Most of us adoptive parents spent many childless years pursuing the holy grail of parenthood. During the waiting process, we promised ourselves and our partners, that we would do "anything" if only we could become parents. (And we meant it!) We envisioned ourselves as loving parents with happy kids who would prove our parental competence. Once children arrive, however, it didn't take long for reality to rewrite this fairy tale. The idyllic happily-ever-after-ending proved elusive. Instead, the story we lived was full of twists, turns, highs, lows, potholes and mountain tops.
Parenting is hard and adoptive parenting, most of us discovered, is even
harder! more complicated. Parenting strategies that worked for friends and relatives didn't seem to work for us regardless of how much they insisted their tried-and-true methods were superior while adoption-attuned, therapeutic parenting methods were indulgent and lacking in sufficient discipline.
In fact, traditional hard-line parenting often created more problems than they solved. Often, we felt like complete failures with our burdens becoming heavier as our kids floundered, challenged or resisted parental efforts to educate, discipline and connect. Fantasies of being great parents slipped from our grasp, replaced self-doubt. We were families in stress. A huge disconnect divided the parents we-wanted-to-be from the parents-we-actually were; neither one embodied the parents our kids needed.
When we can't rely on traditional parenting templates, on the strategies that we experienced in our own childhoods, what choices remained for us? That's when we realized the pivotal need for considering, understanding, and recognizing adoption loss, its accompanying trauma and how these factors required a redesign of parenting strategies. It also demanded that we look within ourselves to identify our own triggers, handle our own emotional baggage and brave the challenges of conquering the obstacle-filled landscape of life as an adoptive family. We were ready to become adoption-attuned parents.
As coaches, we ask clients to assess current circumstances and implement fresh strategies to interrupt auto-pilot patterns in order to generate change. Sometimes this mandates a shift in perspective: Instead of viewing a behavior as manipulative, irritating or intentional, view it as communication. What happens when we remove the emotional baggage that attaches to behavior formerly labeled as malicious, lazy or defiant? How does this shift our emotional response? How does this shift in feelings, influence our thoughts? How does it open up new possibilities for connection and communication?
Rubber Meets the Road Challenge: Let's try an "experiment" for one week. What one behavior are you willing to add/eliminate/enhance/reduce that might have the largest impact on your relationship with your child? Think carefully here. Some examples:
Here's an activity you can do as a family. Create a flip book. Send to birth parents, distant family or even exchange it within the family.