I often refer to the experience of parenting kids from hard places as ‘deep end of the pool parenting.’ Most of us were fairly well prepared for kiddie pool parenting or even swimming lesson pool parenting. But the demands of a deeply struggling kiddo (or two or five) can be enormously overwhelming. Not because we don’t or didn’t mean well, not because we don’t love our kids (or want to love them), not because we’re unintelligent, uncaring or inept.
It’s just a lot.
The deep pool diving we’re trying to do is demanding and beautiful and complex.
Things to consider that have helped me when I’m struggling with feeling overwhelmed :
- Don’t project into the future. It produces anxiety, not encouragement. There a reason we’re given one day at a time. Spoiler alert: We are doing MUCH better than my stress laden predictions in my head expected 10 years ago. The stress was a waste. Fear breeds fear. Worrying isn’t the same as planning.
- Simplify. And then simplify more. We’re 12 years into this deep end of the pool parenting and I still have to have a meeting with myself and remind me that our situation isn’t like other families. It’s more demanding. We need to do LESS and not feel badly. Simple schedule, simple meals (bless Costco), lower overall expectations.
- A new adoption is a fair parallel to a new baby in the house (regardless of the age of the child), only even more disruptive I suspect. It’s a huge transition, change and challenge for everyone. Acknowledging this helps me. It’s a tough season, but you’ll get there.
- Find a way to connect every day with each kid. Small things totally count. It will keep you heading in the right direction and help you feel some success.
- Choose one concern with your child and work at figuring out the why. Then work on supports that you can try to help whatever’s driving it. When there’s chaos, it can help to choose one thing and let others go as much as possible for now. Lower the bar. Then, bury the bar! You have lots of time (years wise) but energy is limited (day wise).
- Identify one sure-fire regulator for your kiddo who’s struggling. And then do that thing a lot. Baths? Walks? Sensory input? Coloring? Bouncing? Be a detective and then encourage regulating activity with abandon.
- Make peace with different “rules” for different ages / stages of kids. I don’t know your kids ages, but 3 of my 4 have a great deal of independence that one does not because she CANNOT handle it. She’s not ready, it’s not safe, and I need to not feel guilty about it looking “unfair.”
- Sibs: We’ve worked hard to help all the kids discover their individual gifts and interests, and encourage their individual participation in things outside the family. It helps them find their own feet and voice.
- Sibs also need a plan for what to do when they’re stressed. Do they have a safe space? What can this look like at your house? For us it meant giving up the family room and office so everyone gets their own room. It means kids get trips with grandma / friends at different times so they get their tanks filled. It means helping them know that YOU know it’s tough, and it’s safe to talk about it and you will do what you can to help them cope and thrive.
- Depend on your people to help you. You may need to ask specifically as people don’t know what to do. Who can take a kid or two for a couple hours? Who can come hang with you? Who can bring meals? Who can you call every day at 4 pm to pray? Who can go walk and talk and process?
- Take care of yourself. Connect with people who get it. Find a therapist who can give good support. Grieve your losses …. loss of what you hoped this would be like; loss of what you expected your bio kid’s childhood would be like; loss of who you thought you’d be as a parent; loss of friends etc even. It feels rather terrible to think that our children could be a source of grief. But loss is loss. It’s important to honor that grief so you can embrace your “new normal.”
I’m sorry this is a tough time. Give yourself and your kids grace. Hugs.
Submitted by a Parenting with Connection Moderator.