Tuesday Topic: What Can You do When You Don't Love Your Child?

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Today’s question comes from Renee, who asks,

What can you do when you don’t love your adopted child or even like them?  My husband and I adopted a 13 yr. old girl from China a little over a year ago.  We have 3 bio kids, and we love them very much.  Our new daughter is not easy to like and I just don’t feel any love towards her.  I keep telling her that I love her while hoping and praying that someday I will.  This is a very difficult situation and brings many feelings with it such as guilt and regret.

First, I want to thank Renee for having the courage to ask such a hard question.For moms, this is a very vulnerable thing to say – or even type. I know from having written this blog for over seven years, that this is not uncommon. We even covered this topic a couple of years ago, but it bears repeating.

I hope many of you will take a moment to encourage Renee. Let’s serve one another today and be honest with our thoughts and suggestions.  Feel free to comment anonymously if that helps – although I do want to encourage all of us to let go of  shame. I know, easier said than done, but let’s do our best.

Please leave a comment – we really do want to hear from you.  If you have a question you would like me to present as a Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at [email protected]

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.

56 Comments

  1. Sarah La Due Chaney
    October 8, 2013

    You can only address today, can't do anything about yesterday. We are where we are, being dishonest about that may bring solutions to a problem, but to a theoretical one you're not experiencing. I've been counseled to do exactly what you're doing: the right thing, while praying you'll DO the right thing. the right thing, while praying you'll WANT the right thing. the right thing, while praying you'll FEEL the right thing. Loving her with your actions is not to be taken lightly or discredited because you don't feel like it. Or maybe you feel like serving her but don't feel good feelings for her. That doesn't take from what you're doing.

    Reply
  2. Sarah La Due Chaney
    October 8, 2013

    Be encouraged, what you wrote is beautifully broken and honest. The Holy Spirit can work with that! He is here to comfort and strengthen you. I think it was over a year that the only verse that ever came to mind on it's own was Isaiah 40:31 because I was certain nothing was coming from 'myself' anymore. Which, wisdom knows wasn't true, if only we were that broken, by I was some kind of close. God uses the weak among us, He weakens us to use us, that His glory will shine through our weakness. I recommend Dismissing Jesus by Douglas Jones, it's on Kindle too. You don't have to read it all, but you will be blessed to KNOW some of God's glory happening in your house when you are broken. I pray you will be encouraged by the truth of God's word this week and going forward. It's SO hard to push and push yourself when you don't see progress. I will pray He will give you His eyes and His ears.

    Reply
  3. Angela
    October 8, 2013

    I understand this pain and guilt very well! You spend time, money and energy to adopt a child you felt called to adopt. Nothing feels worse than realizing you don't love them like you thought you would. I felt like I was an awful person. I prayed and prayed, but couldn't shake the feeling that I wanted his "real mom" to come and get him! I felt like he was a guest in our home that I wanted to leave soon. He hurt all of our birth kids physically. I thought this was too much to deal with! I cried out to God! He reminded me that His adopted kids hurt His birth Son! Ouch! He did understand. I kept praying and it took about 5 and a half years until I truly felt the same love for him as the birth kids. We've gone through lots of therapy. I needed God and a good counselor to help me unpack my childhood and get healed! I'm so thankful for the gift of my little guy, now. I don't think I would have sought this level of healing for myself if it weren't for adopting him. Get help now, not later. I needed freedom from my past in order to help him reach greater freedom.

    Reply
    1. booparry
      October 18, 2013

      Hi Angela, Thank you for posting this reply. Out of all the replies, I related to yours the most. We came home with our adopted daughter (1st adoption) 3 months ago from China. My story is a little different than the rest in that my adopted child is SO good…and my bio daughters adore her (and vice versa). Yet I still have attachment issues. I'm seeing a Christian counselor and she's helping me see that my wounds from childhood are different playing a big role in all of this. I am encouraged to hear that someone else has gone through a similar process. This is NOT something I would have chosen for myself, but like you said, God is using this adoption process to redeem ME and bring healing in areas that I would have continued to ignore if not for this adoption. Thank you.

      Reply
  4. Chantelle
    October 8, 2013

    Ohhhhh Renee. Thank you for saying out loud what so many of us feel but don't dare utter! ((((hug)))) Do you have a blog that I could follow? Please contact me at [email protected] if so. And please know that YOU ARE NOT ALONE!

    Reply
  5. A loving mama
    October 8, 2013

    First off, there is a difference between love and affection. Love is a verb. It is a series of choices in how we choose to treat another person. If you are meeting her needs, providing for her physical well-being, and being kind to her, you do love her. You may not feel affection and warm fuzzy feelings for her, but that is a whole different bag that may come with time. I am struggling here with my 7 yo daughter who has been home for 2.5 years. I love her. I meet her needs. I struggle with and am praying for affectionate feelings for her.

