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Destinations, Dreams and Dogs - International adventure with a fast-track family (& dogs) of Old World values, adopting the Russian-Italian-American good life on the go…!

Encouragement for Rough Days with Adopted Kids

We all know that there can be rough days with bio kids, rough days with spouses, rough days at work, but there seems to be some special stab in the back that happens when you have a hard time with adopted children. You went into the adoption with such good intentions, you wanted to help a child while expanding your family, you thought of the child’s loneliness, or helplessness, or rejection, and considered giving them a chance. You figured that they acted irresponsibly, or poorly, or out-of-control because they lacked a loving family framework.

So you brought them home. And they acted the same. Or worse.

For years.

It’s shocking. It doesn’t make sense. Sure, we know that it takes time to shed old behaviors, probably much longer than any “21 Days to a New Habit!” books or magazine articles.

The question is, how do we as parents keep our heads above water when there’s a child, or children, in the house who are so needy as to be flailing and flapping, and in our best efforts to save the children, they pull us under, as well?

Good question.

For my own personal sanity, I cannot be around my children 24/7. That’s a distinct problem, given that we homeschool and take the kids with us when we travel. Still, there has to be a way to get away, even if it’s only mentally for 30 minutes or an hour each day.

Cultivate outside interests—take a class, join the choir, volunteer somewhere (hopefully not where there are “needy” people like you just left back home). Send the children outside to play, or to another (safe) room in the house, and tell them not to come back until tomorrow, if not next year. Let them watch a DVD, educational or otherwise, with headphones, and you relax with a good book or magazine. Start to exercise each day (amen to that!), take up a sport, go sit in a café (leave the kids with a friend or mate, don’t just leash them to the lightpole outside), or spend time in prayer. You need a diversion from the fact that these kids are sucking the very lifeblood out of you.

Be nice to yourself. Take a long and leisurely bath (lock the door and electrify it for when they start banging). Play a new game with the children: “How Long Can We Be Quiet?” and give a prize for anyone’s silence lasting more than a week or two. Sit on a rock and stare at the mountains, or ocean, or next-door neighbors.

Remember: you can do this. The Lord has not left you alone in trouble. Yes, it may be more than you bargained for (and I’m a pretty good bargainer in the open-air markets), and certainly more than you signed-up for, but living well is the best revenge. Do your best and leave it at that.

Get to the heart of their triggers. The trigger is what sets off the negative behavior or attitude. Maybe it’s a birthday, a holiday, someone said something nasty to them, an anticipated outing causing too much excitement, or they feel like a failure and that they will never measure up.

I can usually turn around one of our children who is starting to have an ugly look on their face by saying, “So and so, are you feeling okay today?” Then I compliment them on how well they wrote an essay, or how nice their hair looks, or how well they cleaned their room (rare, but I’ll use it when I can)….

It’s like pulling the rug out from under them. (Talk about free time fun-!) They were braced for a battle, and here I am, being all earnest and sweet and loving. It makes me feel better, too. Nice is better than nasty.

My biggest problem is fighting the natural tendency to be changed into a different person by their negativities. I refuse to become an angry, fault-finding, screaming shrew. But I also refuse to become a sobbing heap of self-pity, keeping in mind that a few tears here and there can be very restorative-! It’s a balancing act, a delicate dance, a purposeful push to stay connected when I would really rather withdraw.

Three out of four of my children did not know how to have a parent, and sometimes they still struggle. I have found it beneficial to physically connect with them as much as possible—a reassuring squeeze on the arm and a smile, a quick tickle, an unexpected sweet, doing the girls’ hair, fake-punching the boys in the stomach, group hugs.

But in the heat of a major meltdown moment on their part, I literally feel the anger and adrenaline coursing through my body. This is not “me”, so I immediately remove myself from the situation. I don’t want to react. I do respond by addressing it briefly, but now is not the time to linger any longer. Get away and regroup if it’s quite severe, and if you feel that you cannot handle it this time. Tell them what to do next, but do not stay as an audience nor as a verbal punching bag.

I find I do best when I am well-rested. Which is rare. So I must not do very well most of the time… hmmm… we may be onto something here…. If it’s not another raccoon raiding and ransacking our attic at all hours of the night right above my head, then one of the dogs has a tummyache and is throwing up beside my bed at 3:00 am, or I have to make an international phone call in another language in the wee hours of the day. After a big outing, a major holiday, an extended-family get-together, this might not be the best time to deal with any humongous problems with the kids. I most likely need a nap. Never mind if the kids are too old for one, I’m not! This recharges my batteries and gives me a whole new perspective.

Greater is He that’s within me. If you believe in God, and feel that He called you to adopt, He will get you through this rough time. As much as we think that current events are a surprise to Him, as much as they are to us, He knows and cares. He wants you to be safe and for your kids to thrive. How that’s going to happen given the circumstances of X, Y, and Z, is anyone’s guess, but that’s faith: we have to believe that God is leading us into good paths.

