Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Things Adoptive Parents Are Tired of Hearing from their Friends and Family, and What You Can Do About It

Dismissive.  Conclusive.  Critical.  Assuming.  Over-complimentary.     

Comments from family and friends can be the most disheartening and discouraging for parents-by-adoption.  Mostly because we know that even our "nearest and dearest" can be just as uneducated on adoption as the general public.   

Having four kids and with a decade of parenting under my belt, I've learned a lot.  A lot about adoption, a lot about raising children, a lot about trauma, and a lot about special needs.  

Adoptees sometimes have needs that birth children do not.  But when our dear ones only have experience raising birth children, they tend to react to our parenting with less-than-ideal reactions that can grate our nerves, hurt our feelings, and even offend us. 

I've heard all these. Maybe you have, too? 

1:  "Have you tried...?" 

Nothing is more annoying that working your butt off for your child and hearing someone suggest a ridiculous or old school "remedy." Whether it's CIO (cry it out), an herbal supplement, a "good spankin,'" or time-outs.  We know how important attachment is for children who were adopted, and many common parenting practices are completely opposite of attaching in nature.        

2:  "It's just bad behavior."

There are absolutely times that all children behave badly.  And there are also many times adopted children are reacting, not behaving poorly, their way through a struggle.  Adoption grief can run deep, as explained in this video called "When Sad Looks Mad."  And special needs, such as a child with sensory processing disorder, cannot be "fixed" with discipline.

3:  "All children do that."  

It's so hard when someone assumes that what your child does is just "normal" behavior when it isn't.  For example, kids with sensory processing disorder can have sensory meltdowns.  Sensory meltdowns are not the same thing as tantrums.  And did you know that adoptees are more likely to have SPD than children who weren't adopted?  Other struggles like attachment and food issues may occur in non-adopted children, but in adoptees, they issues are more likely and more complex. 

4:  "It's a boy thing."  "It's a girl thing."

Nothing drives me more crazy than someone insisting that what my child is doing is because of his or her sex.  Again, when my child with SPD was having struggles with hyperactivity, many of my dear ones insisted it's "just a boy thing."  But I KNEW something else was going on, and thankfully I listened to my mommy-intuition.  With girls (I have three!), the assumption is that they are going to be emotional.  This stereotype pushes us to overlook an adoptee-girl who may be struggling with anxiety.

5:  "She looks just like you!"

This one always puzzles me.  (And yes, it's even been said to us, two white parents, of one or two of our four Black children!)  I think it's intended to be a compliment or an attempt to assure us that our child is seen as truly ours...but I'm honestly not really sure.  It's always really odd-uncomfortable-awkward to hear someone say this.  Granted, it is true that some of our kids copy our mannerisms, voice intonation, syntax, etc.   I believe sometimes this comment is a "defense" of the adoptive parents based on stereotypes regarding birth parents.

So, great.  We've heard these things, but what do we do about them?  How do we respond when a dear one says something like this to us...again?  

I believe that two things can truly change a person's thinking.  They are:

1:  Experience.

Having personal experience with something can be the catalyst for true change.  This means spending time observing and listening with an open heart and mind.  

The experience part happens naturally with your nearest and dearest if you're spending time with them.  I do realize that many families are spread out across the country (or even internationally) and don't always see each other frequently.  That's why point #2 is going to be really important for these folks!  

The key is that when experience happens, there needs to be an open heart and mind.  You may have to encourage your dear ones to be backseat observers vs. backseat drivers (advice-givers) in order to truly understand your child and your parenting.  

Additionally, you need to let your dear ones know that you are open to discussions-based on their observations and their education (#2).  Let them ask questions!  Remember, you were once a newbie too! 

2:  Education.  

There are so many fantastic resources available!  If your dear one is receptive to the experience portion, education comes next.  Send your loved on articles, even books, and videos.  Empowered to Connect is a fantastic resource; I particularly like their free videos (which are easy to pass on to others).  The two books I highly recommend you give your loved one are:  Adoption is a Family Affair and In On It.  Tailor the education to your particular child:  attachment, trauma, special needs, transracial adoption, open adoption, etc.  

And then...

As a result of experience and education, the person develops empathy.  And as a result of empathy, that person can offer you encouragement rather than advice.  

This isn't to say there will be sheer perfection.  But if a loved one is willing to make the effort to experience and get educated, he or she is well on the way to empathy and subsequently, encouragement. 

For more on empathy, experience, encouragement, and education, give me your e-mail addy, and I'll send you a free e-book on these very important areas of focus!   

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments are moderated and published upon approval. Your thoughts and questions are also welcome via e-mail at whitebrownsugar AT hotmail DOT com.