I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: parenting is hard. Adoptive parenting is a different kind of hard. It can feel like a lonely road, like you’re the only one struggling to help your child navigate the effects of early trauma, grief, and loss that often accompany adoption. But you’re not the only one. And while trusted friends and family members can be supportive, there is nothing quite like hearing, “You are not alone. I’ve been there,” and knowing that it’s actually true. Fellow adoptive parents can be a great source of support and a wealth of knowledge. Here are four ways that adoptive parents can learn from each other.
Stories connects us. Spend an evening listening to the stories of fellow adoptive parents and you will likely laugh, cry, and nod your head in solidarity. Talk about your experiences. Talk about your emotions. Talk about your journeys. Talk about your kids. Talk about your growth as a parent and as a person. If nothing else, you will learn that you are not alone in this adventure of adoptive parenting.
In my experience, adoptive parents tend to be very well-connected and aware of resources in their community. Need a daycare provider or pediatrician who will work to help your child overcome her unique challenges? Just ask. Need a support group or a church community that will welcome you without judgment? Fellow adoptive parents can likely point you in the right direction. Need help with locating adopting-specific resources of all kinds? Just make a phone call or send an email. Share your need and learn about all kinds of resources available to help you.
Getting connected with other adoptive parents can help in the practical day-to-day details of parenting, too. Need a double stroller? Chances are someone in your circle has one that you can borrow or buy cheaply. I’ve found my fellow adoptive parents to be very generous. We share kid’s clothes and baby gear, outgrown toys and books–just about anything. And even if they don’t have stuff to share, they may be able to point you in the right direction and give you some good recommendations of where to find what you need.
If there’s one thing I know about adoption, it’s that the joy and the grief are all tangled up together, always. And one of the quickest ways for adoptive parents to isolate themselves is to try to shield everyone from the grief. I know you want everyone to think that you’re a good parent (you are). I know you want everyone to know that your kid is exceptional (they are). But the grief is inescapable. And to finally speak it to someone who understands can be priceless. Many adoptive parents “get it.” They can hear your grief, your child’s grief, and nod in understanding. And knowing that you are heard and understood will lift a weight from your shoulders.
Adoptive parents, what would you add? How have you learned from others in the adoption community?