Do you sometimes find yourself wishing that you could get a “do-over” in the parenting arena? I do. Parenting, although profoundly rewarding, is emotionally taxing. If you are like me, you make mistakes and then you try to right them. In the rare quiet moments of everyday life, I check in with myself, realigning my priorities (again and again).
Allow yourself to savor parenting. Remember, you came through a lot to become a parent. Your child has too.
Pull out of the “Super Parent” mode. You can’t do it all. Nor should you feel like you have to. Parenting is not about your idea of being the “jack of all trades” or winning some parenting award. Parenting is about consistently working at being the best parent you can be to your child.
Be present, emotionally and physically available for your child. In other words, be engaged. Your child needs you and your attention. To grow up with a parent who is distant hurts the child; they see themselves of little value. If a child isn’t valued enough to spend time with, who else will find any value in them? For the adopted child this can go deeper, since they might already feel their birthmother/parents/family didn’t value them enough to keep them. Being available encourages your child to share their real emotions with you and allows you to share yours with them. Being available provides the opportunity for you to validate how they feel. Being present helps your child find their way.
Listen with your ears and your other senses as well. Yes, I know listening can be exhausting, but parenting isn’t a part-time gig. Active listening—paying attention to what is being said, how it is being said and watching for the nonverbal cues—is a skill you need to master. By listening actively you can properly respond. Your child knows when you aren’t present…and you know when they know it. You expect them to listen to you, respect your child and listen to him or her.
Make time to connect with your child. I connect with each of my children on a daily basis. I might take them with me for an errand run and then stop off and get ice cream cone or sit by the river and feed the ducks. These are just a few examples of adding time within time. My child has my full attention and opens up. We have the most amazing conversations and exchanges. My husband has embraced this since we first became parents. Because we do this, the kids are generous with each other about their one-on-one time with us. They also spend time one-on-one time with each other and mix up time among themselves. Connecting like this strengthens family interrelationships. Remember you are helping to build the foundation of your child’s future emotional health. You are helping to build self-confidence, independence and a moral compass.
Be supportive. All tweens and teens search for identity and control. Your engagement can help them with their search. The adopted child may be dealing with other issues too, like loss and grief. Validate what your child is feeling and struggling with. Be sensitive to any issues and, if you have adopted transracially, find and offer cultural connections, such as camps and role models that can provide affirming support for your child’s self-esteem and identity.
Parents: What is your parenting do-over list? How often do you check in with yourself and make any necessary adjustments?