Having not had birth children myself I can’t say I understand parenting in the sense of how most people have a family. They conceive, have the wonderful (and painful so I’m told) experience of giving birth and then of course going through the normal stages of development with their child. They know their child and the child begins to trust them – through the reinforcement of daily needs being met by their Mum, Dad or primary caregiver the child comes to understand that needs do get met and the world is ok.
I’ve heard many times people say to me “all kids are the same”, “all kids go through ……tantrums, difficulty with toileting, food issues, friendship problems etc etc”. I know where those comments are coming from – very often from a place of trying to identify with us as adoptive parents – endeavouring to normalise what we are experiencing – “all parents lose it sometimes and don’t know what to do for the best with their children” – whilst I’m sure this is true, adoptive parenting IS different. It’s not better or worse, harder or easier – it’s just different.
Even if I hadn’t read lots of books, spoken to lots of other adopters and spent time with therapists understanding the impact of early trauma on children – I instinctively feel that what they have experienced changes them forever! Children who’ve experienced abuse, neglect, insecurity of lots of moves, initial separation from their birth Mother and Father – have scars and wounds that make them different. I know we don’t like to consider this as humans, we like to believe we are all the same, all have the same chances in life, opportunities, challenges, obstacles BUT we don’t.
Some of us had the amazing privilege of a good childhood with solid parents and a relatively pain free upbringing. Of course it’s all relative – we all feel our own pain and I’m not down playing the effect life can have on any of us. What I am saying is that if you imagine being a child who lives in constant fear, chaos, unpredictability, confusion and can not process any of that – too young to understand and rationalise your experiences, with no-one to comfort you or make sense of it – what impact would that have? How long would it take to ‘normalise’ your feelings? How different might your perspective be to the next child who has not experienced any of that?
And what of us as adoptive parents? Well hearing people trying to ‘normalise’ my experience as an adoptive mother is very difficult to hear. I’m sure actually all Mothers feel that others don’t really understand – how could they? All our situations are unique. BUT when you find people who do seem to understand it’s amazing! I have a few people like that in my life who I don’t really need to explain things to – I can just ring and say I’m really struggling today – they don’t tell me “all kids do that”, they listen, empathise and tell me I’m doing a good job.
I read an article recently about peer pressure – it’s seen as a negative thing but the article was talking about the positive side of peer pressure – peer support. Finding those who understand and who can be there for you is essential. I found a few good resources lately that I’d like to share and hopefully they will help you. Also don’t forget that your friends who you feel don’t really understand, they are trying to most of the time – but how could they really understand? Being an adoptive parent is a different and a unique experience, so is birth parenting – let’s try to remember that and support each other as much as we can – whether birth parents or adoptive parents.
Check out Bryan Post he is a brilliant man from America – many years of experience as a social worker and therapist for children who’ve experienced early trauma. Also, and more importantly, he was adopted himself and is now an adoptive parent. He has lots of free resources as well as a monthly membership to his inner circle where you receive lots of great content to help understand your children and build your own support system.
The other resource is a website called Adoption Voices – it’s a forum, social media site, network of people involved in adoption and provides a great place to read other blogs and connect with other adopters.
I hope these resources prove helpful for you too – let me know if they do and please comment or pass onto others who may benefit from this blog.