“However motherhood comes to you, is a miracle” – Valerie Harper
You waited for this child to be yours for what seemed like forever. There were so many steps and endless amounts of paperwork. Social workers checked out your home and psychologists asked you some pretty invasive questions. Family and friends might have been less than supportive, even making hurtful ignorant comments at times. Regardless, you stuck with it, you wanted to adopt a child, to give them a loving family and home.
Throughout the adoption process, you experienced a rollercoaster of emotions. The waiting seemed like an eternity. Then you got the call, the voice on the other end telling you, that you were “matched”. You were ecstatic and terrified at the same time.
Finally meeting and holding your child whether they were a baby, toddler or older child was pretty amazing. You might have been clueless on how you were going to raise this child. Maybe you had some ideas and hoped they would work out. If you raised biological children, your plan was to do the same that you did with your other children. If this was your first child, you planned to shower them with all the love humanly possible.
Most adoption agencies require that prospective parents take some kind of training in parenting adopted children. You might have even read some books on adoption and attachment. The reality is that adoption itself is traumatic, regardless of the circumstances. Adopted children have experienced abandonment in some form. Research says that what happens in the first two years of life has a significant impact on attachment style and quality of future relationships. When children endure some form of abuse and neglect, they learn that caregivers are unreliable and that the word is unsafe. They learn that they have to fend for themselves to survive. These traumatic experiences no matter how long ago they occurred, causing them to act in ways that sometimes make them hard to love. However, these are the very children that need the most love.
You never imagined that the struggles of those parents in the books and trainings would be your struggles.
Now that your child is home, can you relate to any of the following questions or concerns:
- How do I talk to my child about their adoption?
- Why does my child seem so sweet one minute and then totally lose it when they don’t get their way?
- Why does my child seem to be so independent and resourceful for somethings but so immature in other ways?
- It has been years now since we brought our child home why does my child still _________.
- How do I know whether my child’s behaviors are adoption related?
- Why does my child have difficulties connecting with peers?
- My child lies constantly, manipulates others and seem not to care when they get a consequence.
- I feel like I have done everything I can for this child but they still don’t feel loved.
In today’s world, parenting can feel kind of lonely and overwhelming. For adoptive parents, this is even more so the case. Chances are that the Mommy and Me classes don’t have other mothers with adopted babies. Your child’s classroom this year doesn’t have another adopted child to connect with. The neighbors have children but they aren’t adopted. Your sister’s kids aren’t adopted and your parents never raised an adopted child
So where do you go for support specific to parenting an adopted child?
I am here for you. Adoption is my passion, both professionally and personally.
Before graduate school, I joined AmeriCorps and tutored children in foster care. I still remember those children to this day. During my years as a therapist in community mental health, whenever I was assigned a case involving adoption or foster care, I would get especially excited. I provided home-based therapy to well-intentioned parents and their amazing children who came from some tough beginnings. Parents were frustrated with their child’s behaviors, they had limited resources and were unprepared to deal with all that came with parenting their kids. Although those were some of my favorites cases, they were some of the most challenging.
Adoption has always been in my heart. When it came time to grow my family, my husband and I embarked on our journey to adoption. We now have 2 beautiful children who have transformed my life. They have taught me so much about love and patience. As a mother, I understand.
As a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified in Play Therapy and trained in attachment and adoption-related trauma, I will listen without judgment. I will help you understand why your child acts the way they do. I will give you tools on how to regulate your child’s emotions and behavior so that they don’t spin out of control. I can also advocate for your child in school and educate their teacher on how to provide the appropriate support for your child. I will guide you in the process of telling your child about their adoption in a way that is developmentally appropriate so that they can understand. Your child will process their thoughts and feelings related to their adoption, through play therapy.
I believe that behavioral approaches with adopted children do not get to the root of the issue, and serve only as a bandaid solution. Children with adoption trauma need to feel belonging and connection in order to heal from their past. Instead, I use Theraplay based interventions to help parents and their children build and strengthen their attachment and relationship. I engage families in playful and nurturing interactive activities that create bonding, practice regulating behavior and give the child a sense of love and security. Children who feel loved, safe and nurtured no longer need to be on survival mode, which means they no longer “act out”.
One of my greatest joys is to help families created through adoption.