You know how they say it takes a village to raise a child? It’s true. Parenting is hard. Adoptive parenting comes with its own unique joys and its own unique challenges. As adoptive parents, we sometimes think we should be able to do it all ourselves. After all, we’ve had to convince a whole crowd of people that we will be good parents to get this far! It’s just not true. Do not try to go it alone. I speak from experience when I say that it will not end well. Enlist a village. And start with these three people:
Do you have someone in your life who is a great listener? Someone you can call when your child’s imperfect progress (or your own) is not Facebook-appropriate but your heart is bursting with pride? Someone who will hold your hand when you are bawling your eyes out because you are at the end of your rope? You need this! This is the person you call when you’re not looking for solutions, but empathy. They will listen. Make eye contact. Nod their head. And sometimes bring you chocolate.
You really need two of these: a kid-normalizer and an adoption-normalizer. Find someone who has raised great kids (the more, the better) and make them your friend. Put them on speed dial for those times when you need someone to say, “Oh, yeah. It’s a stage. Every kid does that. They’ll grow out of it.” They may offer some advice too, but mostly they will let you know that you are not alone. That you’re not the first parent to deal with colic or bullying or requests for pink hair. That sometimes you just have to put your head down and weather the storm for a bit. And that you’ll come out the other side just fine. Maybe even stronger and smarter than you were before.
And please, please, please find another adoptive parent too; we love to be found. Join a support group. Or start one. Online forums are great, but find someone you can connect with over coffee. Of course, every child is different. Every situation is different. Every family reacts to challenging situations differently. But I have yet to talk to a fellow adoptive mama and not have some sort of, “Me too!” connection. Put this friend on speed dial for when you’re in the middle of a meltdown or your kid is asking hard questions about their past.
The Problem Solver
Sometimes you need more than a listening ear and a sympathetic nod. Sometimes you need a plan. Like, now. This is when you need a problem-solver on speed dial. They look at the situation logically (something that is really hard to do when you are emotionally invested) and help you make a plan. While it can be helpful if these folks have some knowledge of parenting or child development, sometimes the best ideas come from folks with a solution mindset and a fresh set of eyes.
Certainly, these roles can mingle and overlap. But, honestly, all of us need as much support as we can get, don’t you think? Join the conversation! Who else do you have on speed dial?