Adoptive parents frequently hear themselves called heroes for choosing to adopt. While it is intended as a compliment, there is a subtle negative judgment implied: our children are perceived as burdens they’d never have the courage to shoulder. What is the effect of seeing children as obstacles to be overcome? On the children? On the parents?
For kids, adoption means they gained the blessing of a permanent, loving family. Sadly, it also means they had to first be separated from their birth families. This loss shapes children’s emotions and behavior. There’s also an implied need imposed by society, to express gratitude for having been adopted. This ignores two facts--the deep yearning that drove the parents' decision to adopt and there’s nothing lucky about losing one’s birth family. To add the supposition that kids are a burden injures them further. It encourages learned helplessness and reinforces negative self-images.
When adults operate from the hero’s role, they need a person in need of rescue. Their child’s behaviors and choices can be interpreted as a judge of the parent’s own success or failure. This locks parents and children in boxes that limit their potential and their ability to be their true selves.
What if parents choose to view their adopted children as blessings instead? Freed of the victim labels, children are not seen as broken or damaged but as kids in need of a fresh start, guidance, support, and unconditional love. Parents can be the safe harbor where kids can find unconditional love, encouragement and a space where they can learn through trial and error. Parents nurture, guide, and accept their children for themselves and do not require them to be an idealized version of a dream child. Within the family context, they elicit growth from one another.
As parents strive to cope, to grow, and to learn the lessons of their own lives, they model an important template for their kids to imitate and teach children how to accept and love themselves. Children and parents both become the heroes of their own lives.