If you’ve worked with me in any capacity then you’ve heard and are familiar with, “It’s not about you.” This statement represents one of my core beliefs. Parenting is not about you; it is about your child. In becoming parents or growing your family through adoption I encourage you to consider your child’s needs—those that stem from having been adopted. These needs may evolve as your child ages, and the tools you will use will need to be flexible and “fit.”
Due to what they have experienced in their young lives (trauma and loss being key) children who have been adopted typically require more of parents—greater patience and deeper understanding how the effects of loss and related core issues and trauma can impact psychosocial development. For example, when your child asks questions about her past and probes for more you shouldn’t feel alarmed or threatened. Your child does this is to understand more about who she is, about her past. This curiosity is normal and not an indicator that your child seeks to distance herself from you, or loves her birth parents more. In other words, what your child feels and needs to explore are the emotions and curiosity related to her birth identity. This should be expected, acknowledged and supported by you.
“It’s not about you,” also conveys that the process to adopt is focused on the child. Parents who are adopting go though much more than parents giving birth—background checks, fingerprinting, home study, adoption preparation education, etc. The timeline for the child’s arrival is flexible, often longer than a pregnancy, and dependent on many variables of the processes, often happening concurrently. Parents may find themselves feeling out of control, overwhelmed, frustrated, full of joy and anticipation, and anxious. This waiting period is a wonderful time to for parents to educate themselves about the vulnerability of children.
“It’s not about you,” is a reminder that your child arrives into your family with difficult truths, of which she is entitled to know as they are part of her story. You are entrusted with her story. The emotions and behaviors you witness and she shares are not about you, or you and her. They are about what she feels, how she processes the truths via her lens of conscious or unconscious experiences. Your child will need you to help her find the words to label, understand and express those emotions. 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 what scares her, angers her, makes her feel deeply saddened, or causes her to feel out of control. You see… it is all about her.
Discussion: What tools do you rely on to help your child process his or her emotions?