Some of us adopted children thinking we could handle it – all of it.
We were competent people and even experienced parents, but it wasn’t long before Russ and I learned we couldn’t do it on our own. Parenting children with early trauma took more than we could give.
We needed a team.
It wasn’t easy to create our support team. Asking for help required humility. We also needed creativity and flexibility to think far outside our norms to find solutions.
Let me share some of the members of the team we created.
Our Support Team
1. Health Care Providers
Before adoption I was a mom who rarely gave her children Tylenol; after adoption, we had a team of four different clinics at Seattle Children’s Hospital for our children. We traveled there at least once every three months for appointments and sometimes more frequently. We also had an occupational therapist, dentist, optometrist, and the occasional quick care doctor on our team as well. Two of my children took medication twice a day, every day. And after a few false starts, I finally developed a monthly prescription refill schedule to manage the challenge of staying on top of medications.
Before adoption, we were a homeschooling family, and we didn’t anticipate school outside the home would become part of our lives. But after our adoptions, we discovered it was what two of our children needed. We added teachers and classmates to our lives.
Our girls had several wonderful tutors who helped them catch up on language skills. One spring I hired a “homework helper” who helped us through the end of the school year, including all of those pesky projects like dioramas. The combination of school still being new, English not being their first language, and simply being behind in their education meant the girls needed extra help.
We were blessed to have an amazing therapist for our children. We traveled regularly for appointments, requiring a significant sacrifice of time and finances, but the benefits for our children and our family were remarkable. Before adoption, I never imagined we would need the help of a therapist; today I cannot imagine our team without this experienced and compassionate person who understands trauma, attachment, and grief.
5. Therapeutic Adults/Respite
We had special friends who were very much part of our team, providing loving, secure care for our children. My dear friend (fondly known as Aunt Michele) and her family were a key part of our daughter’s team. Every Wednesday afternoon, Kalkidan went home from school with Aunt Michele and stayed until after dinner. Michele and her husband understood our daughter’s needs and how to help her grow and mature in a healthy way. This relationship was a key part of her healing and a great source of help.
In addition, a young couple in our church offered respite to us. They loved children and had the experience, education, and compassionate hearts to care for our daughter. This was an answer to prayer.
Extended family can also be a critical part of a family’s team; sadly, we don’t have family living near enough to be involved with our children on a regular basis. If you have family near, I encourage you to seek their help and support.
One summer I hired a high school girl who took the kids to the park, on hikes, and even on a trip to the store to buy flip-flops. A young woman cleaned my house a few times; a luxury I never allowed myself before.
If you have children who are old enough to babysit, you may not see the need to hire helpers. However, we learned there are times when we need to lift the burden off of our older children as well and not rely too heavily on them. In addition, we had one child we couldn’t leave in the care of siblings because it was stressful for everyone.
Hiring helpers is difficult for families whose budgets are already stretched caring for our children. You may need to think creatively, bartering with a helper or trading with friends. We realized it was important to “invest” in our children and our family now, so we didn’t “pay later” when the problems were more severe and everyone was completely exhausted.
7. Church and Youth Ministry
We’re very thankful for the blessings we receive from our church and particularly the people committed to loving and teaching the youth. For years we attended a church without a youth group and we saw no need for it. One of the many changes in our lives was joining a new church that fit our family better.
Whether you are preparing to bring new children into your family or you adopted years ago, I encourage you to think about what your family needs.
Do you have extended family or good friends who can become a more integral part of your team? Maybe you need to seek out a therapist or meet with a teacher. Regardless, let me encourage you to lay down any excuses or pride holding you back from seeking help and building a team to provide your child the love and care he needs.
Don’t try to tough it out and make it on your own. Create your “team” starting today, and let others hold you up when you are weary. Everyone will benefit more than you can imagine.
Leave a comment and tell me, who is on your team? Who do you wish you could have on your team?
[An earlier version of this post was published on Empowered to Connect a number of years ago. We’ve come a long way since then. Despite our gains, we still need a circle of support around us, and I’m guessing you do too.]
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With courage and hope for the journey,