Friday, June 19, 2015

Adoptive Parenting Tip #4: They may not like you.

Your child may not like you. This was a big shocker to me when a social worker told me this after we adopted Smalls.

No one ever mentioned this idea to me before I had adopted, but this is a true reality for some families. This was very true for us. Smalls did not like us at first and I still think she goes through phases of this at times now. And boy is it hard to deal with. What do you do when the child you spent a ton of money and time on to bring them into your family, rejects you? It hurts. You regret your decision and you might even vow to never adopt again (I totally did!).

I've been told that the child might not be grateful or understand what you've sacrificed for them, but no one cared to mention that they may not like me or they may even hate me. I'm pretty sure that during the homestudy process this would be an important topic of discussion. If you are adopting a child, this would be a great question to ask your social worker, "what do I do when they hate me? how do I handle it?".

Since dealing with traumatized children who have been fostered and adopted in the past couple of years, I've learned very quickly that I have to look past the behaviors and into the motive of the behaviors. Why is my child doing _______? What is the reason for ________? And like always, get the child to verbalize how they are feeling because using words is more appropriate than using their behaviors.

Why did Smalls hate us? I know hate is a strong word but if I had videoed some of her behaviors and let you watch them, then you'll understand hate is a perfect word. As I was looking past her behaviors and into her motives, she was lied to, taken away from the only things she has ever known, no one explained to her who we were or why we were taking her away, and she had to get use to living in a "functioning" family. I use the term functioning because everyone can be in a family, but to be in a functioning family that teaches appropriate ways of eating, hygiene, making friends, school, etc... is invaluable. Looking into Smalls' motives caused me to have compassion and empathy for her. She was hurting and she couldn't trust a single human because the last ones lied to her about her whole identity.

Smalls was angry about her past and she pointed that anger towards us. We couldn't take it personally, which is a very hard thing for me. She blamed us for her problems even though we were part of the solution to her problem. We want to help her but she was just too angry at us because we stole her away from her life in Poland.

What do you do when your adopted child hates you?

I can't offer any magic formula to fix this problem. I can only share my experiences and how we dealt with it. We prayed for patience, prayed some more, and then some more. We gave Smalls freedom to discuss her dislike in us and her dislike in her situation. Her situation sucked! We encouraged using words over behaviors. We made sure the door of communication to us was always open. We did not get offended when she talked about how great Poland was and how great her foster family was, even though secretly I'm holding my tongue on naming all the things they have done to hurt her and how they did not keep her safe. It's a struggle to be patient with her and it felt like a slap in the face sometimes. We also didn't sugar-coat the abuse in the foster family. We shared with her the mistreatment. We would say "I know you had some good memories and also some very bad ones, too", or "we can talk about the good memories because they are fun to remember, but if you ever want to talk about the bad ones, I am ready to listen".

When your adopted child hates you, the best thing that you can do is to be patient and teach them how to use their words respectfully. If they act aggressively, say "in this family we use our words and not our behavior" or "I'm sorry. I don't understand your behavior can you use words?". Giving your child a voice and listening to their pain is a great gift. You are building connection and trust with your child. Don't take this personally. Your child is angry about their situation and they feel lose of control and unfortunately, they are taking it out on you.

I know that this is a hard thing for adoptive parents to go through. It's time consuming and sometimes you just are too tired to have compassion for your child. Be sure to get respite care and make time for yourself. This issue can drain you emotionally.

Here's a recent story about this topic:
Smalls is in girl scouts. She is a Daisy and she is currently working on her Daisy petals. One of the petals teaches about safety. She has to do certain activities involving safety and recite from memory her parent's telephone number and home address. We have been practicing this with her even before we knew about this badge, because every kid needs to be able to tell the police officer where they live, their momma and daddy's names and phone numbers. Her brain absolutely would not let her get it right. We would practice and she would forget the numbers of our address, forget the street name, or even forget the city name. She would confuse city, state and country. What city do you live in? She would reply with United States. This went on for months and it absolutely drove me nuts. Just remember already! Looking past the behavior of her not remembering and into the motive, she really did not want to remember this because it hurt. She would rather live in Poland. Her brain would not let her remember her current address because it was/is still processing the traumatic adoption experience she had. I eventually told the trooper leader that Smalls just can't remember it because it was a traumatic experience for her. Thankfully they were understanding and gave her the badge anyways. Currently, we are still practicing her home address and our phone numbers with her.

What would you do in this situation? Did you have an adopted child who wasn't too fond of you? How did you handle it?

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