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The Power of Parallel Groups

I adopted each of my three children from foster care. Seventeen years ago, I adopted a sibling group of two sisters, who were then 9 and 4, and now are 25 and 21 years old. I met my son when he was four days old and he is now 11 years old.

I was introduced to Adoption Network Cleveland’s Adoptive Family and Teen Support Group about three years ago when I was seeking some support to help in the parenting of my son. I have been a foster mom and adoptive mom for many years, but parenting my son has, at times, had me stumped. The compassion of Ayanna, the group coordinator, has been a Godsend to me and she always greets the group with a smile.

At one of the parent group meetings, a guest speaker, Linda Schellentrager, spoke about a workshop series that would be starting again soon called Parallel Groups. She had experienced Parallel Groups years ago with her young son and she spoke about the impact on him and on her as his parent.

My son had been having difficulty with the knowledge of being adopted and not understanding why, which brought on some angst around the house. I was anxious to explore deeper into what the adoption experience meant to him and was excited to learn about this opportunity. I signed up right away.

The program for me was so enlightening, even as an experienced adoptive mom. We met in a “parallel” setting - the parents were in one class with professional facilitators and the children were in another class with their own facilitators. It was a warm environment where I felt free to speak openly about the struggles of being a mom of a child with issues around adoption. I was given tools to help him and to also better understand his vantage point.

I know his questions and concerns were addressed by his group leaders, too. For example, before the class he had often heard that I wasn’t his “real mom” from his friends, etc. So, he in turn would freely use the term “real mother” about his birthmother, who he hasn’t seen since he was 2 months old. We both learned in our sessions the impact of Adoption Language and that “I” am his real-life, day-to-day and forever mom and that I certainly am not a “fake.” I have often referred to Adoption Network Cleveland’s Positive Adoption Language hand-out since the class.

Our journey as mother and son learning together was so valuable. I know the Parallel Groups worked because my son is asking more questions and speaking more freely about his adoption story. Some of his angst is still there, but he is learning to accept “what is” which makes it easier to reign in the angst and make better choices. Maybe the biggest takeaway for him is that he learned that he is not alone. It wasn’t all a heavy load – he had “fun and silly” times with the other boys as well.Thank you to Adoption Network Cleveland for providing the Parallel Groups series and giving us this opportunity to have such a positive experience together. I will never forget it.

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