We tell you it won’t be easy at first. We tell you to read the books. You know, the one’s about attachment, parenting, grief and loss. We tell you it will get better with hard work. We tell you the medicals we receive about the child you are adopting is likely not worth the paper it is written on.
We tell you that children don’t generally become adoptable if they have been raised by loving, well educated an emotionally healthy parents. We tell you infants that are stressed in utero can show signs of attachment issues, so there is no “safe age” that is young enough to make your adoption bonding experience routinely easy. We tell you that it is NORMAL for your adopted child to resist bonding with you, to struggle, to fear, to act out.
No amount of “telling” can prepare an adoptive family for the reality of the transition of the adopted child into their home. When you give birth you have biology in your corner on the bonding process. When you adopt a younger child you also have a biological response to the child that encourages you to feel maternal or paternal.
What do you face when adopting an older child? You face a child with a history. A child who may have feelings of anxiety or guilt when they start to become part of a family. You have a child who can physically and emotionally act out to the point that you have no “feelings” of love for them. Being a mom or a dad often is more responsibility than bliss. Commitment and perseverance may be all that gets you through sometimes. Attachment and bonding can bring to the surface feelings that you have suppressed or didn’t even know you have about being close to another human being. Loving a sometimes unlovable child touches the very core of how we as an individual may be unlovable.
When I see families struggling with their adopted children I don’t blame the family and I certainly don’t blame the child. It is easy to label a child as broken, damaged, unlovable, unsalvageable. It is much harder to look inside ourselves to see where WE are failing.
Adoption can be tough. Parenting can be far tougher. This holds true whether your child comes to you through adoption or birth. I see many, many happy stories of families growing through adoption. I see also many, many families who are surprised by the first year and how tough it is. Please check out the wonderful blog post written by a family weathering this tough time right now.