Ruby is acting out in class, her teacher says she doesn’t follow the rules, she gets up from her chair to talk to other kids, is downright disrespectful to her, and has even been physically aggressive toward other kids. She’s a big handful.
At home, Conner’s hitting his siblings and parents, hiding under the bed, sneaking food, and a host of his other behaviors baffle his parents.
What’s going on??? It can make a foster or adoptive parent go crazy trying to nail down what exactly the issue really is. More discipline? Less discipline? More rewards? Less time playing? More time playing? You’ve done this right? You’ve gone through the solutions, and you’re still running into a big question mark.
In my dozens (more than 200) of articles on this website, and in my published work, I’ve talked about what you can do to help your foster or adopted child. I’ve talked about how to overcome sleep issues, anger, the lies our children believe, how to have better school days, why consequences and rewards don’t work for a hurting child, and the feelings an adopted or foster child has. However, there’s still such a large part that falls on the parents shoulder (well, everything does land there, I’m just here to help guide you through it).
One of the parenting obstacles you’re going to face is:
What emotion is my child dealing with?
I once heard an adoptive parent say they realized they’d been combating the wrong emotion, fear, when their child was actually dealing with shame. The thing is, if you consider yourself, or anyone you know who hasn’t been through a traumatic life, it’s probable that many times you’re dealing with several emotions at once. We aren’t simplistic beings who only feel fear, loneliness, shame, gratitude, anger, resentment, etc. at a given time. Sure this would be true if we were in the middle of a car accident and our car was careening off the highway, but most of the time that’s not the case. Many emotions can be felt all at once (for some of us anyway).
Now think of your child and what they’ve been through. You might not know, but if they’re from an orphanage, then a foster family in another country, or from the U.S. and sent to foster care, you can bet they faced FAR more than they were ever meant to. What emotions do you think they’re dealing with? Oh, the list would be extensive: loss, fear, uncertainty, anger, hate, disappointment, apathy, and the list goes on.
We need to take an all-inclusive look at what our child might be weighted with. We might take a certain emotion and deal with it one moment, but we might swing around and deal with another just minutes later. And the truth is, many times we don’t know what specifically is bothering our child, so we love them.
We make sure we’re there for them any time they need us.
We put down our phone, we put our spatula on the spoon rest, we walk away from the yard work, and we’re there. We let them talk if they want, we sit quietly if they want, we shoot hoops if they want (even if we only get air balls). We try to identify what they’re feeling, but they may not know, and we may not know either. That doesn’t make us bad parents, it reminds us that we need to wholly be there for our child.
I’ve written a few articles that will help you identify what your child is feeling by helping them open up to you:
Emotional Balance Begins with Us (Feelings Part 1)
Name Those Feelings (Feelings Part 2)
Be Available (Feelings Part 3)
Just Deal with It (Feelings Part 4)
This isn’t easy. It’s a road that has rich beauty and a lot of cracks. Why? Because hurting children were in a train wreck, and recovery takes time. Many emotions transpire when you’ve lived more lifetimes than any adult before you’re a year old. We can’t expect to deal with one and have the show be over.
Something you can do: If you believe in God, pray. Pray and ask Him what to do. I can’t tell you how many times a situation has been made clearer, or how many times I’ve been overwhelmed by my child’s behavior or a mountain we were facing, and God put it all in perspective. He’s showed me what to do, how to handle behaviors, and that sometimes I’m making a mountain out of that stinkin’ mole hill.
Don’t forget to go back and look at the links I provided on helping your child with their feelings.
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