    Reply
    1. Mary (Owlhaven)
      October 8, 2013

      Yes! Love is an action verb. I think these days we associate the word with all sorts of gooshy feelings, and sometimes absolutely they go together. But most of all love is a decision– in fact, doing what is good and right toward a person who is actively rejecting you may actually be MORE loving (and it is certainly harder) than the easy kind of love that we tend to feel for kiddos who we've known since birth and who give us all sorts of positive feedback.

      Reply
    2. Laurel
      October 8, 2013

      I think those are very wise words, ladies!

      Reply
    3. Julie Blair Pitts
      October 9, 2013

      well said. love is a verb. it's what you do, not always how you feel. when you have both simultaneously, that's a blessing.

      Reply
  6. Megan
    October 8, 2013

    I think think is a very real and common issue with our adopted kids Renee and you are not alone. For me, I believe God has truly shown me that I need to " show" love equally and not worry whether I "feel" it equally. If someday I do, than that is an added bonus!

    Reply
  7. Renae
    October 8, 2013

    Another "Renae" dealing with the same issue here….I think the enemy has a strong foothold in this area of "post adoption"!! An area that is RARELY discussed… And unfortunately, I have no answers yet…:( Only God can change the heart, but eager to hear what others have to say!

    Reply
    1. Karrie
      October 8, 2013

      I agree Renae, the enemy has had a strong foothold in our home since we brought our twins home!! I hate when he wins! I try to remember to pray when I see this happening and ask God to help me love unconditionally
      It's good to remind each other of this reality, the enemy does not want us to love these children God has blessed us with

      Reply
    2. Julie Blair Pitts
      October 9, 2013

      wow… so true and you're right. almost NEVER brought up in adoption circles. when we tell those around us, they tell us we are overreacting. oh, really? at the age of 2, my son encountered his first demon. in his room. that was a horrible experience, but one I will never forget.

      Reply
  8. Cindy
    October 8, 2013

    Hi Renee, I am praying for the redemption process you are in with your kiddos. A friend of mine is writing posts on their experience with two highly attachment-challenged kids they adopted from Bulgaria after having multiple bio kids. I am hoping you may find some encouragement through her words. You can find her blog at: http://copperlightwood.com and her facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/CopperlightWood

    Reply
  9. Kristy
    October 8, 2013

    First I would like to say I am sorry you are having a difficult time bonding with her. Second I would like to say I feel similarly about my adopted daughter. She is a constant struggle and creates much chaos in our daily lives. I feel sorry and guilty for my biological children for having brought her into their lives. And I feel guilty for not being the same mommy to her as I am to my bio children. It is a hard thing to go through and I hope an answer will present itself for all of us.

    Reply
    1. Deborah
      October 10, 2013

      Kristy – I could have written your post. I feel sorry and guilty for the harm my choice to adopt has brought to my bio kids…. both from the adoptive children, and from the mom I used to be that I no longer am or can be because of the trauma and PTSD I now suffer to overcome. How do you heal and get over PTSD when the trigger is still there – staring up at you every day, continuing to bring chaos, continuing to stir up resentment? The truth is you don't…… My bio daughter (youngest of our bio kids) cannot possibly even remember the kind of mom I used to be, I barely can. At the same time I feel guilt for not being able to love him…… I often think it would be better for all (him included) if he just went to a boarding school.

      Reply
  10. Laine
    October 8, 2013

    I have struggled with feeling "love" (and sometimes even "like" ) for my children from hard places. It is a hard place to find yourself. It makes you question your very self. You wonder "what kind of mother am I if I can't love my child?" We've adopted 7 children. Two were infants when they joined our family. Then when our youngest of those two was 12, we adopted a 7 year old boy and a 4 year old boy. For the first six months I can say without exaggeration I thought I was going to lose my mind. The behaviors the 7 year old came with were beyond anything I've ever experienced. It was Hell. Things started to get better. Medication changes, time, much prayer and just hanging in there while educating myself about how to deal with his behaviors made a huge difference. A year and a half later we adopted an 18 month old boy. He was a blessing straight from heaven. Then a year later we adopted a 10 year old girl and 4 year old boy. While they didn't have the extreme challenging behavior we'd experienced before, they did present difficult challenges. Seven years have gone by since we adopted these last five children. I feel varying degrees of attachment to each child. The 7 year old boy is now 14. Sometimes his behavior still makes it difficult to like spending time with him. However as I have turned to God and our Savior and learned to let go of my fears and trust Them, this has been a refining process. I have learned to see these children as God does, beyond the behaviors that have made it so difficult to love them. There are still challenging times where I have felt overwhelmed. But I have learned to remember to step back and take deep breaths and trust God at those times. Pray to feel love for your daughter. God can and will fill you with His love for you to lean on when you cannot seem to find your own. Try to do activities with your daughter that would allow for you to experience fun things together. Be patient with yourself and don't judge yourself harshly. Do acts of service for your daughter. That will allow you to experience feeling God's love for her. Let go of your definition of love. I finally realized while I may not always feel that warm, fuzzy love for my most challenging children I do love them. I am here for them. I don't give up on them. I am their advocate for educational needs, medical needs, spiritual needs and I am providing safety and security for them. That is love. Hang in there. It does get easier.

