I have on many occasions written about how adoptive parenting is different to ‘normal’ parenting. Of course, I have no experience of the latter, so I can really only comment on what adoptive parents do and how we think.
It is generally regarded as slightly different, but every parent encounters their own challenges, adoptive or otherwise.
This post demonstrates how my wife and I think about parenting and how we approach it with regards to the fact that our son is adopted. Leave a comment at the bottom to let me know how you think adoptive parenting is different, if at all.
One aspect of raising a toddler is looking at their development. At the ages of 2-4, children’s development differs wildly, so looking at your own toddler’s development against a benchmark is almost impossible.
Adoptive children do have the propensity to develop a little slower depending on their experiences and background.
We do our best not to compare our own son to other children because of this fact. He is at the age where he can show great signs of development in very short periods of time, and all we want to see really, is that he is developing – even at his own pace.
This is a tricky one for most parents, however, as adoptive parents there is an additional element to the question of why. If our son is behaving strangely or badly, then the inevitable ‘is this an adoption thing?’ always rears its head.
We have to look for warning signs and monitor his behaviour from the point of view that some innocuous event may trigger something in our son that causes him to enter self-preservation mode.
Of course, we can’t over think this as well. Often, his behaviour is a result of the ‘terrible twos’ or his teething or something perfectly straight forward.
We have to figure out which is which.
This is a really heart-wrenching part of adoptive parenting. Adoptive children can be subject to anxiety that is incredibly difficult for many of us to comprehend.
When moving our son from our room to his own room my wife and I discussed (and continue to do so) at length what effect it may have on the wee man, and if he was ready for being in his own room.
I mentioned the fear of abandonment in my last post, and this is something that I am particularly nervous about. To this end, I am probably more lenient in situations where a bit of assertiveness is needed.
We have a very fine line to walk when trying to help our son develop the necessary skills to progress in life vs. applying discipline and restrictions that leave him too anxious. There are times when adoptive parents simply let go of the need to ‘parent’, and do whatever they need to do to remove any anxiety a child is experiencing. We need to push them, but pushing too hard can be more detrimental than not pushing at all.
To explain this idea in more simple terms:
A child who has grown up in a healthy family may be afraid of the dark because of their own over active imagination.
A looked after child may be afraid of the dark because that reminds him of his mother being abused by his father.
Both become anxious in the dark, but for very different reasons. Adoptive parents need to be sensitive to this difference.
What I mean by social or socialising is ensuring your child is comfortable enough within normal social scenarios.
Some adoptive children thrive on 1-2-1 contact, but may really struggle with social situations. I believe that all kids benefit from playing with other children, so adoptive parents need to think hard about how to encourage their child to play with other children.
They may not simply be able to send their kids off to nursery. They might look at getting their child to play with one other child first, it all depends on the child of course, but again this shows the thinking that adoptive parents undertake every day.
In summary I think all parents have specific challenges with their own children, regardless of whether they are adopted or not. Adoptive parents do have certain things they need to think about, and there is often an added element of mystery to raising adoptive children.
If you are an adoptive parent, and would like to share your experiences, please leave a comment below.