When a child is adopted, it is often thought that their previous traumatic experiences will automatically disappear. However, this is not always the case. In fact, many adopted children suffer from the effects of their childhood trauma long after they have been removed from the abusive environment.
This can be due to a number of factors. For example, some adoptees may feel like they are not worthy of love and support because they were given up by their birth parents. Others may feel like they are constantly being judged by others because of their adoption status. As a result, these adoptees may struggle to form healthy relationships with others and may struggle with self-esteem issues.
It is important to remember that childhood trauma does not go away automatically once a child is removed from their previous environment. A great deal of brokenness has happened in a young child still in the very early developmental stages in most cases.
Adoptive parenting can be understood better as post-traumatic care…24 hours a day, every day…for years. And while the adoptive parents that I know generally have gone to great lengths to rise to every challenge, the supports for these families have not.
Adoptive Parents: The Tightrope Walk of Caregiving
Being an adoptive parent is a constant tightrope walk. You are always trying to balance your children's need for stability with their need for honesty about their past. You're also trying to find a balance between their need for structure and instruction with their opposition and distrust. Additionally, you're juggling their need for nurture with their resistance to attachment and bonding. And we are doing all of this without a break and without any real support. Sound exhausting? It is.
But it's also one of the most rewarding things you'll ever do...over the long haul.
Why We Do It
So why do we do it?
Because we love our children unconditionally, and because we believe in the power of family…and God, and his power and authority to place each of our children into our families. No matter how difficult it is, we show up day after day because we made a commitment —to be there for our children no matter what. And that is the beauty of being an adoptive parent: even on the hardest days, we know that we are making a difference in our children's lives. Wait, What? That’s not exactly true….it’s those hardest days, the ones where you doubt yourself and question whether your child will really reap any of the benefit of all you’ve poured into caring for them and loving them…those days when you are afraid that it’ll never get better…when your world has been turned upside down that you could use some real support.
What We Need
Adoptive parents need two things: understanding and support. We need people in our lives who "get it." People who know what it's like to walk the tightrope every day and who can offer words of wisdom, encouragement, and hope when we feel like we're about to lose our balance. Additionally, we need tangible support—people who can offer respite care, financial assistance, legal advocacy, and more. Without understanding and support, it is very difficult to be an effective adoptive parent.
If you are an adoptive parent, know that you are not alone. There are thousands of us out there walking the same tightrope you are. We understand how difficult it is, that your love and dedication to your child and family are not magic wands for deeply ingrained trauma wounds… but even if it takes longer than you ever dreamed to see positive results, the fruit of it all be visible one day. Surround yourself with people who "get it," and reach out for help when you need it. With understanding and support, you can continue to have faith over the long run.
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