Bizarro World

The other day I was thinking about how being an adoptive parent is like Bizarro World in the Superman comics. That was the universe in which versions of Superman and Lois Lane existed, but just about everything was opposite of the earthly versions. There was also an episode of Seinfeld that had a similar theme.

Well, that’s how adoptive parenting feels to me. You read regular parenting books and they tell you to do one thing, then you read an adoptive parenting book, and it tells you just the opposite. Here are a few of examples.

* Regular parenting books will tell you to wash “lovies” often because kids get attached to the smell. Adoptive parenting books tell you NOT to wash them often because that smell is the smell of your family, which you want your child to be attached to.

* Regular parenting books recommend time-outs as punishment for your children, but most adoptive parenting books prefer using a time-in or some form of correction in which your child isn’t separated from you.

* Regular parenting books discourage parents from sleeping with their children. But many adoptive parenting books encourage it because that’s a time of intense bonding with your child.

* Lots of parenting books say it’s OK to let your child cry it out as they learn to sleep on their own, but this is strongly discouraged by adoptive parenting books because it breaks the trust your child is building in you.

And those are just the examples I thought of off the top of my head. It can be so confusing!

I used to think that if adoptees had issues it was because their parents treated them differently than they would have or did biological children. Now I know that the opposite is actually true–certain things should be done differently with and for an adopted child.

Parenting an adopted child IS NOT the same as parenting a biological child. I know that’s really hard for a lot people to understand, but you just can’t do everything the same way. Your adopted child has suffered some trama because of breaks in trust with their caregivers. Your biological children, likely, have not suffered those tramas. (However, issues affecting adopted children can affect biological children too. It’s just most parents with biological children aren’t educated about these things.)

That different parenting style means being aware of the issues that might arise and understanding the cycle of trust that promotes attachment and bonding. It means being knowledgable about how your adopted child might process situations differently. It means knowing how following “regular” parenting advice might actually be harmful to your adopted child.

That’s not to say that everything is different. We love the Baby Whisperer’s advice about having a schedules and routines for the baby. This is actually really good advice for adopted children. We used lots of tips from her books, but always with the understanding of adoption issues.

So, adoptive parents and prospective adoptive parents, welcome to Bizarro World. It’s a wild and wonderful place to be.

1 Response to “Bizarro World”

  1. October 18, 2009 at 1:14 am

    Well put! We adopted our son when he was 2 yrs. old, he is now 8. Most people wonder, does he know he is adopted? Yes, of course. Look at us, we’re white, he’s biracial. Most people think since he was so small that he shouldn’t have the same issues that older adopted children have. Of course he does, he just can’t articulate them yet. They show up in other ways. Sometimes we can recognize when he is acting out from abandonment fears, and other times it is not until later that we can understand the real issues at the heart of the problem.

    We did not go internationally, so I can imagine that would add another layer of issues to deal with. As long as you keep on trying to deal, and face them head on, you can only do your best. I often watch the “nanny” shows just to reasure myself that I’m not doing so bad after all.:) I highly reccomend this form of therapy when you are feeling low!

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Just a reminder that if you want to learn more about Korean culture (both traditional and pop culture), language resources, and cooking, check out my other blog: thekoreanway.wordpress.com It's filled with resources for adoptive families or anyone interested in Korean culture.

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