Adoptive parenting brings complexities that can challenge and defeat the best of us. For families whose children had difficult starts and who must cope with the fallout of trauma, the course is even more arduous. Both parent and child benefit from thoughtful and adoption-attuned support and strategies. During the month of January, our blogs have focused on ways to address stress: meditation, humor, intentional family fun. While each is worth trying, sometimes these techniques are inadequate. What additional options might work?
One of the greatest helps for me was connecting with other parents who faced similar obstacles, not in a misery-likes-company way but in a finally-someone-who-gets-it way. They understood that our parenting experience was vastly different from the norm because they were confronting the same reality.
First, we commiserated, even engaged in "You think that's horrid? Listen to this." We exchanged stories of parenting in the adoption-trauma trenches( which provided a relief valve,) shared some gallows-humor laughter, and encouraged one another. We became a "tribe" and discovered how comforting it felt to be seen and heard with empathy instead of judgment. This experience reinvigorated us and helped us reconnect to our dreams of being a committed, loving family.
Post adoption support is essential to adoption success. Gather as many Adoption-attuned (AQ*) resources as possible. Join a support group. Work with a coach. When necessary, consult a therapist . (Ensure that all professionals have a thorough understanding of adoption-attunement.) Educate family, friends, etc on the techniques and reasons for your (AQ*) parenting methods. Avoid people who do not "get" your approach, especially those people who try to undermine, criticize or dissuade you from the therapeutic parenting that your gut knows your children need.
Read Sally Donovan's second book "The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting, the Small Stuff, The Big Stuff, and The Stuff In Between." It is a welcome contribution to the reality of adoptive parenting. She knows what it is like to live in the "Polar Vortex" of parenting. She has faced her fill of platitudes, criticism and rude questions. Reading her book is like finally finding a friend her really "gets" the journey of parenting traumatized kids. Sally has some practical ideas as well as incisive commentary that will make readers laugh as well as cry.
Read it for her great--and practical--suggestions and for the experience and encouragement of "visiting" with a kindred spirit.
Sally has also written No Matter What, a poignant and honest peek into the challenges of parenting kids with a history of trauma and neglect. I posted this review on Amazon: Yes, love heals but parenting kids with trauma/neglect histories, requires so much more. Immerse yourself in this story of the fierce love of this adoptive family. Understand the day to day challenges as these children learn to deal with and heal from their past. Cheer on these parents as they are called on to muster every ounce of patience, determination and hope while they discover what their kids need emotionally, academically and socially and then work to provide it. Experience the heroism of both kids and parents who must confront the aftermath of abuse, learn to cope with and channel the anger, shame and grief. This story will break your heart wide open, expand your understanding of the life-long impact of abuse and neglect and educate you on how to be a better, friend, teacher, family member and perhaps call you to rise to the challenge of parenting kids with "tough starts." At the very least, it will open your eyes and hearts and draw you in to view adoptive families with more empathy and less judgment. This is not a happily-ever-after tale but a true portrait of what it takes as a family to overcome such a disastrous beginning and to triumph. --Gayle H. Swift, author, "ABC, Adoption & Me: A Multicultural Picture Book, adoption coach, adoptive parent and co-founder of GIFT Family Services