    Reply
    1. Rachel Davis
      October 8, 2013

      I just wanted to say thank you for the practical ideas here. (deep breath)

      Reply
  11. angela
    October 8, 2013

    love is a slow growing vine….

    You are only a year in. It takes time. Lots of time. I am nearly 4 years in. I love my kiddos now…. but I don't necessarily like one of them. That sounds harsh, but I don't like the chaos she creates. There are some sweet things about her that I like. I want the best for her and I love her, but I am very happy to send her to school. I am experiencing a little PTSD… and I wake up in the morning wishing I didn't have to get out of bed to face the battle every single morning. I dread the bus's arrival after 3 in the afternoon. Sometimes I hide in the shower when she rages. Sometimes I leave the house if it is safe to leave her with someone else… I don't beat up myself about this anymore. My child really, really struggles every single day. I am doing everything I can to help her, but I also have to do what I have to do to keep me going or she will be in a worse place than ever. She needs me. I need those times of space and distance between us to keep us all appreciating life and not JUST surviving.

    Reply
    1. Angela Crawford
      October 9, 2013

      I can so relate!!! I, too, have a hard times wanting to face my parenting challenges of the day, another day with our 8 yr old adopted from ET. I, too, sometimes dead her coming home from school. I am so anxious to move into the zone of living, instead of just surviving…! It's a good reminder that she DOES need me, and her family.

      Reply
  12. Jenn
    October 8, 2013

    Renee,
    Good on you for being so courageous and honest. Many times our children (or spouses, siblings, even parents) are unlovely. They make it difficult to actively love them.
    This makes me think of how God loves me, even when my behavior is unloveable and just plain ugly. He loves me because I belong to him.
    Children often make it difficult to "actively love" them. Their attitudes or personality rubs us the wrong way, and sometimes every attempt to express love is rebuffed. But I believe that love is a decision. During difficult times, we often have to love the unlovely. By choice.
    It's true in a friendship, a marriage, and a family. I pray that your daughter will feel the love you have for her and respond in ways that make it easier for y'all to love one another without it being so difficult.
    I hope your heart will be peaceful again soon.

    Reply
  13. Katie Szotkiewicz Patel
    October 8, 2013

    Renee,
    Right there with you! Please know you aren't alone at all! What works for me ( when I am willing to do it) is constant reliance on the Holy Spirit to "get me out of the way" so HE can love my daughter through me. So what this looks like practically is me stopping to pray for strength and a happy face as she asks me to do her hair, or wants me to give her a hug, etc. I have a lot of resentment towards her for the way she has hurt and treated me, so I have to daily try and surrender that instead of be bitter and hold on to it and have it color my view if her, and all her motives. Its a daily struggle…. I have also found help through Christian therapy and figuring out why she triggers me so much. Also having a support network where u can share these feelings is great…it dosent help to try and bottle it all up because it will spill out sooner or later and be worse for the relationship you are trying so hard to have. Hugs to you…..this is definitely a hard thing!!

    Reply
    1. peaceliving
      October 8, 2013

      I love that idea of praying for the strength of the Holy Spirit when she's asking for a hug or to do her hair…simple things that we should want to do for the kids we love affectionately, but are difficult to want to do with the children who are harder. I'm going to try this prayer when mine is looking for affection that I just don't feel like giving even though I know I should.

      Reply
  14. Emily B
    October 8, 2013

    Renee,
    You are SO not alone! We brought three children into the mix with our two biological kids a year and a half ago. Two of the three have fit right in and though they have their challenges, it has not been hard to love them. The third is a different story. So many days, the only way I get through the day is by reminding myself that God adopted me when I was at my ugliest, and I didn't deserve His love. This child is precious to God, and I ask God to love her through me. I can't do it in my own power. I pray every day that the love–even the like–feelings would arrive. Every now and then I'll feel a whisper of those feelings. But they are not strong feelings like I have for the other four kids. I included you in my prayers this morning as I prayed for my relationship with my little daughter. It's good to know that we're in this together, even if we don't know each other.

    Reply
    1. peaceliving
      October 8, 2013

      Thank you for the reminder that God adopted us at our ugliest. That is a beautiful analogy.

