Monday, October 19, 2015

The Number One Thing I Wish I Knew

I often read about things that parents wish they would have known before fostering or adopting a child. The items on the list have varied from saying no is okay to wow, there is a lot of paperwork and everything in between. While those things are true, the one thing I wish I knew is that love is not enough.  I know that sounds crazy right?! I thought so to before I entered our journey and found that love is important, but knowledge about how to share love is even more important.

Foster and adoptive children are different. They have experienced at the minumum, loss. In addition to that they may have experienced neglect, abuse, rejection, stress etc. These children often times do not have a mother who cares for them before they are even born by refraining from drugs, alcohol, tobacco, and stress. These mothers may not have tried to eat healthfully, take parenting classes, or seek prenatal care. These types of stresses even in-utero can harm a child's development.

After birth, the infant may not have felt their mother's embrace, heard her soft voice, or leaned in to hear her heart beat. The infant may have cried for hours without an adult to tend to their needs. They may have sat and stared at the walls for hours without a glimpse of social interaction. As the infant grew to a child needs may have continued to be ignored and angry rages may have been present.

This is just a glimpse of what a child may go through before being adoped or entering a foster home. These children do not trust adults and have lived in survival mode for a while. Angry rages, defiance, and dishonesty may occur even when the child is placed in a loving home where all their needs are met. This is not because the child is bad and often times the child cannot control their behavior. This child may hoard food, because they are scared to death that they are going to go hungry again. A child with this type of background may lash out in anger, because they are afraid to open their hearts to love and are overwhelmed with emotions. The child may lie out of fear of being physically punished when they get home.  It is important to look at the driving factors behind a child's behaviors before automatically giving a punishment or becoming frustrated.

Knowledge of the cause will help an adult find a solution. If a child is afraid of the bathtub for example and throws a fit every night before bath. A timeout, restriction from TV time, or early bedtime will not decrease the frequency of the fits. Telling the child it is okay and you love them will not make them feel any better about bath time. To them, it is NOT okay and love is a word that is not well understood.

So how do you gain trust and allow for the opportunity to earn their love and trust? Connect with your child and be patient. Remind yourself that days, weeks, or months may not be long enough for a child to put their guard down. It may take years of "I love you's", one-on-one playtime, daily meals, clean clothes, and gentle parenting for a child to slightly open up to you. This is not because you are not loving enough. This is because people in their past did not love in a way that made them feel cherished, taken care of, or safe.

Therefore, no love is not enough without knowledge and prospective about the child's world and how they process it.

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  1. I just went through the discipline session in my PRIDE class and since I've already been raising nonbiological children for the past 15 years, I did not find the psychologist's lecture very helpful. While he made some good points, I felt like he was talking more about biological children than children who had come from hard place involving years of neglect, abuse or coming from homes of a criminal element.

    You speak wisely of these little souls and their beginnings. Understanding where the child has been, what has triggered the behavior and how best to calm the behavior so that there is an ability to teach an appropriate reaction or verbal skills. For instance, a child afraid of a bath may have been scalded once or repeatedly, or in the case of my one son, had his head held under water by his sister (before they lived with me). Terrifying things happen in bathtubs. So one would let a child stand outside a tub, allow child a toy or two to be thrown in. Use a soft washcloth and dip in the tub's water and let the child stand outside the tub to be sponged bathed. Letting a child run the water or feel the cool water run over their hands as the tub fills. So many, many options but some people would just say "get over it" and make the child go into the tub. Their reality of experiences with tub baths is something we don't want to imagine, but patience to learn how to de-escalate their fears is what will make them eventually able to tub bath. In this example, my son had to be bathed standing up in the tub for a long time until he began to see there would no longer be any danger to him.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences and wisdom!!

    1. Thank you for commenting. I love your tips on dealing with bathtub trauma specifically.


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