I 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?