      Reply
  15. Courtney
    October 8, 2013

    renee – you are so courageous to ask this very honest question.

    i'm so pleased to see the honest, gracious answers so far!

    i love laine's words…they challenged and encouraged me at the same time.

    renee – GOOD FOR YOU for telling her you love her when you don't "feel" it!! you are a year in…which feels like forever, i know. we adopted 2 boys from rwanda a little over 2 years ago. i'm not "there" yet – i still wake up every day hoping i might like and love my son. but i've stopped trying to FORCE it to happen. i try to pray about it specifically. i try to focus on CHrist's love for ME…that then spills over to all my children. others are right – you ARE loving her by giving her a family and providing for her. i hope the rest comes. but, even if it doesn't, God is still good. that's where i am and what keeps the joy in my heart to go on another day!

    Reply
  16. Amanda
    October 8, 2013

    We had 3 foster kids for 6 months, and the oldest girl and I had a very hard time bonding. We thought they would be up for adoption, and we were going to adopt them. I did the same thing…..I told her I loved her and prayed constantly that I would fall in love with her like I did my own children. She and I were both not very "cuddely" so that made it even harder. We found out last Christmas that they weren't adoptable, and they left us very quickly. I now realize that I did love her. My heart breaks for those 3 kids, and we never get to see them now. I was slowly falling in love with her, I just didn't realize it at the moment. My advice is to keep faking it, keep praying, and trust that God is going to knit a relationship together between the two of you. I will be praying, too. Adoption is hard. and messy. and full of the unexpected. Hang in there!

    Reply
  17. Tisha
    October 8, 2013

    This is such a hard thing. I've struggled with it since the day I met our two adopted children nearly 4 years ago. With one of our kids I do (finally!) have very loving emotional feelings for her. It took a really, really long time though. And still, they are nothing like what I feel toward my biological kids. Even so, as a mom, those feelings are such a relief and they help fuel the actions of care required in parenting. More than anything, they just help me feel better! For our other adopted child, I have spent many days (including just yesterday!) full of grief, regretting our decision to adopt him and mourning the impact he has had on me and on our family, as well as the fact that he doesn't have a mother who loves him fiercely.

    Honestly, the most helpful thing I find is adapting (lowering) my expectations, both for him and for myself. This is not an easy task we have taken on, parenting children that were not born to us, parenting children with difficult, traumatic pasts, children whose mere presence tends to challenge us to the depth of our being every single day. When I relax and lighten my expectations for loving emotion on my part and give myself a break (because I am trying to do a good thing here!) I release some of the pressure I face and it helps so much. When I am realistic and accepting that things are not going to be like they are with our bio kids and this is an entirely different situation, both for our son and for myself, I am able to carve out a new, unique road for the two of us. It may not be full of lovey dovey emotion, but it can be fruitful nonetheless. Rejoicing in each and every small step, even if it's just a shared smile or an afternoon without conflict helps too.

    I applaud your bravery, Renae! You are in good company.

    Reply
    1. peaceliving
      October 8, 2013

      I love this. I've been hoping to find women who said, "I really didn't like my kid when they first came home…even for several months! But now I'm just totally in love with him/her!" But your response reminds me that this could be my path forever, and that's okay. It's a different path but it's the one we are on and we'll do the best we can with it. God will honor us in our choices to love these kids towards whom we don't 'feel' the love.

      Reply
  18. Michelle
    October 8, 2013

    Love the hard questions and so thankful you go there Lisa. Renee – I believe this is our reality if we are honest when our child comes to us older and with severe behaviors (our daughter was 16). They do everything they can to ensure you reject them and don't love them – too scary for them so this is how they have control. I would say for the first year, I do not believe there was a day our daughter was not fully focused on herself and in nonstop severe behaviors that were all about taking the attention from everyone else and putting it on her. Incredibly tough in my flesh to “love” her. She did not want to be loved.

    Several things helped me and continue to help me as the journey continues.

    Glimpses. A key piece from the beginning was constantly working to break for my daughter's broken heart and finding a way to fall in love with the "real" her. I would look for glimpses of the real her in the beginning and focus on that. And when I say glimpses, I mean seconds in a whole week where I was praying what I “thought” I saw was truly who the real girl was hidden behind so many layers and masks. God helped me focus (or re-focus) on those rare moments. Two years later, we are blessed to see the real her for almost whole days at a time. It is a miracle in so many ways and the blessings that God gives us to keep going in fighting for her heart when she invites the darkness back in.

    Words. You are so right Renee! More than not, my spoken words 99% of the time were the opposite of what I was feeling in the non-stop reality of my own exhaustion and fear. The 1% was me completely surrendering to God knowing connection was key in healing to this precious hidden child lost in the sea of abuse, fear and abandonment. It is cool to now reflect back and see how God used that 1% – it has grown into much more of a true “feeling” verses just a “decision” to love her.

