There is an exercise one can do with little kids, as young as Jackie, 5 years of age. I read about it in the “Twenty things…” adoption book. The social worker hosting our post adoption group also mentioned it.
On a piece of paper have your child draw a person. Then have them draw a circle where they feel an emptiness. Even if you think it goes over their head, that they don’t know or understand, subconsciously they may unearth valuable insight.
As an example, this exercise has brought light into the recent past of a young adoptee. He had been molested and he drew a circle in the genital area. This is how it got uncovered and consequently got the support he needed early.
So I braced myself and last night I asked Jackie to draw a person. Over the last few weeks her motor-skills improved significantly. She was excited to draw with me. She filled the whole page and showed it to me proudly. I told her that’s her. “Yeees?” she asks with a broad smile. Then I told her to draw a circle where she feels an emptiness. Without waiting for further directions she declares: “I’ll draw it in the heart.” “Wherever you want to draw it.” I answer. She does it and says: “There! …But what does empty mean?” I use an example of a pocket. If it has nothing in it, it’s empty. “Aha! I see! Can I color it?” She asks. “Sure” I say and she fills it with the grey pencil. “What do you feel in there?” I ask. To which she answers: “Lots of love!”
I’m not sure this is how the exercise was supposed to go. But her demeanor speaks volumes to me. We see her. We delight in her. We’ve struggled with some things and let them subside. To the best of our ability we are alert, aware. We try to be observant yet casual. I used to wonder if I’m paranoid about reading signs and sighs, tears or bravery. This alertness used to be exhausting at first. But now my heart’s eye is better trained, as if it developed stamina. So we keep watch while we keep delighting in her.