Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Posts tagged ‘adoption attachment’

The Difficulties We Faced When Adopting Older Children

Our children were 10, 8 and 6 when we adopted them. People who have no contact with adopted/ foster children frequently feel the need to tell us that they were ‘just babies’ when we got them. No, no they weren’t.
In a typical home children aged 10, 8 and 6 are relatively innocent. They may have learned a curse word on the bus, or seen something on TV that was not the best, but beyond that, they know very little.
My children were not given this protection. From the stories they told and questions they asked they had seen: adults having sex, people threatening their parents with guns in their own home, drug use and life where maggots in the milk carton and beer in the baby’s bottle were part of what they considered ‘normal.’ At least one of my children had been sexually abused (in foster care) and had been thrown from a moving car (while living with his birth mother). Since they were children, they took it in stride and considered it ‘normal.’
In foster care they saw the older children they looked up to drop out of school, run away, become pregnant, steal, do drugs and brag about sex. But they were just 10, 8 and 6. Ages where they could see the behavior, but were not able to understand why it might not be the best way to live. And they loved these people.
Further, they were neglected. We see young children running around with no clothes on at 2 am as ‘awful parenting.’ They see it as ‘freedom.’ Moving into a home where their homework needs to be done, where bedtimes are enforced and good food must be eaten before snacks does not seem like a blessing to children who are used to doing whatever they like.
At one point in their foster care time there was an attempt to reunite them with their grandmother. During this time their mother visited them for the weekend. Just one weekend in the three months they were there. (She was not to see them at all though.) During this weekend she took them to a fair and bought them whatever they wanted. This cemented in their minds that mom was a wonderful women, and they were taken away from her for no good reason. She was certainly not a person who would ground them when they misbehaved, or any of those other ‘mean’ things ‘good’ parents tend to do.
Do you see the problem?
Further, the children identified with their parent’s lifestyle. They did not feel comfortable in an middle to upper middle class situation because that was not ‘who they were.’
The children, due to drugs and alcohol in their systems at birth (and apparently afterwards in their bottles) also had troubles in school. This too led them to feel like they did not belong in our world, since middle class children tend to place at least some importance on achieving in school. All of these problems led them to seek out peers who also struggled in school and who behaved like the children they admired while in foster care. Kids who do their homework never seem like quite as much fun as those who hide behind the convenience store doing whatever they want, and running from the cops seems so much more exciting than boy scouts…
Add to that a loyalty to their birth mom and dad. By conforming to our lifestyle they must admit, on some level, that what their birth parents did was not ‘good.’ This is a very hard thing for a child to do. Everyone wants awesome parents. To be faced with the idea that the people who gave birth to you chose drugs over taking care of their baby is tough. It is easier to believe that it was all a ‘mistake,’ that drugs aren’t really bad, and that some people are just too ‘uptight’ about these things. This too makes life difficult for children who are removed from their homes later in life.
My children also had behavioral issues. In attempts to appease them, or to not have to deal with them in school, they were given grades they did not deserve and privileges or special treatment as bribes to behave. This helped them feel that the ‘rules’ were not for them. They were special. This meant that they were going to have to learn things the hard way in life, because they had seen too many instances when they were treated differently and that was now their expectation. People who enforced the rules were just being ‘mean’ because they knew exceptions could be made, and expected that they would be made for them.
There were also problems ‘attaching’ to a new parent. How do you convince a child that has had several foster homes that you are really going to keep them forever? Add to that a few people who feel the need to explain to them that adoptive parents could never love them like they love their own children and you have attachment issues. (And yes, people do tell these children that their adoptive parents do not really love them. We have had it happen to us more than once. Why? My only though is that it is out of jealousy that these people would never take a child in themselves. We actually had one person ask my daughter if it wouldn’t have been better if she was her mother!?!?)
So, why do I write this? To tell you that it will not always be smooth sailing. Problems will not go away in a short period of time. These are difficult issues, issues that the children may struggle with for a lifetime. Will your intervention help? Yes! But will it be all that is necessary for success? No. Unless the child decides for him or her self that they want something different for their life there will be struggles, and a chance they will repeat their birth-parents mistakes.
And if you are not adopting, then this is still for you. At some point in your life you will encounter someone who has adopted older children. This is to help you understand what they are dealing with and to not say stupid things like:
-‘You’ve had them for long enough, shouldn’t they behave better by now?’
-‘I don’t see how anyone can love an adopted child like it was their own.’
-‘If I was your mother, I would…’
-‘They’re still so innocent at this age, I don’t know why you’re making a big deal over it.’ (Do you want your preteen impregnated? That is why I am making a big deal over it. He may know more about sex, at least aberrant sex, than you do!)
-‘All you need to do is love them.’
Etc, etc.
Just don’t say it. Ever. Gossip travels. Raising children who did not have the best start in life is tough. Don’t add to people’s burdens this way.
Hope this helps.

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