Katie Naftzger, LICSW

family therapist, adoption specialist, speaker, author

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The Difference Between Pity And Empathy

When I meet with adoptive parents, they often talk with me about how they’re foreign to the adoption experience because they themselves were not adopted.  And, part of my work is to help parents with that, but the other part of my work is to help them to realize what they do know.  Adoptive parents may not know what it is like to be adopted, but I’m sure, like everyone else, they’ve experienced loss, they’ve experienced uncertainty, the unknown and grieving what wasn’t meant to be.  For some adoptive parents, their story, the story that led them to becoming an adoptive parent has certain parallels to the adoptee story.

So, when an adoptive parent says to their child, “I know that’s really hard for you,” the adoptee can sometimes take it to mean that it’s not hard for the adoptive parent.  But, when the adoptive parent says, not, “It’s really hard for you,” but just, “It’s really hard,”  the child feels joined, even if the the wisdom and knowledge comes from a different place.

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