Parenting demands unparalleled devotion of love, time. and energy. Adoptive parenting is like traditional parenting on steroids. Often, adoptive parents find themselves facing circumstances and challenges which they never observed in their families of origin. Where can they turn for guidance, understanding, and partnership? Read GIFT coach, Sally Ankerfelt's insights.
We, coaches, Gayle, Joann, Sally, and Susan have one big thing that brought us together: all of us are adoptive parents. Between us, we have experienced international, transracial, infant, older children, open, closed, and foster care adoptions. Our experience as adoptive parents has given us an immense appreciation for our children as they journey through life. We also have recognized how we would have benefited from having someone by our side who knew first-hand what it was it was like to be adoptive parents.
Years ago, I, Sally, sat and watched a documentary entitled, “Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro.” Found in Tanzania, Mt. Kilimanjaro is a walkable mountain to climb. One can take shorter, well-traveled routes or one can take the longest route -the Kilimanjaro north route- which is the one route that is least traveled because of its difficult terrain and surprising twists and turns.
It has long stretches of rugged, barren terrain that make the climbers wonder why they ever signed up for the journey. It requires preparation, perseverance, and people to support you. First, you’ve got your own physical preparation. Then, once you get to the base of the mountain to begin the climb, you have the doctors who are on standby should something go wrong. You have your climbing partners who will be right alongside you experiencing the same joys and the challenges at the same time you are.
And, you have the guides who have been up the mountain before and have received special training to become a guide, who have met certain standards for leadership up the mountain, for recognizing when medical attention is needed, and for providing care.
These guides are very important to the climb. They are the ones who see things that, perhaps, your fellow climbers cannot see because they are busy climbing, too. A guide might say, “Did you notice that rock jutting out almost beyond your reach? Do you want to try to reach for that?” “Why don’t you consider putting your foot here, but only do it when you’re ready.” And these guides also will tell you, “Just above you – just beyond your view – is a beautiful oasis of flowers and grass. You can do it! You can make it!” And so you move on even if you’re feeling weary and would just like to stop altogether.
When I saw this documentary, I literally had tears in my eyes. This was my journey of being an adoptive parent. It’s like climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro- on the north route.
As adoptive parents, many of us are on the north route. We are taking a route to parenting that is relatively uncharted.
Like the climbers, we receive pre-adoption preparation to get ready for the journey of adoption. And we have the doctors, psychologists, and psychiatrists available. However, these professionals may not be available at a moment’s notice and some may not have the training in the complexities of adoption or the special skills to help us in the “mountain climbing” we adoptive parents need to do. Finally, we have support groups of other adoptive parents who are so important, as well, right by our side making the adoptive journey with us.
But, where are the guides?
That is what my coaching colleagues and I asked ourselves when we decided to become the very guides that we desperately needed during our parenting.
It makes so much sense to have guides on this adoptive journey precisely because it often is not a walk in the park. Instead, it is a climb on a difficult mountain on surprising terrain. Guides complete the team of professionals so families can have even greater ability to navigate the challenges of the climb.
Guides (coaches) are the ones who have made the journey before so they can give you a valuable perspective and a unique vantage point. While fully holding you capable of making the journey, guides can point out options, offer alternatives, encourage you, and tell you that there really are beautiful flowers, beautiful experiences just “over there.” And when you arrive at places of joy and calm in your family and life, adoption coaches are there to celebrate with you and to point out the successes in the middle of the climb.
That, basically, is a good description of coaching. As professional coaches, we are a valuable part of a team of people to get you to where you want to go. We are honored to journey with you.
Learn how the coaches at GIFT Family Services can help you and your family navigate your adoption journey. We've faced our share of family challenges and crises, ridden the metaphorical rollercoaster, and our families have not only survived; they have thrived. We offer experience, neutrality, and understanding.
Read Adoption-attuned book reviews
by GIFT coach, Gayle H. Swift, on her blog,
"Writing to Connect"