Tuesday’s Answers: And Sometimes We Fail

Last week’s Tuesday Topic was a tough one for me. Dianna asked how other adoptive parents have managed to protect the best interests of their younger children as a newly adopted older child joined the family. This is a question I needed to tackle, but I was also cut to the heart as I have failed in this area.

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I am a hopeful person by nature, so when I read books like Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray, I thought to myself, “Wow, that is so hard and so sad. Those families and children really have a tough road.” Did I ever think to myself that we might become one of those families? No. Did I, in my wildest dreams, think that I would ever find myself not only reading Deborah’s words, but applying her principles as I pursued my child’s healing? No, but thank you God that I am not on this journey alone.

When I read the hard books (before my children came home), there were some tiny flickers of caution and fear, but I was optimistic and didn’t let myself do some of the deep thinking recommended in yesterday’s post. I didn’t ask myself, “What will I do if my child struggles with___?” or “How would I handle a child who does___?” I didn’t let myself think that way. Afterall, Russ and I were following God’s leading, and if we were in the center of His will, what could go wrong?”

Nothing “went wrong”, because I believe we are still in the very center of God’s will. However, Russ and I would both say that we did not prepare ourselves for the challenges we faced when Dimples arrived home. We were so hopeful and eager to love our new children, to be their Mommy and Daddy, that we neglected to protect our other children. Surely lots of love, security, hope, prayer, and thoughtful parenting would be enough. Right?

I am deeply grateful that we were not facing any issues of sexual abuse. I personally know families who are grappling with that right now. Their older adopted child was abusing younger children in the family; a true nightmare for the family that has led them to seek a new family for their child from the “hard places”.

But did I do all that I could to protect my little ones from the tumult in their lives? No, I didn’t.
A traumatized and attachment-challenged child can produce an environment that is full of stress and dysregulation. The healthy siblings will not have the skills to cope with this and need to be shielded from it as much as possible while the child from the hard places begins to heal.

My best advice is:

1. Prepare yourself that adopting an older child will be very challenging. Read the hard books. I have a list of them in this post. If you have a smooth and easy adjustment, give thanks to God, and remember that the education you gained might help one of your friends in the future.

2. Prepare your home: simplify, simplify, simplify. Put baby monitors on other floors. Have rules about open doors and what kind of play is acceptable. We decided that “playing dead” probably wasn’t beneficial to anyone.

3. Give your other children tools they can use to deflect problems and listen to them when they come to you for help. This was one of my greatest failings. I was so concerned with helping Dimples attach to me and to the family, that I failed to see the suffering of my other children, whose lives had been turned upside down.

4. Create a “team” of friends and family members who will support you and be willing to come to your aid at any moment. Russ and I did not do this and when life began to spiral downward we leaned so heavily on each other, that we could hardly bear up under the weight of our struggles. When we finally acknowledged that we needed help, we found three friends who made themselves completely available to help me when I needed them. On one particularly trying day, a friend needed to drive to a city nearly two hours away. She picked Dimples up and took her along, including a stop for dinner. Dimples had a lovely time and it was much needed respite for me.

5. Plan regular breaks for your other children. Initially you will not be able to leave your new child, so plan times for your other little ones to go play with a friend, have special time with the other parent, visit a special adult, or do a fun activity with a babysitter. This will give you time with your new child while your children take a deep breath from the stresses of the new life they are now living. I was so concerned with making Dimples feel loved and accepted, that I put too much energy into “fairness”. What I should have been thinking was, “Dimples has different needs from Boo and Ladybug, and I need to parent her differently. They can do___, but that doesn’t mean Dimples can. Just because something is possible does not mean it is beneficial.”

The good thing about failing is that it leaves lots of room for improvement. We have made many changes for the good of all of our children. Our home is happier, calmer, and a better place to be. We have learned that we cannot parent all of our children the same way. Techniques that work well for some of our children do not work at all for our little ones who are healing from trauma. We don’t want to be “fair” parents, we want to be really fantastic, loving parents who have all of our children’s best interests at heart.

If you have a question for a Tuesday Topic, please email it to me at:

thankfulmom[at]gmail[dot]com

And don’t forget to take a moment to answer this week’s Tuesday Topic which is:

Which adoption agency did you use, and would you recommend them?

Thank you for learning along with me.

~Lisa

This post may contain Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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. Mamita J
    October 14, 2009

    Thank you for sharing so honestly. I feel like you were actually writing about us, except Deborah Gray is not our therapist. We failed in the same way. Just to see it in writing helps me to see things more clearly.

    In Christ,
    Julie

    Reply
  2. Staci
    October 14, 2009

    We are using Dove Adoptions International. http://www.adoptions.net

    We are waiting for our referral and thus far have had a 100% positive experience.

    We chose them for a few reasons.

    1) Their info packet was very organized and clear and when I emailed them a follow-up question I got a response in about 2 hours. This was indicative of all our communication wtih them: it is always upfront and timely.

    2) When I called another agency in the "research" phase a social worker questioned me several times about the timing of our adoption. For many many reasons, all having to do with God's timing, we were doing the heavy homework on adoption agencies when we still had a 4 month old in the house. This SW asked me several times "why don't you just wait?" She judged me for being under 30, having 2 young children at home, looking for a house (I know it's kind of part of her job, but still). THEN, when I called Dove and told them the same story, why we were looking into adoption,the person on the phone didn't bat an eye. She didn't question me, didn't make me feel like an idiot that an infant was crying in the background while I was telling her we wanted more. I felt safe with these people. They love adoption and love families who want to adopt. Period.

    3) They are one of the only agencies who after some additional education requirements and a little bit of screening allow simultaneous adoption of unrelated children. This is not recommended by many agencies for good reasons. But, we were interested in that possibility so at the time that sealed the deal.

    4) After going through the paperchasing and now being officially waiting a mere 2 weeks, I can say they've done a great job at answering questions, supporting our process and keeping us posted.

    We will learn a lot about our travel and what happens post-referral in a teleconference we have with them in a few weeks. If anything happens to change our view of Dove, I will let you know.

    PS. They do not have a waiting list with numbers. Official or unofficial. They do NOT know who is on the Board of the orphanage, and thus those people cannot be pressured by the agency to match certain families quicker. The Board overseeing the orphanage matching I've heard is a prayerful bunch who really look at families, what child or children they want to and feel like they can parent and they match based on those things. No numbers. I kinda like it this way. We could get a call in 2 months. We could get a call in 12 months. It's nerve wracking but I do feel like it's in God's hands. It gives us something to pray for – the people who will be matching us with our kids.

    PPS. Thanks Lisa for your own insights around older child adoption.

    Reply
  3. lorismusings
    October 14, 2009

    I have so appreciated how you constantly share openly about your struggles and triumphs. I have learned and benefited from you doing that.

    Thank you, Lori

    Reply
  4. Tisha
    October 15, 2009

    I have learned so much from you and this topic is no exception. Thank you for sharing your lives to help others.

    Reply
  5. Dianne
    October 15, 2009

    Thank you so much for this.

    When I asked this question, it was primarily with my own family's situation in mind, and I hadn't fully realized the depth to which this may cause pain with those who are in the thick of things at home. I can not express how much I appreciate the honesty you and some of your other readers have shown, to help families like mine who will follow behind yours.

    On another note, somehow your words really made me examine the ways in which I've felt I have failed my daughter, as we've tried to meet her needs in adjusting to our family. I hope I can tackle these issues and turn them around with as much grace as you and these other families have.

    Blessings,
    Dianne

    Reply

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