The pain and trauma adopted and foster children experience is often unimaginable. It can be so overwhelming that it takes all the focus and energy that parents can muster to survive and provide what they feel is best. This leaves a lot of adoptive and foster parents we know, including ourselves, feeling at times like we are barely surviving. The suggestion that you can thrive as an adoptive parent can almost seem misguided. So what can you do?
Click to tweet: One of the most important steps towards healing in adoption and foster care is to process loss and new realities. @jasonkovacs
Here are 7 ways for moving forward:
1. Grieve your shattered dreams
The pain that parents experience in adoption and foster care often begins when our dreams feel like they have been shattered. Our vision for our family and our children has imploded and we are forced to reckon with the loss of our expectations. Our reality is not what we thought it would ever be, nor what we might ever want it to be. One of the most difficult and important steps towards healing and help is to process this loss and the new reality. To ignore it, which can be very tempting, is not wise and usually doesn’t last long or end well.
2. Remember the trauma and remember the grace
The second thing we can do is to remember our children’s stories and where they have come from. Again, this is not easy. Sometimes the behaviors that come from trauma and the behaviors that come from rebellion and sin are not clearly discernable. This is where we desperately need to be reminded not only of the trauma that has been experienced but the grace of God. His grace covers suffering, trauma, and all sin.
3. Find refuge in the gospel offer of hope for the weary, shamed, and guilt-ridden parent
As parents we can feel a thousand forms of guilt and shame, rightly and wrongly. None of us are perfect and adoption and foster care often puts our capacity for grace to the most extreme test. All kinds of feelings and reactions we never knew existed within us are exposed. For many, the road has been long and painful and we are tired. I feel tired of being tired and constantly facing trial after trial with our children and their pain. Here is where we need to find refuge again and again in the promises of the gospel. He is with us in the mess. He is not surprised. He still loves us deeply even knowing our deepest thoughts and fears.
4. Care for yourself
In order to care for our kids we need to receive care ourselves. Most adoptive parents I know find it hard, if not seemingly impossible, to find the time or energy to care for themselves or receive the care of others (if there are any others around still). This is where we need to be creative and vigilant. We cannot neglect our own souls or we will drown too.
Click to tweet: In order to care for our adoptive or foster kids we need to receive care ourselves. @jasonkovacs
5. See your child(ren) through new eyes
The way we see our children impacts how we feel and think about them. This impacts the ways in which we react and respond to them in the small things and big things. What would be like to see our children the way the Lord sees them. Shifting to this vision is often a process and one that is ever evolving.
6. Develop a family game plan
Without a vision and a plan the Bible says we will perish (Prov 29:18). The older I get the more I am convinced that even a poor plan is better than no plan. When we stop moving forward there is dimishing hope, but if we continue to move forward with a plan there is hope that things can change and things can become better. A plan is a means of doing our best by God’s grace to step forward with wisdom and care for ourselves, our children, and our family. A good family plan involves knowing what support is available and asking for help.
Click to tweet: A good family plan for adoptive or fostering parents involves knowing what support is available and asking for help. @jasonkovacs
7. Get a mentor or coach
We all know the power of mentorship. That one leader or leaders that step into your life at just the right moment, with just the right kind of experiences, tools and resources, to help you take the next step, get over the next hurdle, face the next challenge or solve the next problem as a leader. Adoption and foster care are no different. They both may require the kinds of tools and resources that you may not have at the moment. They both may require wisdom that you may not have at the moment. They both may require experience you may not have at the moment. But supporting yourself with great mentors will always yield a bounty of fruit in wisdom, tools and resources for the long haul.
Interested in going deeper and getting personal coaching for Adoptive/Fostering Parents?
Check out this coaching cohort for adoption and foster care support: