I’m writing this post not as someone who is over the hump and living my best parenting life, but rather as someone who is in the trenches with you and hoping to share some helpful strategies that I have personally found to be healing in my relationship with my adopted children. The things I share below aren’t a prescription for all, so please don’t take my words as a quick fix. These are just things that have been working for us, and I hope they work for some of you, too.
So how do you push in and fully pursue your adopted child who is determined to push you away? How do you extend love when a child is driving you absolutely crazy?!? Persistent commitment and lots of actions that aren’t tied to our emotions.
4 Ways To Pursue A Child Who Keeps Pushing You Away
1.First, just know you are not alone. I completely feel you. I lament with you. You are doing hard work. Holy work. The cards are stacked against you and your child, but I promise there can be hope and healing, it just might not come in the exact timing or form you desire. But mama, you are here, you are showing up, and even when you mess up and loose your cool, you keep coming back to fight for your child’s heart. Sometimes I laugh and shrug my shoulders as I’m telling myself, “dang, you’re freaking strong. You are one badass woman. Yes, you mess up, but you are strong. You have learned to push in and love when it’s the absolute hardest.” So first, just know you aren’t alone and you are strong!
2. At age 34 I finally understand what people mean when they say that you HAVE to be taking care of yourself before you can care for others. This is SO true in parenting. Within the first few days of being a mom I was exhausted beyond belief. I wasn’t sleeping, we didn’t have help, and I was a hot mess. The lack of sleep complied on itself and after a month I didn’t have the ability to control my anger around my traumatized children. Self care doesn’t mean you get away for an hour a week or that you get to sleep in one day a week. Those are great, but when I say that you HAVE to take care of yourself I mean internally as well as externally. Be nice to yourself. Show yourself grace. Don’t ridicule and obsess over your mistakes. When someone you know and love messes up, do you tell them how wrong they were and how they should have handled it differently? Do you say they are horrible and stupid? No, or at least I hope not 🙂 You empathize with them. You extend grace. The same is true for yourself. As adoptive moms we have to extend grace to ourselves or we will become bitter towards ourselves and our children. When you do something well, or have a mom win stop and embrace it. Tell yourself good job. My therapist told me that the more we stop and embrace our good moments in parenting the better equipped we are to handle hard situations. So be nice to yourself, stop beating yourself up!
3. Physical Touch. I know it sounds simple enough, but love on them physically, even when/especially when you don’t want to. It might feel SO unnatural at first, but the healing of a motherly embrace can do wonders to a child’s soul. There was a point this summer when I completely hit my low and said I couldn’t push myself to be kind or affectionate. Things were just too hard, and then I remembered this podcast where basically the specialist said, “You are the adult, you can fake it for the sake of your hurting child. You are the adult.” And I knew he was right. My brain is fully developed, I have the ability to understand logic and emotions and I can, even when I don’t feel like it, push past myself and be affectionate to a child who is pushing me away. So what did I do? I started crawling in bed every single night to hold my child. At first it was just awkward. He asked what I was doing…I was like, “I want to hold you!” And then I jumped on him. He wanted nothing to do with it and after a few minutes I said okay, if you really want me to leave I will…And you know what he did? He rolled into my arms and said, “Don’t go mom.” And I stayed til he fell asleep.
4. Go have fun together! This summer I took my kids to a water park. I wasn’t looking forward to it, as I was expecting heat, lines and lots of whining. But, to my surprise, I had so much fun, which my kids saw, and they enjoyed me enjoying something they loved. We all were able to laugh and play together! And right there, in that water park, my son who had begun telling me that I wasn’t his real mother, started hanging on me and wanting to go down the slides with me! Just having something where you laugh and enjoy the same thing together with your child is so healing. So find an activity that you both like and go for it! But don’t stress if they end up not enjoying it, just find something else to do together.
Of course these points seem easy enough, but I know how hard they can be to put into action. And of course I still mess up. But…but, but, but there is healing happening in my and my child’s heart. Now, instead of fighting and pushing one another away all of the time, my child and I are walking towards one another with open arms.
Here are a few podcasts that have been so helpful in reminding me to keep going:
This podcast is from a former Foster Youth and she speaks to rebellious behavior and how it was really just her cry for help. Meaghan shares with us what led to her entering the foster care system on her 15th birthday, what it was like entering new homes and how she over came the odds and is a strong and successful woman today.
No Such Thing as a Bad Kid-Parenting Traumatized Kids
Foster kids and kids adopted from foster care or internationally have often experienced trauma and require a different type of parenting. We share tips and tricks for adoptive and foster parents on what works and what doesn’t. Host Dawn Davenport, Executive Director of Creating a Family, the national infertility & adoption education and support nonprofit, interviews Charlie Appelstein, M.S.W., President of Appelstein Training Resources, and author of the book No Such Thing as a Bad Kid.
It’s an all-too-common tale on the foster and adoptive parenting journey- you love the child you’ve welcomed into your home deeply. You have given everything to them. You have committed to being their forever mommy or daddy. The connection you have to them is deeper than deep. But they don’t (at least it appears so) feel the same way toward you. In this encore episode, listen in as Mike, Kristin and Nicole talk openly about this topic, and offer practical insights…