A Million and a Half Ways–A Lesson in Adoption Parenting

I recently saw this quote on a friend’s Facebook page, “The most important thing she’d learned over the years was that there was no way to be a perfect mother and a million ways to be a good one.” — Jill Churchill

Well, if there are 1 million ways to be a good parent to biological kids, I believe there must be 1.5 million ways to be a good adoptive parent. Parenting an adopted child, as I’ve said before, is just different. Honestly, bio children would probably be better off if their parents learned the things that adoptive parents are taught. So much of adoptive parenting is about being in-tune with your child and being honest and open with them. And what child couldn’t benefit from that type of parental relationship.

I’ve just finished reading Sherrie Eldridge’s newest book, 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. It’s now on my “must read” list for adoptive parents. If you’ve done much reading on adoption, you’ll be familiar with most of the 20 things. But Eldridge’s book pulls so much information together–about grief, honesty, birth parents, hope, mixed feelings, and so much more.

Every chapter ends with a couple of sections that are the real jewels of this book, in my opinion. One of those sections titled “Listen to Your Child’s Heart” describes how your adopted children may feel about that chapter’s subject as a child, teen, and adult. Next comes the “Draw Closer–Action Steps for Parents and Kids” section. This section describes activities, books, and conversations that can help us foster intimacy with our children. And lastly, each chapter ends with a page of Support Group Discussion Questions, which make this an excellent choice for an adoption-related book club.

Many of the messages in Eldridge’s book are hard for adoptive parents to hear. But the book doesn’t leave you feeling inadequate for the journey. It leaves you feeling empowered, having given you tools and resources to assist in on your unique parenting journey.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know that our son has been struggling off and on since last spring with his permanence in our family. As I’ve asked around, I’ve found that some of his questions may be age-related, as children around age 4 start trying to figure out how each member of the family fits (my mom is his grandmother, for example). But my gut has been telling me it’s something more.

My heart aches each time my son asks me to “protect” him, usually when he’s only going to the next room in the house. He’s definitely attached to me and my husband, but it seems to me that his connection is strained and he doesn’t feel as secure as could. After reading books like Eldridge’s and Parenting Your Internationally Adopted Child by Patty Cogen, I understand better what types of situations may cause strain on J’s connection to us. Gaining independence is one such situation, which is exactly what 4-year-old yearn to do. I think for our son that yearning is causing mixed feelings–“I want to do it by myself but doing that means moving away from needing my parents, which I don’t want to do.”

But having a strained connection was something I had no understanding of when we were early in our adoption journey. Like many parents, I thought once we’d formed a bond with our son, we were good to go. Now I know that adoption parenting isn’t that easy and goes far beyond forming that initial bond.

It’s really about those 1.5 million things you can do to best parent your child. In general some of those things when parenting a transracial adoptee are understanding race and racism; being open about loss and trauma of adoption; being willing to put yourself in situations where you are the minority; helping your child form a connection with his birth country and language; and understanding that love is not enough.

It’s true that not every adoptee will need the same things. Effective adoptive parenting, I believe, comes when you’re educated enough to know how your child might feel in certain situations or about certain issues; when you can recognize a reaction for what it truly is, instead of passing it off as “too sensitive” or “ridiculous.”

Pre-adoption education is great, but it’s just the beginning. Once your child is home your education MUST continue. Read books about adoption, especially those that are hardest to read. Read blogs by adult adoptees. Learn all you can about how what adoptees are thinking.

That’s how you’ll find the 1.5 million ways you can be a good parent to your child or children.

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My Korean Culture Blog

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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