Things I Wish I Had Known…


These answers came from a group of 25 adoptive moms who are all doing their best to parenting with connection as a priority for healing.

  • That it is a very different parenting journey. Not worse but very different.
  • That it will change who I am as a person. Admitting this is not weak.
  • That it’s not for the faint of heart.
  • That it doesn’t make you a savior, and them beholden to you.
  • That they deserve ten times the grace and compassion we are called to give those who offend us and giving it will frequently will be the hardest thing we ever have to do.
  • That everyone will judge your parenting when your child struggles; if you care about other people’s opinions either get over it or don’t adopt.
  • That their needs are unique and ever changing, you have to adapt constantly to help them.
  • That if you’re a person who avoids conflict at all costs, this is not the role for you.
  • That I should listen to the experts with regards to adding children and birth order.
  • That if you have biological children make sure they’re (a) okay with the decision, (b) not overlooked in the chaos, and (c) able to have a safe place to retreat or vent.
  • That you need to do your own research and be willing to try multiple modalities of therapy. Therapy A may only get your so far or it may be all you need but you may need to add in Therapy B, C, D, etc. Never give up but be careful not to make the child feel like you’re trying to fix them. That’s easier said than done it’s all in the approach.
  • That the child’s emotional age will most likely be way younger than his/her chronological age.
  • That they will expose just about every fault of yours that exists.
  • That success has to be measured in smaller increments. Expectations are a waste of time.
  • That I could lose friends and sometimes even family members who have no clue.
  • That taking time for yourself, your spouse, your friends, and the “healthy” kids is of the utmost importance. Don’t allow yourself to feel guilty about it.
  • That fair doesn’t mean equal. You give in terms of what the child can handle.
  • That it’s okay to grieve what’s been lost…for your child and yourself.
  • That forgiveness is crucial, otherwise you are miserable.
  • That I had understood the value of lowered expectations.
  • That the transition from work to home very would feel overwhelming and solitary.
  • That I would learn the value of grace and the power of grace by learning connected parenting.
  • That nothing will grow you (mostly in a good way) more than parenting kids from hard places.
  • That the adoption community is the best. In adopting you are joining some fantastic, hardworking people, and they WILL become your best allies.
  • That behavior IS communication…and possibly the ONLY communication used by my child for a LONG time.
  • That my behavior is the ONLY communication he understands, so my anger/frustration over his [seemingly crazy] behavior hinders healing. He communicates 1. his comfort/discomfort with my physical closeness, 2. His ability/inability to receive nurture from me, and 3. His comfort/discomfort with social situations/activities ALL through his behavior. The only way to build trust is for me to respond to all three by giving him what he can handle now so he can build his tolerance to receive more later. Safety is the language I need to use (at least the best I know so far) as I provide him with what he needs to succeed- so he will eventually understand safe limits as nurture.
  • That I could learn to see the real need underneath ugly behavior. My amazing kids from hard places are really great at triangulation when they feel they’ve messed up or might get caught for messing up.
  • That when I am transparent about my emotions they let their guard down a bit and become more genuine.
  • That helping them properly use emotions has been so rewarding.
  • That when it looks mad- think FEAR.
  • That positional rejection IS NOT personal rejection.
  • That this will try you beyond anything you can imagine, but it is a worthy journey.
  • That you must keep your eyes fixed on the LORD and remember to care for yourself and your spouse along the way.
  • That this will be hard hard hard for your bio kiddos. Family therapy before bringing kiddos home might be a good idea; after bringing kiddos home definitely a good idea.
  • That grieving for lost dreams, hopes and expectations is okay.
  • That it’s okay to let others know you need help.
  • That you will become more of an educator and advocate than you ever knew (or appreciated) existed.
  • That you are not a saint, even though people tell you left and right you are- you don’t have to live up to anyone’s expectations.
  • That I should simply BREATHE.
  • That you are not alone! Don’t isolate yourself-your new situation may be isolating enough.
  • That you need to build a support group around you that you can text, call, come get your kiddo etc. when you need a break.
  • That I needed to extend GRACE to myself, the same GRACE I would willingly extend to others in my position.
  • That my bio kids would be affected–both negatively and positively. Also, my marriage. It nearly undid us at times, but it’s also made us much stronger. Adoption has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
  • That my life was going to change and not necessarily in a “happy” way.
  • That saying “yes” to parenting my child from hard places was saying “no” to so many other dreams/hopes for the future. I wish I had known how much it would force me to grow in faith…which is good, but growing this way is hard hard hard hard.
  • That our kids would be much more difficult towards me (the mom).
  • That it has been / can still be quite a strain at times in my marriage.
  • That most folks we know have adopted little ones and don’t understand the complexities of older kids.
  • That all that anger was just covering for his fear.
  • That our parenting would look very different than with our bio kids.
  • That being assertive could help get my child’s needs met.
  • That he would bring so much joy to our family.
  • That I would be in awe of the unconditional love I watch my husband and older kids give him every day.
  • That I can’t imagine life without him!

What do you wish you had known?

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