A kind, anonymous commenter on my first Together for Adoption post asked for more takeaways, so here they are! This time, I'll share 5. Like I said, with 25 pages of notes, I could fill a lot of blog posts from that one conference alone. It was truly excellent. As long as I can travel to the location where it's being hosted, I plan to attend on an annual basis.
And without further ado: Takeaways, part deux.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is a brain injury. These kids are not choosing to act the way they do. It's not that they don't want to listen, or don't want to follow your instructions, it's that they are physically incapable of doing so. And very often, they are just as frustrated about the situation as you are. Just because we can't see the injury/disability doesn't mean it's not there. Unfortunately, when the person we are frustrated with looks perfectly normal, we often forget that there could be something unseen going on, don't we?
With kids who have experienced trauma, it's all about what's happening in the present. This means you will need to re-think how you discipline them. Be it abuse, neglect, or some other kind of trauma, it's very hard for these kids to trust what you say will happen in the future (i.e. “You hit your brother with the toy, therefore I am taking the toy away. You can have it back in 15 minutes”). It can even be hard for them to trust that you are acting in their best interests as they are often used to fending for themselves. They've learned not to trust caregivers. You'll need to be creative in how you approach discipline and determine appropriate consequences.
Narrate everything! This will tie into the previous takeaway a bit. Because of the unstable, unsafe histories some of these kids have, their brains are literally programmed to respond to certain situations in certain ways. They can't help it. It's reaction for them now. To help re-program their brains, we need to regularly narrate things that may seem obvious to us. This can mean everything from the roles of family members to the day-to-day routines that you want your child to know they can rely on. For example, if you have a child that's hoarding food by hiding it in their sock drawer, scolding or punishing them won't help, but it might be more helpful to remind them that, “In this family we don't need to hide our food. We eat 3 meals every day, and even have snacks! Food is kept right in the kitchen if you are ever hungry.” In other situations, just talk about what you are doing and why. Some kids may even benefit from regularly hearing things like, “Mommy's going to do this, because that's what mommies do.” Or, “Kids don't have to do that, because that's what parents do. As a kid, your job is to do this.”
Recognize that this is a journey. Regardless of where you are at in the adoption process, it is a journey and it's important not to miss that along the way. Adoption happens long before your kids come home and there is so much to learn. Watch for what God is trying to teach you. Don't be too hard on yourself if you don't have open doors the whole way through the process. It's going to take as long as God needs it to take. It's a journey and God has you on that journey for a reason.
If you have any need for comfort or control, adoption will completely destroy that for you! I think I heard statements to this effect in at least 3 different sessions. I also know it's the one that will mess with me the most. I love to know what's going on, to be prepared, and know what I'm going to do when a situation arises. I'm the crazy person who keeps coming up with the “what if” scenarios in my head. I know a lot of people do this, but I'm the one that doesn't know when to stop... and the scenarios become more obnoxious and unlikely as I go. It's an anxiety thing, and I strive for a pretty high level of both comfort and control to manage that. Of course, that way of thinking has only made it worse. I've actually been chatting with a counsellor these past few months to help manage it better... and I have a stinking suspicion that this is part of the reason God is taking us on the adoption journey. As Gary Thomas says, it's not about making you happy, but making you holy. That has been one of the most influential concepts in my life over the past year or so.
I'd be happy to answer any questions you may have – either about the adoption process, or our own personal story! Got any burning questions?
I’ve been married to Clark since 1998. He’s my real-life Superman. Since I can’t have kids naturally, we decided to look into other options. We both felt God leading us to adopt a sibling group through the Ministry of Children and Family Development. This is our story.
Waiting to Belong started as a movement to help the more than 30,000 kids in Canada who are waiting to be adopted. Our goal is to see as many waiting kids as possible be placed into loving, forever families. We work to shape realistic perceptions of adoption and to encourage the body of Christ to come alongside adoptive families in practical, loving ways.