Doug and Deanne Walker have 19 children, 10 of whom are adopted. These loving parents have been up and down and all around adoption, and seem to me to be an endless bucket of adoption knowledge and wisdom. On top of that, the Walkers are welcoming, inviting, and friendly! This series of articles covers everything from being an organized home executive to failed adoptions to finding the right agency. So as you read, imagine taking a comfortable spot on Deanne’s sofa as she openly shares her insight into each topic.
Deanne says this is the best advice she was ever given: Don’t take it personally.
When a child rejects you – rejects your attempts to show love, your efforts to communicate, your authority, your nurture, your family patterns . . . there is a reason. And it usually has nothing to do with you at all. But what are these reasons?
YOU’RE ESSENTIALLY A STRANGER
You’ve found your child, prepared her room, gone through all the red tape, sacrificed and saved to create your family. You’re expecting a lovely, family-reunion-style experience. But what you get instead is stiff politeness at first, and then the cold shoulder in following days. This can be hurtful unless you realize that it isn’t about you at all. It’s about the child’s early life.
THEY ARE TRULY AFRAID
Even though you may have some notes on the child’s early life, you are probably unaware of all the details. This child who is rejecting you may actually be afraid that you’ll hit him, or that you’ll tell him he’s ugly and you hate him. He may be afraid that in two years you’ll decide it’s not going to work and you won’t keep him.
THEY FEEL GUILTY
Your child may be rejecting you because her actions are creating cognitive dissonance. That is, she knows she’s not behaving as she should–and it’s easier for her to blame or reject you than to come to grips with her disappointment in herself.
Whatever the reasons, it is rarely about you. If you can separate yourself from the unkind words, the cold shoulder, the ignoring–and realize your child is hurting, you’ll be more likely to be able to help with healing. It’s important to remember that you are the adult, the mature one, the one who knows how to love and to trust. So when the rejection occurs, you stop what you’re doing, look your child in the eye, and let him speak. Then you answer, to some degree, in your child’s love language. It might be with hugs, it might be with words of affirmation, it might be with time alone to get an ice cream cone together. Learn your child’s love language and respond to their rejection in ways they will accept and understand.
Easy to say all this, right? But how? How do you develop tough enough skin to let the insults, the hurtful words, the utter rejection just roll off your back and not affect you? Deanne’s answer is this: I had to learn to really love myself. To accept myself and recognize that I’m doing my best. I learned that it’s okay that I’m not perfect, that I make mistakes just like everyone else. And with that acceptance I realize that I parent according to my conscience. I live my life the way I know is right for me, and I parent the way I know is right for my children. When a child rejects me and I’m not in a strong enough place to let it just slide off my back, I know I have a place to turn. I turn to myself, and I turn to my God. Thick skin comes from confidence, knowing I’m living as I should.
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