Tuesday Topic: Is There a Common "Low" Year for Adoptive Families?

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This week’s Tuesday Topic comes from Erika who writes The Stanley Homeschool Blog.  She asks,

I’ve heard that year four is the hardest for homeschool moms. Often they throw in the towel at that point. Is there a common “low” year for adoptive families? We’re almost to year three and feeling like we live in the valley of darkness.Is there a trend? Am I still going down, or is there hope that this is bottom? Or, is this just life and I’ll adjust?

What is your experience? Was there a time when you realized things were beginning to turn around? One day did you realize that life was beginning to feel more “normal?”

Take a minute to reply and support one another. So often we feel alone and wonder if we’re the only ones who are struggling. I love the way you all encourage one another with wisdom, shared experiences, and kind words. I have the best readers in the world.

I hope to hear from you today!

The sun is shining in the windows and I’m ready for a good day.

Encourage one another,

Lisa

 

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. "Christy"
    March 18, 2014

    Year four was our best homeschool year. It was year five that one of my bio kids ended up in school with our foster daughter which then became so complicated when she went back to kindergarten and I ended up at the school four times a day and I feel like the ones at home aren't progressing at all. One thing having public school students has shown me though is that educating your kids is just hard, no matter where they are learning.
    I'm very interested in what others have to say about a hard adoption year though. We added two siblings to our three siblings a year ago and they are hopefully going to be adopted before the end of the year. Most days still feel so so hard all the time.

    Reply
  2. Deborah
    March 18, 2014

    Ah – someone just like me who wishes they had a crystal ball to see the future (I can live through xx more if I know that it ends at yy……) My dad gave me the following advice – you are not different until you are different….. if the kids were with a bio mom or foster family or former family for 2 years/5 years/7 years with the promise that they were "forever" until you have stuck it out longer than the longest you are not different. It made sense at the time and I tried to live by it…… however, that said – we haven't seen a bunch of progress, we have seen a bunch of regression/escalation, and we are only a few months from 4 years in….. which is twice as long as my kids were in foster care.

    Reply
  3. kel
    March 18, 2014

    I originally felt like once our son had been with us longer than the orphanage, it got easier, but now I realize there are cycles in his behaviors, and they come and go. We are in our fourth year now, and our son has never slept through the night more than three nights in a row. Its a journey, I think the perception of it getting easier is really just me expecting less and bending more.

    Reply
  4. AmyE
    March 18, 2014

    Love kel's comment, and agree. We're approaching being home 4 years with our now 7 year old. Many things are easier but many things are just beginning to get harder as we delve into some new areas of healing. Letting go of expectations and taking it a day at a time has been the best thing. I thought we would be "normal" by year 2. I now know we will never arrive at what I used to call "normal". We are just praying that we continue to grow in bonding, attachment and more healing for him. It will be a life long journey. I have no doubt.

    Reply
  5. Sonya Hillrich
    March 19, 2014

    At year five, we realized we really needed a team. Get a team! I cannot emphasize that enough. 🙂
    I love your words: "feeling like we live in the valley of darkness" because that is really what we felt like at that point. We got the struggling sweetheart into both OT for sensory challenges & a good Christian counselor for our relationship because it was a constant fight. We also realized the "closeness" of homeschooling was no longer benefitting our relationship & moved towards public school the following year.
    At the same time our church was finally able to sustain a couples' adoptive & foster parenting Sunday School. We got support for ourselves through this class, & remembered that we are not crazy or alone.
    The conferences that you are always mentioning, Lisa, are another way to remember that our hope is in Christ, not in the circumstances within our families, in our individual kids, or in the current state of our marriage. We can grab new tools, & be cared for. Loved this post from Mary @ Owlhaven:
    http://www.owlhaven.net/2014/03/03/why-go-to-an-a

    To sum up, I think the darkness doesn't come at a certain year, but it does come, to everyone I've observed. Knowing to resist isolation & begin to re-gain hope is the key. Our hope is in Christ. Only in Him. But with grace, He sustains us through the darkness, & reveals new light.

    Reply
  6. Elizabeth
    March 19, 2014

    This could be discouraging, but I hope that it will not be seen that way. My siblings have been in my family for 8 years and the past 2 years have been some of our most difficult yet. They are all in various stages of puberty (which we realize is its own difficulty) and we also have some compounding circumstances that are unique to my family. I also was hoping for a magical shift once we hit the point that they had been in my family longer than outside of it. However, the more I understand about child development, the more I realize that those early years are incredibly impacting. There are times I see so much growth in my younger siblings, and times I grieve because I realize there are some things they may 'never' feel in their hearts about family and love. However, as a Jesus follower, I believe when they see His face one day, their hearts WILL be whole.

    Reply
  7. holley
    March 19, 2014

    Our son has been in our family for almost five years. A year ago we hit bottom with medical and behavioral issues. I hope that we never hit a bottom like that again. We utilized respite care, and leaned heavy on our adoption counselor. If there is one thing I walked away with from our time in counseling it is this: always acknowledge the behavior at a heart level. For example: when my son starts to control situations, we state that he is controlling the situation, (call it what it is), and that he doesn't want to trust us (heart level) because he was severely hurt prior to joining our family. Then we reaffirm our love for him, that we are trustworthy (I provide examples of this), and that we love him, and will continue to walk alongside of him to healing. I say some variation of this script as often as I realize he is controlling/lying/hurting, and sloooowly it is working. It was helpful for me to learn that naming the cause of the behavior and the heart issue, is super healthy. Though at times it can cause a backlash, because it is hard to have behaviors and their roots named. If someone points out my issues, my immediate reaction is not usually one of gratitude or kindness.
    Press on, the valley of darkness can be long and painful. My stabilizing factor has been reading the Bible through in a year. I don't think I would have successfully walked through the last years without truth covering me each day. Find that which will restore you, find rest, and something outside of caring for your kids that you can delight in.

