Five Things Adoptive Parents Don’t Tell You Part 2
Adoptive parents often stand off in the shadows when it comes to serious conversations on parenting. They often feel like they don’t fit in. On the one hand, they want to share and on the other, they feel an overwhelming sense that they must protect these hurt children they are raising. I have often erred on the side of complete silence. Not the best choice. So, I am sharing.
For adoptive/foster parents everywhere- this is for you.
For those of you have family members who have adopted-this is for you.
If you have church members, co-workers or friends who have adopted-this is for you.
This is the second post in a series, if you missed the first post, you can find it here.
My son and I stood with the group behind the docent at the art museum, shoulder to shoulder we stood. My son was quiet, overly so. He didn’t answer any of the questions about the Roman art or the time period they had just studied at THESIS (homeschool co-op).To an outsider, he appears mild-mannered. Mature. And there is some truth in that. The truth of the moment was we were in a large city with sights and sounds that were overwhelming to him. The museum put in hypervigilant mode. Multiple schools on field trips. Loud. Loud. Loud teens everywhere. Smells of brown bagged lunches on carts in main foyer wafted into the alcoves where we waited to move to another section. When the docent took us through an under ground short-cut-tunnel to the lunch room, it almost did him in.
People often tell me that this child is so well-behaved, so mild-mannered, so quiet. Not always so.
2. What you see in public is not an accurate picture of our home life.
Adopted children with attachment issues may engage in superficially engaging behavior while in public. That is attachment speak for ‘appear to be an all around great child’. The child will be funny, overly attentive to those around them, including climbing on the lap of the piano teacher or hugging everyone within a three feet radius. Or instead, the child will be quiet, , standing ramrod straight on the outer edges of the crowd, appearing to be the best behaved kid around. Instead, these children lack attachment skills. They either attach to random strangers or attach to no one. The child who is hypervigilant in public may have raging fits and destructive tendencies at home. If the mother seems harried, or cringes when you say her child is so well-behaved- don’t walk away and forget. Don’t brush off those subtle,silent pleas for help/prayer, If she says things are out of control at home- believe her. If she says that one of the kids took a knife to the sofa or his brother, don’t make excuses for the kid or say, “my kids do things like that too” (unless that is true and you empathize). If your kids do not have attachment issues, their survival skills are not on high. You cannot fathom the chaos that can be going on in the home of adopted, hurt children.
This doesn’t mean that adoptive parents want you to know everything. Nope. They will not tell you. They usually grin and bear it. You see, they are nurturing a young cactus. They will build a wall around him and protect him to the best of their ability. You may never know anything. if you watch closely, you may see a burden, pressing down on their shoulders. You may see them wiping a tear away when no one else sees. When their child makes it through the interview at the Social Studies Fair, fears and all. When they first see a child say, “I’m sorry.” When a child begins to attach properly, he may act more normal in public, goof around, get yelled at by an adult to pipe down. For the child who is out of control in public because he is full on survival mode, he may calmly wait to be fed instead of grabbing food off of someone else’s tray (true story).
What you can you do to help? Acknowledge the adoptive parent may have difficulty at home. Pray. Pray. Pray. Don’t brush off those tiny hints. Ask what you can do to help. If you work in the Sunday school department, find out what you can do to make the hurt child feel more comfortable and do it (even if it means Mom has to sit in class for a season). And number one, most important advice of the day- ASSUME NOTHING. Don’t think for a moment because your friend with seven kids who looks so put together because her clothes match her shoes, that her home mission field is not weighing her down.