Ask AF: When Mom Feels Hurt

A reader asks our expert for help dealing with a parent's wounded feelings.

Q: My five-and-a-half-year-old said, “You are not my mother” to me when I gave her only half a cookie. Does she know how hurtful her statement was to me? She recently had some separation anxiety while I was away for three nights on a business trip. How do I get her to talk about her feelings and what is really bothering her?


A: If your daughter were not an adoptee, she would have said, “I wish you were not my mother.” Yes, she was trying to hurt you because she was angry. Did she realize the depth of your hurt? I doubt it.

When you talk to your daughter, get cozy and keep your tone even, not angry. You can say, “I was hurt when you said, ‘You are not my mother.’ I am and always will be your mother. Your birth mother will always be your birth mother. I know you were not happy when I was away, but ______ was taking good care of you. When you are angry, you need to talk about why you are angry, not say hurtful things.”

What else could be going on? Someone at school may have said something about her “real” mother. She may have questions about permanency—if she is ever going to live with her birth mother, why she doesn’t live with her, and so on. You could say, “Have you been thinking about adoption and having two mothers? Let’s talk about it.”