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth
      March 19, 2014

      Thank you for sharing. That consistency that you describe in how you meet his challenges is lovely.

      Reply
  8. Anita
    March 19, 2014

    I think it's also important to remember that kids go through developmental stages just because they are growing and developing. Some of those stages are more difficult on their own. Add on the challenges that many of our adopted kids have and you can have a difficult year no matter what you do. My 9 year old son is going through his "unsettled"stage as is common for 8-9 year olds (also happens at 3 and again around 15). Lots more aches, pains, regressions, etc. This is normal for any child at this age. I have to keep in mind that not all of his "issues" are because of adoption and trauma…some are just because he's growing up .

    Reply
    1. Elizabeth
      March 19, 2014

      It's a good reminder that all children go thru some harder stages during their development and that not all difficult behaviors are because of trauma. We need to recognize both.

      Reply
  9. Jennifer
    March 21, 2014

    I really like that we can all come to this page and talk about our experience and hear of others. We brought our son home 15 months ago. The first year was one of the most difficult for me. I have 3 bio children and I found it hard to bond with a toddler who was kicking and hitting me and screaming at me. We have made great progress the last year with working with a therapist who came into our home and now with chiropractic therapy. I still feel we have a long way to go but with hope in Jesus, I am sure it is all worth it.

    Reply
  10. Linda
    March 28, 2014

    For us, our lowest year, after the first when our kids were still adjusting and acting out RADly, was the last. I think other circumstances, rather than year of adoption, were more of an influence. Puberty is a biggie. Being rejected, again, by the birth family was another. FASD and its effects on judgement, impulsivity, and ability to think and remember played a big part.
    I remember, when our kids were little, that our therapist told us that we may need to begin therapy again when our kids hit adolescence. She was right. The elementary years were so smooth, and the kids had healed so much, I thought we would land on the "right" side of the statistics for FASD and early trauma. We didn't. But now I understand grace. Now I understand unconditional love. Now I am humbled.

    Reply
  11. Laura
    May 8, 2014

    Is there a reason that it seems that all Christian adoptive parents have to insist over and over again that no matter what trauma and chaos their biological children suffer as a result of parents adopting troubled children, that it was "God's will?"Or that God is somehow rejoicing over the end of a happy family unit? Do we expect a badge of honor? Do we feel entitled to make decisions that can permanently wound our biological children?

    Does God sometimes require very, very hard things? Of course. But we cannot "make" something "Godly" by wearing suffering on our sleeve. Self made martyrdom is not the goal.

    I think that the Christian homeschool community (me) is much too cavalier about making these decisions. Adopting children seems to be a new requirement added to the never ending list of things large families "must" do. And adoption is a Godly thing, no doubt about it. But is it right in every circumstance? Absolutely not. Is a Christian mom who suffers through "dark" days with a big family and troubled adopted kids more "holy" than her friend with a small, serene family of biological kids? How dare we think that-and yet, if we are honest, most of us have.at one time or another!

    I will say the thing that I have come to believe- and that is, that some- not all- of our adoptions were not "God's will"-but were OUR will, based on our OWN vision of what we thought our good Christian family should be.God is full of grace and compassion- for us, and for the adopted children that we had with us- but we were no more called to do this than the man in the moon. I don't think that the trauma and stress did any of us any good, least of all our biological children, who have paid a dear price for their parent's desire to be "good" Christians. I pray for God's grace on them, and on the adopted children that are apart from us now. .I pray for all the families I see in that dark place of suffering…but perhaps, I am the only person who sees it this way?

    I think that the elephant in the room is that there are some children who do NOT belong in a traditional family unit. For these children a well run group home, preferably Christian, is the best fit. We adults are free to choose hardship for ourselves, but we need caution when making such choices for our children. We will not "make" better Christians out of our bio kids by forcing them to live a life of "dark" days and stress. Christians are saved, not "made". In fact, I would urge those of you in these hard places with your bio kids to search and pray and be sure that the family situation will not leave them with wounds that may not heal. For those contemplating adoption- pray, pray, pray. Look at the needs of the kids you have now. Consider their frailties, and special needs. Be careful, and be sensitive. Don't think that you can fix people. Only God can do that.

    I have come to believe that there are situations where the right thing and the healthy thing is to admit that an adoption is not working, and that a change is needed. You may see this as failure, but in my case, it sent me right into the arms of Jesus. What blessed failure!

    Lastly- I guess there is one good thing here…in keeping with God's promise to work all things for good for those who love him… and that is this: I know now that I am nothing, apart from Him. I could not do what I at one time thought I should, and still He keeps me under His wing. For that I am thankful.

    Reply
    1. Lisa Qualls
      May 9, 2014

      Laura, I so appreciate you sharing your heart on this. You've written hard words from your own experience and they are here to be used as God desires, to speak to the right people. You're right that there are people who will not understand, and that is okay.

      Reply

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