As part of our adoption journey, our agency provided a two-day seminar on parenting adopted children. Not knowing what to expect, I was relieved when we walked into the conference room and were greeted with one of the most comprehensive selections of snack items that I have ever witnessed. From Sister Schubert’s rolls to Gummi Bears and everything in between, every snack item food group was well represented. And I was comforted by this, because I knew that anyone who can put together a snack spread like this is someone who can be trusted with your most important life decisions.
While I was still busily chewing, the class started, and in that gentle but comprehensive way that Lifeline Children’s Services has in everything they do, they proceeded to walk us through a ton of information about the challenges that adoptive parents might face.
It was obvious from the start that the seminar was geared toward people that were not only first-time adoptive parents, but first-time parents, period. There were many warnings that kids can be a handful sometimes, that they can be emotional and demanding, and that sometimes there are screaming fits. As the father of a six-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl, I was surprised by exactly none of this. I feel like they day hasn’t really started until we’ve had a screaming fit over what color bowl to use for our Apple Jacks.
Then the presenters started going into detail about what kind of environments the adopted kids came from. As you can imagine, a lot of them don’t start off in ideal circumstances. And their lack of adequate care and emotional bonding can potentially lead to behavioral problems. So, Lifeline’s counselors talked about how to understand the source of these problems and deal with them in constructive, loving ways.
But as they covered these topics in more depth, I found myself thinking, “Hey, this sounds like stuff I could do with my natural born children.” I mean, some of the problems they describe are severe, but the children who exhibit those problems aren’t completely different creatures — they’re children who have the same needs and desires as any other children. They want to love and be loved, they want to connect with other people, they want a sense of worth, they want to feel like they’re being heard.
With adopted children, the difference lies more in the obstacles you may have to overcome with children who have been institutionalized. But the motivations and solutions were things that could relate to any kid. They talked about examples like a child who went into hysterics because her adopted mom wanted her to wear a different shirt than the one she had been wearing every day all week. But the reaction wasn’t because she really liked that shirt; it was because she wanted to have some kind of control over her life. That made me think of my own daughter, who’s so particular about what she wears. When she wants to wear six socks on one foot and a tutu and a baseball cap, it’s partly because she likes that look, but it’s also because she’s trying to exert a little bit of control over her world. When we can recognize that and meet her where she is, it makes us better parents.
So, thanks Lifeline. We left your conference better prepared for our new child and with a better understanding of the ones we already have. Also the snacks were fantastic.