This article written by Suzanne Jones was originally featured on YourTango.
Parenting adopted children takes preparedness and doing these 10 things will set you up for success.
This may come as a surprise to you but what I am about to say is not only an absolute, it's relevant. You have obviously done the research and know adoption is trauma.
My guess is that you've got some fears around what kind of parent you will be given the plethora of issues that you 'may' be confronted with one day.
Parenting an adopted child is a lot easier than you think, not because you read a few books and think you understand them. Not because you plan to take them to therapy one day when issues arise and certainly not because you learned all you need from agency resources.
You will find being a good parent to an adopted child is a lot easier when you do your work.
The moment you begin to understand how you tick is when you become available for your child. Parenting is not a given. And parenting an adoptee needs an instruction manual. Which happens to be what I offer to my clients.
We parent largely from the premise of how we were parented. It's what we know. Yes, there is a percentage of people who have broken the cycle of dysfunction in their families. That percentage is very small.
Take a look around at the broken children today. The crime and drug rate, teenage prostitution, youth homelessness and suicide. Look at the school shootings — largely done by young people.
Why do you think that happens? It's not because kids are unruly brats. It happens because parents are broken. They have not dealt with their unmet needs from childhood and it's from that place they parent. Behavior is a manifestation of unmet needs. Most behavior is learned and that is good news. If it's learned it can be unlearned.
But it has to start with you. Learning how to be a good parent to an adopted child is a lot easier than you think if you do these 10 things:
1. Be intentional in everything you do.
Why do you intentionally tie your shoes? What is the reason you intentionally brush your teeth or wear clothes? These are the same questions you need to ask yourself when parenting an adopted child.
What is the outcome you hope to get when doing anything with them — including and especially discipline?
2. Parent with and in integrity.
Do what you say you're going to do and that includes with yourself. If you say "yes" to your child, follow through. When you say "yes" to yourself, follow through.
That means if you told yourself you will spend an hour alone to soak, do it — no matter what! You are setting the example.
3. Make congruence a must.
Adoptees need to trust you. If you are telling them you love them while your teeth are gritted, that is sending them mixed messages.
When you allow something one minute and the next time punish them for it, that only confuses their already confused mind.
4. Trust yourself.
Yup, I said it. Self-trust is vital. Remember, you can't give what you don't have.
If you don't trust yourself whether to make decisions or to do the right thing, how can you teach your child to trust you and trust themselves?
5. Acknowledge and own your perceived flaws.
We all have flaws. Stop running from them and trying to cover them up and stop trying to be perfect. Own them and deal with them or they will become the forefront of everything you attempt to do.
6. Learn to dance with uncertainty.
I'm going to be frank here. If you are a control freak or perfectionist — do not adopt a child. Or, work with me and get that under control before you adopt.
7. Forgive yourself for whatever you think you've done at any time in your life.
Let go of the past. It's like a noose around your future. Learn from it, don't repeat the mistakes and shake it off.
8. Accept yourself.
Whatever you may have done or what has happened to you, it was not because there is something wrong with you. If you are infertile, it does not mean you are flawed. That's a story you are telling yourself.
Without self-acceptance, nothing will ever be good enough — including your child.
9. Love yourself.
Again, you cannot give what you don't have. Without healthy self-love, the love you share with your child is simply a projection of your innermost feelings.
That love comes with restrictions and conditions. An adopted child cannot handle conditional love.
10. Clean up your limiting beliefs.
We all have them. What do you believe at your core about yourself, that will get in the way of being the best parent you can be? Don't know? Look at your life and what's not working. Under it is a belief. Equally, it applies to what is working. That too has an underlying belief.
Here's the bottom line and it applies every time. When you have cleaned up your past, including tending to these 10 things, parenting an adopted child becomes easier.
We are all bogged down by our past whether we know it or not. Releasing those bogs frees you up to be everything an adopted child needs. Compassionate, patient, understanding, accepting and empathetic.
So let me ask you this: Are you willing to do for yourself all those things that will give you and your child an amazing life?
Suzanne Jones owns a one-person adoption coaching firm and works with adoptive parents. She gives them the tools and skills necessary to parent the adopted child. If raising a happy, healthy, whole adopted child and family is a priority for you, your next step is to connect with her and have a conversation about working together.
More from YourTango:
- What It Really Feels Like to Be Adopted
- 13 Things I Wish My Adopted Parents Had Told Me (That Would've Changed My Life)
- Dear Moms of Adopted Children: I Know Nothing You Have Was Easy