Joey and I have felt called to adopt for as long as we have been together, and that is a long time. A big part of this calling is weighing how this calling would affect our biological children. It was a factor that was always in the back of our minds, but one of those things you really can’t know until it happens. Here are some tools we have used to help our family through this life change.
Openness – We have always been very open with our children. We have openly discussed every step of adoption with them-the good, the bad and the ugly. We have talked about adoption and foster care for years in preparation for the day God gave us the ‘go ahead’. One day while riding in the car, Kinnon (age 7 at the time) asked me if I knew what our ‘new’ child would look like. I explained that I didn’t know yet, but there was a good chance he or she would look different from us. When he asked what I meant, I explained the child may be a different ethnicity. He responded it was fine with him because we all have different hair colors so we already don’t “match”. We are thankful our children have always been very supportive and open to adoption.
Freedom – Not only have we practiced openness on our part, but we have allowed the kids complete freedom in expressing concerns or asking questions. At one point during this last year one of our children came to me and said “I expected adoption to be hard, but I didn’t expect (the child) to be so hard to love.” This broke my heart but honestly it was the reality. I want my children to know talking to me and expressing their true feelings is always encouraged. I’m never going to scold them for being honest and coming to me, no matter what they have to say. Our home is a safe place for them to freely speak their minds and be themselves, as long as it is in a respectful way.
Opportunity – Practicing openness and freedom of speech requires providing safe, opportunities to do so. Bringing younger children in our home afforded us the opportunity to have ‘big kid’ time at night. After our little ones were in their beds we tried to provide opportunities for family discussions. This time was a great bonding time for our family. It gave Joey and I time to explain things, and time for the kids to ask questions or express opinions about things that might have gone down durning the day. (With foster and adoptive children situations are often handled differently than they were with bio kids in the past.)Joey and I have also been purposeful in providing one-on-one time with each of our children. Especially with the quieter children, it is important to give them some alone time for their voice to be heard. After we adopted Caspian, Joey started taking Iain out every Thursday morning for a ‘doughnut with dad’ date. We felt like he needed some extra alone time as he transitioned out of his role as the baby of the family. Every kid needs a chance to have alone time with each parent.
As we have been navigating our current season of atypical grief, walking through the aftermath of a failed adoption, we are using these tools to help our kids process. As many different people as there are in this world, are as many different ways those people handle grief. We each have our own unique way of handling the hard things that come our way. Openness, freedom and opportunity can help each of us through the process of coping. It is important to unconditionally listen even when we might not feel like it. It is also important to be patient as you provide opportunities, allowing plenty of time to process. Everyone works through things at their own pace our families need to feel the freedom to talk when they are ready.
We have also found it beneficial to help each of our children find their own, personal ways to cope (it’s pretty important for adults as well!). When I was in grad school studying psychology my advisor gave me some extremely helpful advice. She said, “In life if is important to figure out your own personal therapy and then give yourself the freedom to use it as often as you need to” Her personal therapy was going to the movies. When life got stressful she would go to the cinema and watch a movie alone. I tried it and I loved it! When Joey comes home and suggests I go for a run or go out to the movie by myself, I do my best not to take offense and then do it! I always feel better.
How do you cope when the difficult days come? In our family we one who writes and sings music, one who plays piano, one who kicks the soccer ball around, one who gets creative, one who draws, one who writes and one who runs.
So to answer the question posed above…
Yes, adoption and foster care will be hard on your biological children, but is it worth it? Yes. Life is not easy. God calls His people to do hard things. Sometimes those hard things involve doing without, missing out, and making hard choices but it’s worth it. God has big things in store-big lessons, big character, and big blessings. Sometimes we get to see the plan unfold and reap the reward, but sometimes we don’t. We are called to live it out just the same. The call to foster or adopt are like other hard callings, such as missions and ministry. If we want to raise mission-minded children they need to see it from us and live it with us.
This is the product of oldest child’s latest ‘coping’ and it sure does my heart good. Enjoy…