Who looks after you? (Part 1)


Boy with mother copy

“Isn’t adoptive parenting the same as any other parenting?”

“We all have the same struggles as you do”

“Just treat them like you would any child and they’ll be fine”.

If you’re an adoptive parent these are words I’m sure you’ve heard many times from friends, family and well-meaning random people you meet. Yes our children do have the same features, i.e. they run around like headless chickens at times, they cry and shout, they fight with their siblings, they respond negatively to the word ‘no’, BUT there are mayor differences. Children who have experienced early trauma, to varying degrees, are impacted by that trauma. You may not see it on the outside but the effects of their loss, neglect, and/or abuse are devastating to them.

So why am I saying all this? Well these next few days of blogs are about YOU as the adoptive parent. Your children get lots of attention, support, love and understanding, and so they should – but what about you? If you answer yes to the following questions then read on:

1. Are there days when you wonder why you went through the pain of the adoption process?
2. Have you felt exhausted by the relentlessness of trying to understand your children?
3. Has there been a strain on any of your meaningful relationships, due to the stress of bringing up your children?
4. Do you find it difficult to relax as you are always waiting for the next crisis to happen?
5. Do you wish you could explain to people around you how demanding your child can be?

Secondary trauma is a phrase used much in adoptive circles. It’s the effect of being around trauma that others have experienced. Charles Figley (1995) defines secondary traumatic stress as “the natural consequent behaviors resulting from knowledge about a traumatizing event experienced by a significant other. It is the stress resulting from wanting to help a traumatized or suffering person.”

The constant battles and demands that come from trying to help those who’ve experienced trauma can be very wearing. To the extreme it can mean a breakdown or depression, on a smaller scale physical effects might be lack of sleep, poor diet, low energy.

I have been an adoptive parent for four years now to three beautiful children. It was a baptism of fire to go from 0 to 3 overnight. When they came to us they were 4, 5 and 7, now 8, 10 and 11. I have learnt lots about them and how to help them. Read many books, been on training courses, support groups and generally immersed myself in the world of adoption. The one thing that strikes me that is missing is the essential element of how to look after you. It’s no good knowing all the theories and understanding what makes our children tick, but then having no energy, patience, compassion and self control to implement those things, in the heat of the moment.

So where do you stand today on self-care? How important is looking after yourself in comparison to caring for your child? My guess is you are maybe struggling to answer that question! Without being strong, grounded, peaceful and resilient yourself, you will find it incredibly difficult to help your child.

Look out tomorrow for tip number one on looking after yourself……

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