(Differences in Adoptive Parenting Part 2 of 4)
“I hate you, and I want to hurt you!” my daughter screamed. “I wish you had never adopted me!”
Responses such as these left me feeling deeply rejected. Later I learned I wasn’t the only adoptive mom who has felt this way.
When the bond between a child and a biological mother is broken, some children try to protect their hearts from further trauma; they resolve to never have another mom. They still need a cook and chauffeur, but fear emotional intimacy. The thought of losing another mother is simply too much to bear. Thus Mom becomes the target of her child’s rejections because she’s the greatest emotional threat.
Countless adoptive parents experience this, yet there is hope! Consider these ideas:
Reframe your view. Understanding the cause of an adoptive child’s rejection helps unite the parents and prevent them from misinterpreting and punishing a child’s behaviors. It also releases women from the shame and blame they feel for not being a “good-enough-mom”.
Responding in a matter-of-fact way to rejection can help reduce a child’s fear of intimacy. Ask God to give you compassion for your child and her need for emotional protection. Your child needs and wants a mom, even when she doesn’t act as though she does. I learned to calmly affirm my love for my daughter and offer her a chance to redo her behavior.
Seek professional help. Godly counsel from a professional with experience in adoption issues can help reveal the complex emotions that often sabotage healthy parenting. Unaware that my daughter’s rejection reopened emotional wounds from my past, I over-reacted to her behavior and then felt consumed by guilt and depression. Counseling helped me stop blaming myself for my daughter’s behavior and respond to her in a way that was healthy for both of us.
Be gracious. Dad’s, understand your wife’s vulnerable position and graciously support her. Believe her when she says your child behaves differently with you. And moms, be as gracious to yourself as God is toward you. Rely on the Lord to keep your soul at peace, even in the face of your child’s rejection.
This article appeared in the March 2014 issue of Thriving Family magazine published by Focus on the Family.
“Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.”
Ray Rice became a household word in the time it took me to cook dinner and do two loads of laundry. He’s the NFL football player who knocked out his fiancé in an elevator, received a two game suspension and a hefty fine but was later slapped with an indefinite suspension from football by the NFL Commissioner.
Regardless of what you think about Ray Rice, football, or the Commissioner’s unorthodox decision making style, the media did punt “domestic violence” into the American consciousness. And that could be a good thing. Even if we haven’t been a victim of domestic violence we can become part of the solution. The more we know about this blight on humanity the more we have to offer those who survive the nightmare.
Adoption doesn’t need bad press. But, like domestic violence, it touches all of us, usually in less dramatic ways. If we’re not adoptive parents, adoptees or birth parents we know someone who is. But we may not know how to support them – or realize they need it.
Adoptive parents quickly learn where and when (or not) it is safe to share their story. When they remain silent because they fear criticism, pat answers or judgment they frequently withdraw - from church, friends and family relationships.
Adoptive parenting is different than biological parenting. The starting place is different, the language is different, and parenting strategies differ. All adoptive families are trying to mitigate the compromised beginnings their adoptive children, through no fault of their own, bring into their families. It sometimes looks messy. And we don’t do messy very well.
My vision is grace-filled families, empowered and equipped for adoptive and foster parenthood, thriving in educated, grace-filled churches. And churches are filled with non- adoptive parents. But many of them want to know how to support and embrace these families. They just don’t know what they don’t know. Maybe they haven’t realized that, like domestic violence, adoption concerns all of us.
In the backlash of the media storm the NFL Commissioner created a panel to study domestic violence in the NFL to determine what training was needed to confront the problem.
What if our schools and churches did that with adoption? How long would it take to create healthy awareness, respect and safer environments for adoptive families and children? Maybe we’re the voice to punt it onto the radar in each of our areas of influence. God will help us speak and teach us what to say.
(This blog kicks off a four week series on some of the differences of adoptive parenthood with the hope that it leads us toward compassion and grace in understanding its unique challenges.)
“The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.”
(I Thess. 5:24)
Dig deep and you’ll find it. God has already prepared you for what He’s calling you to do.
I grew up on a gentleman’s farm in Kansas – 160 acres of pastureland, ponds, rocks and woods just outside of town. My parents thought it would be a great place to raise three kids when they bought it and moved us into a 100 year old farm house during my third grade year. The farm teemed with character-building opportunities and my parents seemed to capture them all.
Three values they instilled in us were:
Like most kids, we had chores to do. But my parents also provided extra jobs as an opportunity to earn and learn how to manage money. And if we had a lousy attitude with those jobs guess what? We got to do them for free. (It didn’t take long to develop a good attitude!) Here’s a sampling from our “job menu” (not adjusted for inflation) and how it worked:
I preferred mowing acres of pastureland on the old Ford tractor Dad taught me to drive when I was nine. Today, when I look at my pre-teen grandkids I think he must have been nuts! But it worked.
I loved that tractor and the hours I spent mowing fields in the Kansas sun. I got a killer sun-tan, had my own set of wheels, and nurtured a vivid imagination as I circled the pasture, knocking down tall grass and weeds. I passed time pretending I was car-pooling my kids and their friends to various activities.
Years later, as I taxied seven kids and countless friends to their myriad activities, I fondly remembered circling that pasture on my imaginary car-pool runs. Now I had a driver’s license, no sun tan and a car that smelled like burgers and fries.
Today the nest is empty but the driving remains - with a different clientele: two adorable pooches and senior citizens racking up miles to doctor’s appointments. I still have my driver’s license, no sun-tan and “doggie art” on my windows.
How has God prepared you?