It’s Not About You

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It's All About MeI say or contemplate about this often:

“It’s not about me.”

This phrase embodies what I’ve come to understand, what I ponder several times a day when working with clients or parenting my kiddos. “It’s not about me,” has become a mantra of sorts, reminding me to consider my children’s needs—those that stem from having been adopted. The mantra urges me look deeper than my child’s behavior, weighing whether how they’re acting originates from emotions tied to having been adopted, the hormones and pressures of adolescence, or both.

Due to what they have experienced in their young lives (loss of birth parents, birth country, and culture of origin being “key”) children who have been adopted typically require more of parents. Below are some very broad examples, and their possible core issues:

  • Your child turns her back on her race and ethnicity. (Identity)
  • Your child has to be the best at everything. “Less-than-perfect” is not acceptable, and when another peer is on her “heels,” be it academic or athletic, she withdraws from the friendship and activity. (Rejection, Self-esteem)
  • Your child floods more quickly than you can blink, and is unreachable. You cannot begin to communicate with her until her heart rate comes within the normal range. (Control, Rejection)
  • Your child has trouble making and/or keeping friends. (Intimacy, Control, Rejection)
  • Your child cries uncontrollably around and on her birthday. (Loss, Grief)

“It’s not about me,” reminds you that your child arrives into your family with difficult truths, and the emotions and behaviors you may experience are not about you, or you and her. They are likely about what she feels.

You will need the tools to help your child navigate. You will need to understand that one of your jobs as parent is to provide her with the words to label, understand and express the emotions she feels. She will need you to be present, to actively listen and support her. She will need you to be her safe place when what she’s grappling with scares her, angers her, makes her feel deeply saddened, or causes her to feel out of control. You see… it’s all about her.

Parents: What are some behaviors you’ve witnessed in your child/children (that you can share) that are reminders that parenting is not about you?

~ Photo by Randy Willis Photos

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Comien Horn March 1, 2013 at 8:24 am

I’m so glad I’ve found your blog Judy. I have two trans racial adopted children and another one in foster care, coming up for adoption. The eldest (10) and the youngest (17months) seems to be fine, but the middle one (7) have so much issues. She always spells out that she was rejected and that she loves me, but I will never be her mother. I homeschool them and she just refuses to learn (in school). I don’t think she has a mental problem, it’s just this will of hers of I will not and nobody will force me. I am going to spend lots of time on your blog te read.

Kind regards
Comien

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Dionne Custer Edwards October 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm

When my oldest son is grappling with his emotions and trying to work through his pain, I support him by reminding him, we have the tools to cope in a way that is good to our minds, hearts, and bodies (sometimes we go over coping strategies).

I remind myself, even as I watch him negotiating/processing friendships, his success and failure, his emotions, that I can not do this for him. I can not always intervene. And often what he’s going through has nothing to do with me. I have to allow him to work things out for himself. It’s hard. I support. I love. But sometimes I have to get out of the way and trust him. He is growing, he is wise, he has to learn to trust his heart and mind.

With all my children, I try to remind myself sometimes what they are going through has nothing to do with me. But there seems this looming inevitable guilt. I sometimes have to just let go and allow them to grow in their own way, relinquish the urge to control/manage their experiences, their emotions. As parents, we don’t like to see our children struggle through life’s stuff. As parents we will be there to guide our children, we will be there when they fall, we will be there if they need us, but sometimes we need to get out of the way and give them room to just breathe, to just be.

Thank you for this reminder.

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Judy October 25, 2012 at 9:39 pm

It was great to have to have an extended discussion with you, Dionne. :)

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