    Truth verses feelings. Even though I didn't “feel it”, I had to keep grounding in the truth that I did love my daughter but it was defined in a very different way. I was defining feeling in love with her by other relationship that are healthy – they are reciprocal. Therapy helped me more than my daughter (2 years into weekly therapy and we are finally making headway without sabotage). As I read everything I could about her struggles and went to therapy, I would hear things about feelings not always representing truth. Constantly had to seek to help to deal with my own past hurts and how this constant rejection from my child was revealing so much in me – feelings that were ugly and definitely not love but from fear and my own desire to feel of value. My two bio daughters gave back through the natural attachment journey. With a 16 year old, the only cuddles and touches were 100% being given to her with no reciprocation. Any hug she gave me was to take from me and control me. So, we cannot minimize the impact has on us and the importance of getting back to the simplicity of when God led us to our kiddo . I had to constantly be taken back to the truth – from the moment we started the adoption journey, there was a love there that I could not explain before we even met her. A love I still don’t understand because it is defined so differently from my other two girls. I feel it is the closest I will get to understanding God’s love for me and my own story of redemption and adoption by him. It is a painful kind of love that I work to run from. The book Redeeming Love encouraged more than I can ever express.

    Be encouraged Renee. As you seek your child’s heart in ways that will stretch you beyond understanding, God somehow comes in and does something beautiful. You fall in love in a way that makes no sense. I can say after two years of more pain than I can imagine, I love my daughter as much as my other two – it is just a different love. Even through the recent pain of her trashing and disowning us when she ran away to her birth family (only to be neglected and abused again, but now by choice), I was shocked to feel a loss in my heart only comparable to when my dad died. 5 weeks later, to welcome back this child who now had even more trauma seemed like the true definition or insanity. But our God is good and creates something beautiful in surrender. There is no human logic to this love but through God – it is a love that is defined by His grace and unconditional love. Messes with my head!

    Lisa – I have been incredibly silent the last year blog although I anxiously await your updates. Cannot tell you how many emails & posts I had drafted and deleted through my own insecurities magnified by exhaustion and a very cloudy brain. Continually thankful for your vulnerability and willingness to share your journey. God has used it more than I can count. Thank you for this question today and reminding me I am not alone. It was therapeutic for me to write this as we are coming out of a very rough last few weeks.

    Reply
    1. Mary (Owlhaven)
      October 8, 2013

      Yes–we don't realize how MUCH of our response toward the 'easy' people in our lives is simply an automatic reciprocal thing that happens instinctively. Yes, it is a beautiful feedback loop, a gift from God. But it doesn't happen just *because* our feelings are 'right' toward that person– it's because all relationships are TWO way streets, and we're experiencing that sweet back and forth with a person. When we are loving a person who isn't giving us that sweet feedback, it feels hard because we're trying to hold up BOTH sides of the relationship ourselves. And yes that it is really hard, and it FEELS different.

      Reply
  19. Tisha
    October 8, 2013

    This is such a hard thing. I've struggled with it since the day I met our two adopted children nearly 4 years ago. With one of our kids I do (finally!) have very loving emotional feelings for her. It took a really, really long time though. And still, they are nothing like what I feel toward my biological kids. Even so, as a mom, those feelings are such a relief and they help fuel the actions of care required in parenting. More than anything, they just help me feel better! For our other adopted child, I have spent many days (including just yesterday!) full of grief, regretting our decision to adopt him and mourning the impact he has had on me and on our family, as well as the fact that he doesn't have a mother who loves him fiercely.

    Reply
  20. Debbie
    October 8, 2013

    There is one sentence I read amongst all the comments that struck me as so true: you may need to change your definition of love. Love may be meeting her needs, listening to her, being curious about what motivates her, trying new bonding techniques, etc. It is not okay to not love her the same way you love your bio kids because love is an action. It is okay to not feel the same way about her. But be careful, she is setting a trap for you. Not consciously of course. She believes she is unworthy of love and your actions will either solidify this for her or help her to change the way she sees herself. We love Daniel Hughes book, Creating Loving Attachments. Acceptance, Empathy, Playfulness and Curiosity spell Love. God bless!

    Reply
  21. Anon
    October 8, 2013

    As an adult who changed homes at 16 years old, I encourage you to be gentle with your expectations for yourself and your older adoptee. She probably doesn't "love" you in the way she expected, either. She may, however, find peace in your home that is a welcome relief from whatever her past gave her. Strive to be welcome relief, a home where life and consequences are mostly predictable. Strive to be the "secure base" kids need to attach. If that is all you provide, it is enough. Someone told me once that one would have to spend half their life adapting to a new family (so 5 years for a 5 year old, 12 months for a 12 month old…), and I think it's a nice benchmark to keep in your head when you adopt older children especially. Hang in there.

    Reply
    1. Tisha
      October 9, 2013

      I can't tell you how glad I am to read this comment, coming from your perspective. I've thought about it ever since I read it yesterday and I shared it with my husband last night. What a pressure release to think that providing a safe, predictable environment/home/family/parent could be a welcome relief to our children even if we aren't experiencing deep, loving emotional feelings. You've given me a way to reframe and look differently at what our adopted kids might need and want from us. You are right, our kids are dealing with not "loving" us like they expected. I appreciate your thoughts! Thank you for sharing them!!

