Parenting might be the hardest thing in the world. And if you bring a child into your home who isn’t your biological child and is dealing with all kinds of wounds, you just raised the bar.
Many times we enter into a relationship with a wounded child and think that we can parent them just like we do or would parent a biological child. It simply isn’t true.
I know some foster or adoptive parents don’t deal with challenges with the children that they have brought into their home. However, most do. And about the time you think you have overcome those challenges, other stuff comes to the surface, or you enter into another season of life, or the dynamics of your home changes.
It is enough to make a foster or adoptive parent wonder about their own sanity. If you aren’t a foster or adoptive parent, I am not exaggerating.
What I have seen in my own parenting, and in others, is that we, most of the time unintentionally, make our parenting harder than it needs to be.
Here are 7 ways we tend to make parenting harder:
- Trying to do too much at once. This takes on many forms, such as, over-commitment. Over commitment is close to epidemic proportions for all families. None of our kids need to be involved in every activity available. Our kids from a hard place really don’t need that. Another way we try to do too much is by taking in too many wounded children at the same time. I know you see the need and so many others ignore it, but you just can’t save them all. All that does is cause more harm for the ones already a part of your family.
- Caring too much about what other people think. This is common for a lot parents. When we care too much about what others think, we second guess our parenting decisions. Truth is that you know your child and situation better than anyone…even the experts.
- Expecting healing to happen fast. A common misnomer for foster and adoptive parents is that once we bring a child into our home they will heal quickly because of a safe and loving environment. Part of that is true. They will heal. But it takes time. And, you will move forward three steps and backward two steps. You will cycle through things as your child transitions from one stage of life to another. Some things will remain challenging their entire life.
- Ignoring your own baggage. I dedicate a whole section to this in my new book, Foster and Adoptive Parenting: Authentic Stories that Will Inspire and Encourage Parenting with Connection. Bottom line is that our wounds will collide with our child’s wounds. Ignoring or minimizing what we bring to the relationship only sets up the relationship for failure. My friend, Marchall Lyles, calls this having a compassionate curiosity about our own history. What I have found is if I can do this I am much more compassionate toward my son.
- Resisting help and support. Foster and adoptive parents are “can-do” kind of people. That makes it hard to ask for or seek out help and support. Trying to parent a child from a hard place is exhausting and lonely.
- Focusing on the wrong thing. This can include a lot of things like focusing on the “cause” instead of the child. Another is focusing on behavior modification rather than on longterm solutions.
- Leaving God out of the equation. The one who knows your child the best is the One who created him or her. I know that it’s difficult if you don’t believe in God or if you feel hurt by Him. However, He is called Father for a reason. He loves us as the perfect parent. We should turn to Him long before and much more often than we do the parenting experts.
The over-arching idea here is that we can make parenting harder than it needs to be. Yet if we will simplify life, let what others think roll off our back, give our kids ample time to heal, have a compassionate curiosity about our own baggage, seek and receive help and support, focus appropriately on our kids, and look to the Creator and Sustainer of all to help us parent, I think we might be able to do this parenting a wounded child thing!
Kenneth A. Camp
I am a longtime Austinite. Married my beautiful wife over 25 years ago. Adopted our son September 2012. Currently a writer and loving it. Previous jobs and careers include project management, missionary, and pastor. I enjoy sports (both watching and playing), traveling, reading, digging in dirt and hanging with my friends and family. Read more from Kenneth at KennethACamp.com.