Often, it’s just putting one foot in front of the other. Hard when a child is trying to trip you, drop a water balloon on your head, or launch a pelting of peas from their spoon to your forehead. When the kids become bigger and physical harm is a real possibility, you need to take any reasonable precautions if they have proved to be out of control: install motion detectors, lock up any knives, razors, or scissors, put locks on doors or windows, and maybe remove locks from their doors.

Three of my kids are now bigger than me and I have to sharpen my persuasive skills, rather than just picking them up and putting them where I want them, lol. Find out what “speaks” to your child—some need privileges withheld, some need extra encouragement, some need for you to talk seriously, others need a more playful approach.
Read motivational books and keep yourself in the positive mode. Remember that parents are not God. We’re going to make mistakes. We are not going to have the answers all the time. Don’t beat yourself up on that one. I hug my kids and tell them I’m sorry if I reacted to something that was happening. I ask them to pray for me, and help me, just like I try to help them. (I’m not sure that it’s possible to be a great parent and an atheist because if you have kids like mine, you’ll definitely be calling out to God!)

We put the children in sports once a week that can last anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours in length. Sometimes we stay to watch, but many times we say, “That’s your special time” meaning, “That’s MY special time to get away-!”

Their childhood will last for a season. It won’t be forever. It might seem like forever….

The kids come first. But you’re a very close second. Take care of yourself. If they’re having a bad day, it’s no reflection on you. Rise up, dust yourself off, and tell them “STOP”. Then take yourself out for a cappuccino, or a movie, or a manicure. (No, on second thought, you don’t need any fumes making you any more lightheaded….)

You matter, too, and you’re a very big person for even considering adoption in the first place. Your children will grow up and do well in life. Meanwhile, there might be some skirmishes along the way, but you will win the overall battle. You are an overcomer.

(This is for you, Lisa and Phyllis, and all the rest of us!)

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10 Comments : Leave a Reply

  1. avatar J. says:

    well said and so important, all of it.

  2. avatar Kathleen says:

    So encouraging to hear another mom in the same place I am. I love my children, but I so need that break from them too. We live in a very small town. Our local coffee shop has fancy coffee drinks on Tuesdays for $2. My husband and I have a standing Tuesday afternoon coffee date.

    • avatar admin says:

      Isn’t that great, Kathleen –just a time away to regain the two of you? Our kids are old enough now to be by themselves for an hour or two without the house burning down. We often go out for coffee or for a power walk. My b-day is on Sunday, so last night just the two of us went out to dinner… yay! I love the kids, but when they’re along, I’m watching their manners or asking them to speak quietly, etc. So fun to chat with others who “get it”-! 🙂

  3. avatar Lisa says:

    I can only spell it phonetically but…spaciba!
    Only 20 more days of school, I need to get it together and prepare! I WILL be putting K in day camps. Only one thing will be different, I won’t be feeling guilty about it. Instead, I’ll be refueling for my time with her.
    I also wanted to let you know that I have been in contact with siblings’ adoptive parents, this might be stirring the pot a bit. It seems quite surreal.
    Thank you for your support and I hope you had a good “day”!

    • avatar admin says:

      Only 20 more days of school-?! Lisa, haven’t you heard of year-round, 24/7, 365??? Either you’re committed to their education or you’re not-! Okay, I’ll admit it, we lighten up a little in the summertime, too….

      Siblings’ adoptive parents–now that sounds interesting! You might need to tell us about that sometime….

      Had a great “day”–spaceebah! 🙂

  4. avatar Phyllis says:

    Thanks so much for writing this post! I read it on Friday, but had to mull it over for a bit. I drove for 12 hours yesterday by myself and had plenty of time to think on things. My husband and I just realized around the start of this year that it is vital for my sanity to get some away time. So he has done great to take the boys and let me have the house to myself for an hour or two, or send me out by myself.

    We are starting to get some answers to why things have been this way. And that means that we will need to be very diligent about finding ways to recharge. We are not able to leave the boys home by themselves while we go for a walk, or anything, because the house might implode while we are gone. : )

    We know that God called us in a very profound way to our boys, and we know that He will guide us through this. But there are days that I wonder what He saw in me that He thought I could do this! haha It really is comforting to know that there are other moms out there that although we love our kids to death, they just might send us to ours some days. Thanks.

    • avatar admin says:

      You’re welcome, Phyllis! Today (at our get-away lunch when we talked about such riveting topics as who got the idea for the salted peanut man with the monocle-!?), I asked my husband if we had done the right thing to adopt one of our kids who has struggles and seems semi-unconscious most of the time, lol. He said, “Whenever you do something out of love, it’s the right thing. But we might have done it more for the child’s benefit than for ours.” That helped me with some perspective….

      Spouses that help by taking the kids for a short break are really worth their weight in gold. Right now, our kids looove to go with him to do a major grocery shopping (hah–we don’t let them out much in real stores-!) and then sometimes to the park. Ahh, just the doggies and I….

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