      Reply
  22. Anonymous
    October 8, 2013

    I can't help but wonder how people would feel if you took out the word "adopted" from Renee's original question. I've had difficult bio kids and difficult adoptive kids and I just don't see why it's okay to vent about not loving your adopted kids, but people would be appalled if you said you didn't love your bio kids. I'm not trying to be judgmental, but how would you look at the situation differently if your bio child had some kind of a personality disorder or other medical condition that made them difficult to live with? I think most of us wouldn't be saying "eh, I just can't love this child." Kids aren't always easy to like or especially to love, but they deserve parents who are willing to commit to loving them regardless. I say, counseling for everyone if you just can't find it in yourself. There needs to be some work done all around. I'm cravenly signing as anonymous because I unfortunately find the adoption community can be a bit intolerant of differing opinions. But I wish everyone all the best as they seek answers for themselves and their kids.

    Reply
    1. peaceliving
      October 8, 2013

      I think you're right…both bio kids and adopted kids can be hard to love. And it sounds to me like this person is loving (as an action) her adopted daughter despite her lack of affection for her. If a friend had a bio child who was creating havoc and difficulty, I wouldn't judge them for having a hard time feeling loving toward that child either. I think she has a genuine desire to feel more affection in a situation where the attachment of the adult to the child is made more difficult by the behaviors in the way.

      Because most of us attached easily through many attachment/need cycles to our bio children when they were infants and could do no wrong, it becomes more complicated when we're trying to attach to older children who can definitely fight our attachment with their actions. I find that I am hopelessly in love with one of my foster daughters because I had her at age 7 months as opposed to the other whom I didn't get until 6 years old. Attachment (a crucial part of the love feeling) is a long road to walk, and is even longer when difficult behaviors are present.

      Reply
    2. Jessica Fields Rudder
      October 11, 2013

      I've seen people who have bio children that struggle with behavior issues, mental illnesses and addictions that have expressed the same sentiment of worrying because they don't feel 'love' toward their child.

      As you suspected, there are indeed people that are appalled. But there are also people in the same situation (or those that can at least empathize with that situation) that understand and don't find it appalling.

      Also, I'm not so certain that anyone here has expressed the sort of casual "eh, I just can't love this child" that you've expressed. This discussion has been filled with stories of struggling to be there for and be loving to children that are causing huge wounds in their lives. These people are putting in the very work you advise that they put in.

      Reply
  23. anne
    October 8, 2013

    Some advice from another adoption group member: "When you see anger, think FEAR." So many of our children from hard places exhaust us with their anger-driven behaviors. If I can really, really see into my girls' hearts, they do hold a lot of fears. It is so hard to remember in the moment! Karen Purvis (sp?) is helping me a lot right now. Bryan Post has, too. Educating myself, connecting with others on-line, crying out to God and asking my closest friend for help is what saves my sanity (not necessarily in that order, but sometimes all in one day!). Not feeling the same kind of loving feelings for adopted kids as bio kids is finally being recognized. I was glad to see it among other issues on the TV show Parenthood. If only all of us could have perfect endings at the end of the season!

    Reply
  24. Bev
    October 8, 2013

    You have so many good responses and I will only add a tiny bit.

    I, like the others, have also struggled with the same guilt and sadness. Our children are all now adults. A few things helped me conquer the feelings, which I still have, because some old wounds take longer than a childhood to heal.

    I want to echo what Laine said, "Try to do activities with your daughter that would allow for you to experience fun things together. Be patient with yourself and don't judge yourself harshly. Do acts of service for your daughter. That will allow you to experience feeling God's love for her. Let go of your definition of love."

    The acts of service were especially helpful for me, but the fun activities can be helpful too. And don't judge yourself, as Laine suggested. Your feelings are completely logical with the circumstances you are living with.

    Sometimes I listed out mentally the things I was doing for my 'difficult to love' children and the things I was doing for my 'easy' children. I was spending so much time in therapy sessions, training, reading books, waiting out rages, talking through issues, staying home when an outing wasn't possible because it was too much, supervising chores or working alongside them while they worked, etc. I spent incredible amounts of time LOVING the children.

    Meanwhile, because of my choices to adopt, I also chose to spend less time with my 'easier' children and I added to their home children who were so hard to live with, and who sometimes hurt them and stole from them. I loved all my children but my feelings about them were different. I worked harder for my children who came from trauma. I had a closer emotional bond with my children who did not come from trauma.

    I continued, and still continue to offer them the closeness. Maybe someday they will be able to receive it.

