No one accidentally adopts, right? We pursued adoption with passion. determination and single-mindedness. It required significant, time energy and commitment to become adoptive parents.
We must pursue parenting with equal intensity, one that is infused with a thorough awareness of the challenges unique to adoptive parenting. This requires a redesign of the parenting templates which our own parents used to raise us. We must replace these strategies with ones that consider our children’s needs–those common to all children, plus, those which emanate from their being adopted. This requires parenting with intention.
Intentional Parenting is both an attitude of the heart as well as a well-informed, well-educated approach. It is steeped in adoption-attunement* and respects the reality of our children’s needs, sensitivities and dual emotional loyalties. Intentional Parents (IPs*) understand we are not rivals with birth parents; we are teammates who love the same child and are all committed to that child’s well-being, happiness and personal growth.
IPs* recognize adoption did not cure infertility nor does our child’s secure attachment to us erase her connection to, or interest in her birth family. Moreover, intentional parents have a clear vision of their Purpose, Values and Goals as a parent and for their families. (Note that these terms are capitalized to indicate that these are not generalized, communal ideas. Instead, these concepts result from careful thought and discussion which distilled them to a core group, one that deeply resonates with us as individuals. These criteria then become the basis of our parental blueprint.)
In our coaching, we have frequently found parents have not paused to actively engage in a process of identifying, Purpose, Values, and Goals. Instead, they operate on intuition and “autopilot,” assuming their partner agrees. This is unfortunate because it leaves mismatches between the partner’s unexposed and can lead to division in parenting approach. Remember, each partner was raised in a separate family of origin. Their experiences may parallel their partner’s. But it may vary–a little or a lot. Children are experts at “divide and conquer,” so this Purpose, Values, and Goals defining process is a vital task for parents.
Explore these sample questions with a partner. Even if this discussion has already been held, it is worth revisiting periodically. It alerts us to where we have slipped off-course, fallen short or forgotten something entirely.
Purpose operates as one of the points of our parenting compass. It is a soul-steeped awareness that creates the reason why we chose to be parents. It goes beyond simply wanting to follow the natural cycle of life, of wanting to be equal participants in the parenting world of our friends and relatives. Purpose connects to a core spirituality.
What is it about being a parent that infuses meaning in your life? How does parenting reflect your philosophy of life? Of a child’s role in the family” In the world at large? How do your faith and spiritual beliefs influence your parenting?
Create a list of values that are important to you. Keep in mind that Values go beyond a moral code. They define who we are. We suffer internal conflict when we are not upholding these Values. It is imperative to identify the values on which you and your partner align as well as those on which compromise cannot occur. Which ones actively guide your thoughts, choices and behavior? These are your core Values, the ones that infuse your parenting philosophy and goals. Identifying core Values establishes another compass point for your family life.
Intentional parents also spend time refining their parental Goals. Most parents want to raise children who are happy, healthy–both physically and emotionally– and who grow to contribute to society. Think “roots and wings.” Parents want their children to build a firm foundation which provides the launching pad that propels them into their adult lives. Intentional adoptive parents also commit to nurturing a child’s natural talents and abilities even if they are different from patterns typical in the history of our family. (Highlighting the ways are kids are similar to us is a common “claiming” behavior but it is essential that this be balanced with an appreciation for the many ways our kids differ from us. We must ensure that our children believe that their differences enrich our families lest they infer that they must hide or be ashamed of their differences.)
Make an actual list of your Goals. Ask yourself how your parenting philosophy and strategies serve these goals. How fully are you living them? What blocks you from living them 100%? Which create the greatest challenge for you as a parent? For your children? Revisit the list on a regular basis to identify progress as well as opportunities for changes in strategy and priorities.
How will intentional parenting help your family? What will be the first steps you will take? How might working with a GIFT family coach assist you?