The most basic hard truth of adoption I can share with anyone is "adoption is wonderful and is not easy." Sometimes, but not always, love is not enough. Many say adopt a child and love them and they will heal; but one of the biggest struggles I hear from other adoptive moms is that they were never told that just loving a child from a hard place may not be enough. So I want to share some of the hard truths we have faced in our home when we need to do more than just love our little blessing.
Adoption is wonderful because it creates a family. It provides a child who needs a permanent home and love just that, so really what can be better? I, as an adoptive mom, cannot think of anything better. Truth is humans crave stability, security, and feeling loved. As adoptive parents that is what we give our children when we adopt them. However, our children may not realize what we are doing for them and that makes it not easy, at times. For a child whose whole life was chaos or uncertainty, their stability is just that: chaos or uncertainty. Stability and security is a major change for many children.
Change is not easy and can create fear in the best of us. The fear in a child from a hurt place could be from what not to expect, from being afraid they will not be good enough, or from not believing the "good" will last, from not understanding the "why" of what is happening, or from many other things. No matter the reason, change and fear both can bring forward many not so pretty coping mechanisms. Additionally "feeling loved" can be scary for a child from a hard place... whether it is because it creates conflict with a child's feelings towards their birth family, or feelings of not deserving, or other feelings it can create further challenges and again bring out some not so pretty coping mechanisms.
When the not so pretty coping mechanisms come out is when I find I really need to make conscious effort to choose love and provide the more that is needed for our child. This is the part of adoption that is not always easy. The times when our girl will pee next to the toilet, in the dining room, or most challenging when our girl will ask to sit on my lap and pee on me (even if she just used the bathroom).... it is hard to look at this as a fear reaction, but that is what it is. Many say it is a control thing, and sure, I agree, but truth is why is she taking such extremes for control... well for our girl, it is because she is in fear mode. It could occur before new events and even sometimes something she has done 100 times before. It is just what it is. The hard thing is to not make it more than it is.
Many days I have to remind myself "discipline is teaching" and "the punishment has to fit the crime" .... so after she (and I) change, it is back on my lap she goes to reassure her. Some days this is repeated many times in a day; that is not easy but she needs to know she cannot push me away, that I will give her the stability, security, and love she needs to heal. I may not give her the trips to Disney or lots of toys, but I will be there in the toughest, most important, times.
Other times that are hard are a full rage (hitting, biting at me) come from me talking to my husband for five minutes or asking our girl to take responsibility for a previous wrong (if she throws a crayon, asking her to pick it up). Again it is fear mode.... for our girl, most specifically it is very much fear of abandonment when I direct my attention away from her. It would be easy to send her away to her room for hitting and biting, but in reality I need to give her what she needs...which is my attention. Yes, sometimes we do take a break, in the same room or rarely if needed in separate rooms so we can both calm down to a safe point. But afterwards, once we are calm, it usually means the rest of the day having our girl stick closer to us and not sending her to her room. This is hard, because again the rages can happen many times in one day, but although challenging to reconnect after each one, it is what our girl needs.
In those moments between rages, it is so critical to have fun and laugh to help rewire the brain back to a positive for change. Again often it requires a lot of mental talk to not send our girl to her room for extended time, and I have to constantly remind myself is "discipline is teaching" and "the punishment has to fit the crime."
These moments are the ones I find toughest (at present) in adoption and they may not be the coping mechanisms that are toughest for another family. But I wanted to share some of our tough moments, as we are in the midst of a bunch. I know many do not share some of the tough moments in adoptions, sometimes because others may not understand it and sometimes because the current parents are blamed for their child's behaviors based on the parent's parenting strategies. However know our children from hard places are hurt and need healing, in addition to love. It is ok that these challenging coping mechanisms exist, as although hard, it is sometimes our window to helping our child (and family) heal. While I shared some of our consquences in our challenging moments here, I did not mean to make suggestions of consequences you use at your house. Rather, ask yourself if there is a tough moment or coping mechanism that your child is using that is making life tough, can you see past the behaviors to what is underneath? Can you challenge yourself to remember "discipline is teaching" and "the punishment has to fit the crime?"
It is easy to be angry, stay resentful and not move on. It is harder to heal and change. In adoptive families, I know our children need healing, but truth is so do we often as their parents.
I wish you many blessings and much insight until I am back again.