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The Iceberg Effect . . .

Updated: Apr 21, 2021

have you ever watched the movie Titanic? If you know the history of this “unsinkable” ship, you also know that it met its match in the form of a huge iceberg. I read where it is common for only 10 to 20 percent of icebergs to be visible above the waterline. The other 80 to 90 percent lies invisible below the water—this is the portion that presents the most danger to ships. I think there is a parallel between icebergs and what characterizes adopted children. Let me explain. As parents we often have only partial information about the child who is coming into our family. This is especially true of those children adopted from abroad, but it can also apply to children adopted from social services right here in the U.S. Many times, we only see and know what is “above the waterline”. Further, the information we do have may not be totally accurate; in the worst cases, a fabrication by the orphanage or social service agency. We need not be scared off by this possibility, but instead be aware that receiving only partial information is the norm. Thus, we parents should prepare ourselves for the unknown by expecting it. Expecting the unknown will certainly help us in navigating the unknown when it is upon us, even years down the road.

Welcoming a child into our home whose personal history is possibly 80 to 90 percent “below the waterline” requires an extra measure of flexibility, patience and courage on our part; but take courage, this doesn’t have to sink our ship! For those of us who have adopted or who desire to adopt, we must take the long view of things. Raising an adopted child demands that we continually educate ourselves, expect the unexpected, maintain our sense of humor, refuse to panic, and have a support system around us to help us not only weather the challenges, but especially celebrate our victories and those of our child.

Had the navigators of the Titanic had their eyes wide open on that fateful night, the ship would have avoided disaster. They were traversing the frigid North Atlantic and should have expected to encounter icebergs. As adoptive parents, keeping our eyes wide open while planning for the “expected unexpected” can go a long way in helping us do the same in helping our child—and ourselves—stay afloat, and even flourish!


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