“We Are On Our Own In This”
Last weekend I received a call from adoptive mom, Brenna, who was desperately searching for help for her family. She and her husband, John, had adopted a sibling group of three many years ago. (Names and situation has been altered to protect confidentiality.)
The children are now in their teen years. Brenna states, “We have never been in any therapy and they’re now taking acting out to a new level.” Unfortunately, over the past week John has confessed he can not take any more, and is planning to leave the family.
In session I asked Brenna about their community, “Well, we’re in an active group in our community, but they are looking to us for answers. We’re the veterans, so I can’t confide in them about our problems. My family lives out of state, and John’s family can’t handle the kids. We’re on our own in this.”
This family had quite a few overwhelming issues on their plate: John’s level of distress, the children’s acting out, and a lack of encouragement from their family, friends, and community. Brenna’s family situation can improve, and they need others to help and champion for them. Life’s challenges are less frightening if you have others walking alongside you.
Let’s Build a Community
It is imperative that adoptive and foster families offer connection, support, and strength to one another. Life’s biggest problems feel a little less burdensome when we have people who truly “get us”. This felt sense of safety is most palpable when we engage with someone in the same situation or “boat” as ourself. There are many ways to accomplish building a community, and some ideas may include the following:
When you meet a new adoptive or foster family or run into a fellow adoptive parent, ask them how they are doing. And ask with your full attention —be mindful and respectful, fully engaged only in the conversation with the other person. So many times adoptive and foster parents feel alone . . . when you are fully present with them, it helps them to feel heard and connected to you.
Refrain from judging anyone. This is a big one! So many families feel judgment all around them: at their child’s school, daycare, Sunday school class, at family functions, in the neighborhood. Be the non-judgmental ear others are seeking.
Do not assume that other families are doing okay if the parents are smiling or do not complain. Many families are suffering in silence.
Be honest with yourself and others about your current situation. The fact is— all families go through times of burdens as well as times of blessings. The more honest you are and voice what you or your family needs, the more it enables others to be available for you.
If you meet a adoptive or foster parent who is not involved in a group, invite them to join your group. Share your resources and wisdom.
If your family is having a hard time, ask other families for resources. Accept any help they may propose, from several hours of respite to a cooked meal
Give one another hope and strength. If your family is in a good place, reach out to another family. Share your hope, your comfort, your story, and any other need you can fulfill for them.
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Carol Lozier is a therapist, author, and blogger specializing in trauma; and adoptive and foster kids, teens, and adults. Ms. Lozier is in private practice in Louisville, KY.