    Reply
  25. Jenny
    October 8, 2013

    I have 5 biological children and 7 adopted and I think that the older a child is when you adopt them, the harder it is to love them unconditionally! I have, however, a very difficult biological child that I love, but can barely stand. She is unpleasant 90 percent of the time and I'm struggling just as much with her. For me, it has shown me that my love is so conditional compared to how God loves us.

    Reply
  26. Laine
    October 8, 2013

    PS So many wonderful, encouraging words. I thought of a couple more things to share. I once read someone comparing parenting to climbing Mt. Everest. It is even more so like that when parenting children from hard places. We start off with this worthy goal. We plan and prepare as best we can but nothing can truly prepare us for the hardships we will encounter on this journey. As we struggle to reach the top of this mountain, many times we will find ourselves on our knees gasping for air, exhausted to our core, doubting we can take one more step let alone finish climbing this mountain. In tears we cry out to heaven for mercy. God will always provide the mercy you need, for it was He who called you to take this journey. Along this bitter trail, you will find Vistas that will take your breath away. They will be so beautiful they will bring tears of gratitude to your eyes and such joy to your heart you will feel it might just burst. To most, these vistas may seem inconsequential. But to you, who have struggled on this path, they will be sweet tender mercies that can help sustain you when the path becomes difficult again. One for me the other day was the note "I love mom and dad." our most challenging child left written in the dust on the back window of our Expedition. A book that has helped me greatly is Beyond Consequences, Logic and Control, A Loved Based Approach to Helping Children With Severe Behaviors, by Heather T. Forbes, LCSW. Also, as others above have mentioned, be sure to take time to nourish your own soul.

    Reply
  27. keymomentsmom
    October 8, 2013

    I so appreciate this discussion. We've been in it for over a year now, and what I keep going back to is…there is NO WAY God could love me in my sin and mess. But He does. And it is His love that causes me to act out my love for her–even if I don't feel it. Wrote this when we first started…
    https://keymomentsmom.wordpress.com/2012/09/27/be

    Reply
  28. Stacy
    October 8, 2013

    I could have written that question. Two years ago we adopted an aging out girl from China and it has been HARD! Again…..I could have written that question and I can't wait to read all the comments.
    Thanks, Renee for asking.

    Reply
  29. peaceliving
    October 8, 2013

    I cannot believe this. I literally typed up this same question as a possible Tuesday Topic just yesterday but couldn't bring myself to send it. Ours is a foster daughter but there's a likelihood it will lead to adoption. I hate to make her move just because I don't FEEL the love yet, so I can't wait to read all the responses. THANK YOU for bringing these tough topics out into the open.

    Reply
  30. Lisa Qualls
    October 8, 2013

    A number of comments were posted on my One Thankful Mom Facebook page, and I hope to find a way to transfer them here, but in the meantime, this comment was sent to me and the writer asked me to share it here.

    Andrew wrote:

    "I hope guys are allowed to post on here as well?

    Renee, you are not alone. I've felt that way more than a few times about some of my kids (all of whom are adopted). I don't have any advice for you other than to keep going. Don't give up! You are making a difference in that child. Even if it doesn't feel like it, or you don't "see" the difference.

    Tony Dungy (NFL coach and adoptive dad) wrote in his book "Quiet Strength" the important thing to remember when we feel we are utterly lost in the maelstrom of adversity (or a difficult season in life) is to make sure (1) our heading is correct, and (2) make sure we keep moving our feet. That's it. Don't worry if you can't see any progress. Don't worry if you can't see a way out of the storm. If your heading is correct and your feet are moving, sooner or later you'll poke out the other side of the storm.
    I can tell from your question that your heading is correct — you aim to love your daughter. And your feet are moving because you are reaching out for help and encouragement. Just keep going! Don't give up!

    By the way, Renee, you might very much enjoy The Refresh Conference, as it is designed for people who find themselves exactly in the place you describe. In fact, Lisa Qualls has spoken at the conference (she was one of our most popular speakers last year) and in 2014 will be speaking again!

    The conference will be on Feb 28-Mar.1, 2014 in Redmond Washington. If at all possible, it is worth flying out to attend this amazing event. You can find more info about it here: http://www.therefreshconference.org. Financial help is available — even if you need help to cover travel/lodging, please check it out and apply for possible sponsorship if necessary.

    Reply
  31. Michele
    October 8, 2013

    This has been the biggest lesson for me over the years after finding myself in a similar situation. But I realized that love is a choice and once I chose to commit to my child regardless of how I felt, the feelings came later. Now, 8 years later, i can't imagine life without my son. Even though we still work through some special needs, he's mine.

    Reply
  32. Ann
    October 8, 2013

    With all these posts, I keep wondering whether posters' adopted children are illiterate. Because, if they can read, they may come across these posts and recognize their mother's name or alias. What a feeling it must be to read on the internet that you are not loved, not even liked!

