Last Monday, I made the point one is not able to parent your adopted child because you need to be parented oneself.(Read more here) You cannot take your child somewhere you haven’t been yourself. This week in part 2, I’d like to talk about some of the child’s reasons.
First of all, the parent must accept the fact that the issues the child has, behavior, learning challenges, sensory issues, RAD, FAS or _________ are not the parent’s fault. The factors that created those syndromes or delays were not on the parent’s watch.
The tendency of the adopted parent is to pretend their are no issues.The child joins the family and the parent enrolls the child in school or daycare (or homeschools) and chalks every behavior up to ‘being a kid’ or ‘everyone does that’. Time passes and the child’s behavior gets worse and his peers move on, maturing, making better grades in school, learning social graces. The parent stands there scratching his head, wondering what he did wrong and what’s worse, friends and family blame the parent.
I could write a book about it (actually, I am, it is in the revision process right now, updates at a later date), but for today, I want to make two points:
- Acknowledge your child’s past. Denial hurts the child and prevents healing.
“Protecting ourselves by denying the true issues that the child faces keeps the issues alive and prevents healing.”- Parenting the Hurt Child
Children who have not had basic needs met find it hard to form attachments to parents or caregivers (tweet that).
It’s painful to think about what my child went through before he came ‘home’ to my family. Hunger. Thirst. Abuse. Pain. Neglect. I don’t to picture my children suffering. Yet, I can’t erase the past and neither can you. The mere fact that your child was eligible for adoption means he had a life before you whether it was growing in another’s womb. being abandoned at a hospital, placed in an orphanage or foster care. All of those dates mean on the time line of his life, you did not come in a the zero point.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about excusing the child’s behavior. I’m also not referring to talking about it relentlessly questioning your child about his past. Neither of those practices is helpful. Instead, keep the past in the back of your mind while you parent.
2. Learn a new parenting style. You cannot parent a child from a difficult place the same way you parent a securely attached child(tweet that). Truth is, your child may not want to be parented. He needs to be parented. He needs to attach for himself and for his future.
“Traumatized children are afraid to be cooperative, compliant, and receptive. To them, such behavior represents giving in which translates to losing. They have learned to oppose anything that is suggested by others…they are experts at counteracting anything directed by others….they refuse to respond to anything that someone else wants. Consequently, they choreograph battles over the most insignificant issues.”- Parenting the Hurt Child
Sound familiar? Do you feel as if you are living in the middle of a war zone? Is your child rejecting your parenting? There is a reason. He is not fighting you. He is fighting to survive. He believes that if he gives up control, then he will die. Sounds drastic, but just as a three year old believes there is a monster hiding under his bead, a child who has experienced breaks in attachment believes he must maintain control of his environment.
The child becomes stuck in the first of Glasser’s five needs, survival. He cycles through the broken cycle of attachment and it falls short.
How do you parent this child? You meet him where he is. It has often helped me to picture my child as half his age or more. It gives me a better perspective of his behavior and how I react to it. Also, here is the hardest advice of all, you cannot parent in anger. At all. It makes these kids shut down. When a child is in a cycle of misbehavior and he is only getting reprimanded (yelled at), he will stay stuck and so will you. Trust me. Been there done that.
Attachment parenting is a whole series of posts and I will get to that. Take heart if you are not able to parent a child and you have been parenting yourself. Remember the assignment in the first post of this series? Write a list of things a great parent would do and do them? Now, begin to do them for your child. Spoiler: your child may (will) try to sabotage your attempts. Do the activity anyway. Ignore the smart remarks, the child sliding under the table while playing scrabble or stomping off to his room after two rounds (true story). Keep trying. Keep doing the things on the list. Right now, you child may be frozen ground and you are a post hole digger trying to find a way into his heart. Eventually with time and connection, he will soften. You will have a moment. Maybe a second of softness and that will make the difference of a life time.