have to say that I loved this question and your responses;thank you everyone. We haven’t been confronted with this too much, but we have talked about the difference between something that is a secret, versus something that is private. In general, we don’t do overnights, so that helps somewhat. The two families my girls have stayed with are close enough to us that I haven’t worried too much about this issues, but maybe I should be more concerned and perhaps I should prepare them.

As I am writing this, I just remembered that last year at school, Dimples’ teacher was talking about sad things in our lives and shared about her mother passing away.  Apparently Dimples raised her hand and told the class that she was very sad that her mother died and left her with somebody who didn’t like her and didn’t take care of her.  Her teacher, a lovely and gracious woman, handled this information tenderly, but maybe I do need to work on this with my girls.

Thank you for the this great topic.  I”ll post a new topic tomorrow, then I hope to get back to writing about Russ’ Restorative Sabbatical, and I still want to write about his trip to Kenya.  I definitely have too much to say and not enough time to write.

Happy Monday friends!

~Lisa



  1. Cassc (Reply) on Monday 28, 2010

    Great advice (and yes an important thing for grown-ups to keep in mind as well!) I'd love to see examples of the sample conversations that one of the families used. I think that role playing is really helpful with children and teens.

  2. mamamimi (Reply) on Monday 28, 2010

    Yes! Please post the sample conversations. We use role playing a lot– how to stand up to someone who is too bossy, how to talk on the phone properly, etc etc. I would love to see the sample conversations!

  3. Tonggu Momma (Reply) on Monday 28, 2010

    I am so grateful to read the responses on this one. Our daughter was adopted at a younger age, so I could contribute nothing, but I was very curious to learn some tips and tricks. Thank you so much to all who shared!