    Reply
    1. Deborah
      October 10, 2013

      Do you think they honestly don't already know? It is sad, yes…. but it is reality – and the judgmental tone of your comment is the reason we all hide in shame and this continues to be adoptions dirty little secret! There is a lot of support out there for adoptees who are trying to reconcile their raising….. THIS is support for the poor folks who tried with the best intentions to do something good and were blind-sided to find out that the "all they need is love" commercial's are a LIE….. and that experience raising a houseful of bio kids from birth cannot possible prepare you to parent a trauma kid…… and caseworkers lie. An adoptive child that is searching internet posts to find out if their adoptive parents really love them or not – already knows. Your judgement of those of us finding relief in the ability to admit it "out loud" among people who understand is disheartening.

      Reply
  33. Jodi Pizzuto
    October 9, 2013

    Yes! Yes to all of the above. Love means that we treat our adopted children with love (sometimes even "tough love," letting them deal with the natural consequences of their negative behaviors instead of rescuing them). It does NOT mean that we feel warm and fuzzy to little people who show us mostly anger, resentment, disobedience, lying, etc… There is no way that you can muster up warm fuzzies for that. Even though we desperately want to.

    Reply
  34. Vickie
    October 9, 2013

    I have posted about this very thing as well- as the adoptive mom of 4 teens adopted from China since 2009 to present— -http://wwwourchinagirl.blogspot.com/2013/08/adopting-older.html
    Really you are NOT alone. It happens and it's hard. But you are soooo not alone.

    Reply
  35. friend
    October 9, 2013

    so hard and there is lots of great advice so I am taking the humor route…because with teens, laughter is survival.

    Anita Renfroe said let your teenagers live…one day they may give you beautiful grand babies 😀

    Reply
  36. Anonymous
    October 9, 2013

    I was a difficult child, and I often sensed that my parents were putting up with me and doing their best to take care of me but not feeling a great deal of love for me. As an adult and a parent I understand how hard it must have been, but I also want to say that the only thing that has healed my heart is my husband's unconditional love. Knowing that someone really loves you and even likes you is, in my opinion, the only medicine for an ailing heart.

    Reply
  37. Jen
    October 10, 2013

    Renee, (and Lisa and others), I posted on this topic a while back and thought I'd link to it here:

    Adoption Lessons: What's Love Got to do with it? http://hisgracehisglory.blogspot.com/2012/04/adop

    Reply
  38. Galit
    December 26, 2013

    I just wanted to point out that the early teen years are very hard for girls even with an intact home. It can be very hard to separate what issues are the result of the adoption trauma and what is just being an adolescent girl. And of course, it is even harder for her.

    Reply
  39. Day
    January 1, 2014

    My recipe for when you don't love your child (or anyone else for that matter).

    1. Fake it 'til you feel it. Do all things you'd do if you did love your children. So make smiley face pancakes, take them on their dream vacation to Disney, go to the PTA meetings, be their biggest cheerleader at their sports game, make sure their immunizations are up to date, etc. Loving action can proceed actual love.

    2. Get to know yourself. A great counselor once told me someone I love "irritates me in just the right way." This sounds ridiculous, I know. But what she meant was that he couldn't push my buttons if I didn't have buttons to push. And in pushing my buttons, he was able to show me where I could improve in my life. So, our kids are doing us a favor in irritating us, pointing out where we could we can focus our own healing. Let's unpack all of the hurts and fears we hold within ourselves, examine them, and begin to heal ourselves. Start removing those buttons!

    3. Forgive yourself. Once we really understand what we have experienced, as well as our actions and feelings about it, we can realize that we did the best that we could at that time. We can let go of past hurts, erasing the buttons that others are pushing. Then we will be less likely to react to others' behaviors.

    4. See yourself in others. When our children behave in less than stellar ways, identify how they are feeling and what they may be reacting to. Relate this to a time in your life where you felt similarly. Example: Sally is having a tantrum at the grocery store. Maybe she is subconsciously thinking of when she was starving in her previous home and is filled with fear that she might die. I remember when my car skidded and hit another car. I was so fearful, my heart was racing, I had tons of energy wanting to burst out, I jumped out of my car and began yelling at the other driver even though it was really my fault. Later I was so embarrassed to be out of control like that. Now, I am always more cautious when I drive. Sally must be feeling tens time worse as her plight went on for years. Wow, she must be super scared and overwhelmed. I can really empathize with her.

    5. Forgive others as you see yourself reflected in them. When we can connect our past experiences, feelings and actions with our children's experiences, feelings and actions, we can understand that our kids are simply doing the best that they can at that moment, just like we did our best in the past. Our hearts are softened and we can forgive them for being human, just like us.

    6. Love. If we follow the steps above, love will blossom in our hearts for our children. We are doing loving actions. We are healed people who can stay calm and be our best despite facing adversity. Our hearts are soft and connected to others. Add these up and it equals unconditional love.

    Reply

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