Always feeling behind?
When all of you is still not enough…
Being an adoptive or step mom can feel like you’ve embarked upon a daunting task to try to fill the void that your child already has. I know those types of feelings. It can feel like a tremendous responsibility. But as adoptive or step moms we must remember that we cannot make up for any losses in our children's lives – but instead can focus on providing stability for all of our children. Even as they push against that very stability they need.
The Feeling of Insufficiency
It is very common for adoptive or step moms to feel behind and that they are not enough. This feeling of insufficiency may stem from the idea that they do not have the same connection as the biological parent, leading them to feel as if they are lacking something. However, this feeling of insufficiency is normal and it does not have to define the relationship with your child.
By focusing on the present stability you provide, rather than what is missing or prior deficits in their experiences, your child will benefit from having you in their life. Here are some ways to do just that:
First, Unconditional Love Is Key
As an adoptive or stepmom, you have an opportunity to provide unconditional love for your child regardless of how challenging things may seem at times. Unconditional love allows your child some security during times of uncertainty; it shows them that even when things do not go according to plan there will still be someone who loves them no matter what happens. A healthy relationship between a parent and child requires unconditional love, so if you focus on providing this type of love rather than trying to make up for past losses or fulfill expectations, you’ll have the best chance of having a long-lasting positive impact on your child.
Second, Provide Stability
Adoptive and stepmoms play a vital role in their children’s lives by providing stability during times of transition and upheaval. By creating an environment of consistency and routine, children can begin to trust that their home life will remain reliable despite any changes in their family dynamic (including remarriage). Providing stability also means being there when your child needs you most; listening without judgment or criticism, helping them navigate difficult situations, and offering emotional support when needed are all ways you can show your child that you are committed to being there for them no matter what life throws at them.
One of the most important things you can do as an adoptive or step mom is to consistently present yourself as a source of stability and security within the family dynamic. It may take time—even years—for your child to accept and trust you, so remain consistent in demonstrating love and support for them, even when times get tough. The more familiar they become with seeing love and consistency from you, the better. And hopefully the more comfortable they will feel relying on you because they will always know what to expect with you.
Third, Make Room for Losses
It is essential that your child has space to process their feelings about losses such as a biological parent or grandparents who were not able to stay part of their lives due to death or estrangement. It’s important not to minimize their grief nor try to “fix” it; instead, offer them unconditional acceptance regardless of how they express themselves through sadness or anger. In addition, be aware of your own biases and any expectations as a way to create an emotionally safe environment for them.
Fourth, Connect With Other Moms
Having other adoptive/step moms in your life can be helpful too! Being part of a community where others understand what it feels like can provide tremendous support and understanding during challenging times. Look into joining local groups or online forums specifically targeting these types of families - whether in person or virtually - so everyone involved can benefit from the shared wisdom among other adoptees/second parents/step-parents who have gone through similar experiences. While this type of support can be hard to find, it can make a huge difference.
Fifth, Be Patient with Yourself
When feeling overwhelmed, take some time for yourself away from the kids; time spent without them allows you to have some clarity and perspective on what kind of parent (and person!) you want to be. When feeling behind, sometimes all we need is a break from our routine in order to be more present when we get back into it. It’s important not only for ourselves but also for our families that we take these breaks when necessary so we can return with a restored sense of peace and purpose.
Sixth, Focus on What You CAN Provide
As an adoptive or step-mom, stop worrying about what isn't possible—focus instead on what IS possible! Every day begin fresh with where you are, and where your child is and take the next step from there.
Even if they don’t say it outright, your children need your love and stability just as much as any other family member would need it. You can’t change their past or how they feel about the past, the present or you! Your unconditional love will go a long way towards making sure they know that they belong in your family unit—and that means something very powerful.
And finally, it’s true that you aren’t enough to fill the gaping hole in your child that only God can fill. You can’t be their first mom. Or anyone else but yourself. You CAN be enough to find your place, show up and fill your own shoes in the life of your child with his help.
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