Did you realize that adoptive parenting and hurricane preparedness have a lot in common? Think of it as “Hope for the best yet prepare for the worst.” Let me explain how this metaphor came to mind. I live on the East coast of Florida and was able to escape the recent cataclysmic devastation that Hurricane Ian wrought on the west coast. We made limited preparations before the storm even though there was only the slightest chance it might head our way. The unpredictability of hurricanes means they can take a sharp veer from their anticipated course. It would be naïve and foolish not to make some preparations.
It is equally important that we adoptive parents prepare for the storms and challenges of adoptive family life. We must understand #AdoptionComplexity, #AdoptionGrief #AdoptionAttunement and the #SevenCoreIssues, etc.. This helps prevent our making unintentional errors in our parenting strategies. For example, as High AQ parents, we choose Time In instead of Time Out to avoid retriggering our children’s fear of abandonment and rejection.
We also select our languaging with intention and totally avoid toxic phrases that cut so deeply they would permanently scar our children. Consider the awareness of language boundaries as similar to the caution parents of a diabetic child must maintain. Parents are vigilant about the sugars they feed their children because they know their physical health depends on it. Toxic language can be as dangerous to an adopted child as sugar is to a diabetic. Maintaining healthy language awareness is also a way of protecting adopted kids. Certain trigger words and phrases are as unhealthy for them as excess sugar is for a diabetic child. Regardless of how upset or distressed we feel, some things must never be spoken about. What might those words and phrases be? Here are a few examples.
I wish we’d never adopted you.
If Dad and I had children, they’d never be like you.
Adopting you was a big mistake.
You should be grateful we adopted you.
Maybe I’m not your real mom/dad but you’re not my real kid either.
You’re so puny, or such an Amazon, or ____ “
(insert a phrase that belittles your child’s being.
You’re a loser* just like your birth mother (or father).
(*or insert another negative quality or behavior of a birth parent.)
Even if a child finds themselves able to forgive these cutting words, they will never be able to forget them. Words like these leave permanent scars. They play on a repeating loop on our child’s inner soundtrack. One of the most painful things for them is knowing that, at some level, their parent felt those feelings. Even worse, Mom or Dad felt those feelings strongly enough to speak them aloud. This causes shame within the parent as well. Sometimes parents worsen the situation and allow shame to morph into anger which then tries to blame our child for causing us to lose control. This only worsens the relationship break because it is inaccurate and lacks the parent’s honest accountability.
As high AQ parents, we strive to parent well, with the same intensity and care with which we love. We model healthy boundaries. We understand the need for, and benefits of, quickly repairing relationship breaks between ourselves and our children. By doing this we teach them how loving, respectful relationships work. This provides them with a template to follow. It may take them a while to master it, so we need to be patient. After all, we are human and are works in progress who make many mistakes, lose our cool, and fall short of our best intentions.
Even if our kids would prefer us to be perfect, we can’t. Perfect parents do not exist. However, we can be great examples of how a person can be accountable, respectful, and committed to building strong, loving relationships. By doing this we teach our kids how to be that kind of person. This also teaches them how to recognize friends and partners who will treat them well.
Preparing to be an adoptive parent is like storm preparation in another way. We can’t think that challenging parent/child issues won’t head our way. We can’t think, Not my kids or It will never happen to us. It can. (In fact, it almost certainly will. Perhaps it will be the equivalent of a Category 1 storm. Perhaps it will be more like a Category 5.) Certainly, it is better to be prepared than to be blindsided by the biggest challenge to ever befall our families. The devastation is certain to be worse if no preparations have been made.
So, as you face the storms of family life, practice the Elements of Adoption Attunement. Love and enjoy your kids. Take comfort in knowing that you have fully prepared (You have, right????) and can weather any storm when they come. You do not need to face these challenges alone. The coaches at Growing Intentional Families Together are here to provide you with help, resources, insights, and strategies. Take advantage of our decades of lived expertise.
Parents with teens might find Katie Naftzger’s book Parenting in the eye of the Storm useful. She is both an adoptee and a therapist.
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. GIFT coaches are available to present workshops online. We do not place children for adoption nor do we facilitate adoptions. Contact us: 1-800-653-9445. Visit our Facebook page to join the conversation.
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