All of our children that we have fostered or adopted, we have had since they were pretty young infants. Many think that this helps you to avoid any type of trauma that the children would have otherwise endured had they been older when they came into our house. While yes, it may help to avoid some trauma that they may actively recall, there is no kid that enters adoption or foster care that does not have some kind of trauma.
I even have another side of our family that some do not: we have both biological and adopted children. It’s not an “either-or” thing for our family. I look at my adopted children and am acutely aware of the plan God has for their lives. That He didn’t mean to leave them as they would have otherwise been left in the world. He used us for His purpose in their lives.
The same is true for my biological children, although I may not always realize it. He gave them to the hubs and me so that we could raise them up to be more than what they started out as. Not only that, He uses all of our children to make us more than we would have otherwise been without them.
I also feel heartbreak when I think about the things I will some day have to tell our adopted children, questions I will have to answer or stories I will have to tell. Neither one of our adopted children physically resemble the hubs or myself. They won’t be able to compare us to themselves when it comes to physical features.
They will have to deal with questioning why a parent didn’t want to or couldn’t raise them, because even though things are much more open with adoption nowadays, I never have been able to get those answers. One of my children will probably never get those answers. I know, since one of our adopted children is a bit older, that there are some tendencies that we did not nurture but are instead, part of that baby’s nature.
Do I say all of this to be disheartening? Absolutely not, however; I do want parents to be aware of situations that may occur and to be long-suffering with their children. Now, in my mind it’s not much different than how I raise each of my children. I try to stay (as best as I can) attuned to what each child needs or responds to the best. Biological or not, they are not the same. So it’s not really extra work as far as parenting; it’s different work.
I don’t have to make my biological children feel as though this is where they belong. Where they were always meant to be. Even though my adopted children have been here as long as their memory will serve them, we are not their only starting place. Since our adopted children don’t physically resemble us, (and our biological children often hear how much they do), we find other ways to bring up commonalities. If one loves a certain food we love, we point it out, “Oh, you like chips just like daddy. You must have got that from him”. Or “oh, you’re such a good baby just like your sister was”.
I am going to have hard conversations that I am already aware of and I don’t know yet the effect they will have on them. I can’t really know until they grow a bit older whether or not they will have an emotional reaction to their first parents not being able to parent them. With adoption, there is always heartbreak. There is always some sort of trauma.
Trauma doesn’t look the same from one person to the next. Some children’s trauma is more apparent than others. It doesn’t mean it’s not there. Regardless of the age the children joined your family, you must be intentional in parenting them. They have to have no doubt that they belong in your family. That may lead to some uncomfortable moments for you, but if there’s one thing parenting has taught me: it’s not about you.
As parents, we would do anything to make sure our children are well adjusted and loved. Don’t shrink back just because it may look a little bit different than you thought it would. Every kid is worth it.
If you don’t give that child a healthy outlet to figure out and express that trauma, they will develop unhealthy coping skills. While some may be more disruptive than others…please, they deserve that space and freedom. Freedom to not feel they need to hide or shrink behind their feelings. Freedom to not be okay sometimes. Freedom to know they are loved regardless.