Adoption Awareness Month: How to Build Acceptance as a Parent

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Did you know that November is National Adoption month? A month set aside to raise awareness about the urgent need for adoptive families for children and youth in foster care.

Here at Georgia HOPE, we work to assist the whole family system and the communities they are in. If you are a foster and adoptive parent, you are ready and willing to make a difference in the lives of children in foster care. More than any thing, children in foster care need parents who are willing to accept them as they are, help them heal, and help them grow.

“Attachment behaviors are necessary in order to create some meaning out of the world around the child, to develop certain emotional attachment in their relationships such as:

  1. It helps child to understand how to relate to others.
  2. It gives a sense of feelings towards one’s own self.”

Subhani, M. I., Osman, A., Abrar, F., & Hasan, S. A. (2014). Are parents really attached to their adopted children?. SpringerPlus3, 545.

Four things kids need from their adoptive parents are:

  1. The feeling of safety that it is not like the child’s previous living situations and that you become a more steady, comforting attachment for them. Some of them had a hard time trusting or lost all trust in adults in their life so it will be your job to show them that you are a safe place for them to lay their head.
  2. Love is very important for parents of any kind. These kids need to feel loved. Love is an action and you are required to take action in showing love to these children. The people who are supposed to love these kids the most are no longer around. So, don’t be fooled into thinking that saying I love you is enough. They have heard it before, and yet here they are in a strange place, with people they don’t know. It will take time. You will need to build trust, and they will test you. They are going to want to be sure that your actions are real, that the love they see in your home is not some phony love that will disappear, only to crush them once again.
  3. Understanding is meeting your children where they are at. Adopted children are coming to you from very difficult situations. You will need to step out of your comfort zone. You may have to deal with behaviors you have never seen before. It will take great understanding on your part. They desperately want you to just “get” them, and you will need to meet them where they are, with a nurturing and loving heart.
  4. Persistence is continuing to be there for your children. Adopted kids have lost their family. They have lost their mom and their dad, but they do have you. And you will have to be persistent. You will need to be their strongest advocate.”

How to build acceptance:

  • Build their self-esteem
    • Say “You did it!” instead of “Good job!” Phrases such as “you did it!” build a child’s self-esteem intrinsically. These terms hold more value to children and build their self-esteem within rather than using extrinsic rewards. The phrase “good job” and others like it keep children constantly looking for the approval of adults.
  • Be curious about what you see and the process.
    • For example, try saying “I see you used a lot of blue in your picture,” or “It looks like it really makes you happy,” and asking questions like “How did you make it?” Because children are constantly looking for the approval of adults, we want them to focus on their ideas and feelings rather than doing things to please others. Try asking a child: “Do YOU like it?”
  • Show warmth and empathy
    • When dealing with disappointments, be truthful with children, yet use empathy to show that you still love and care about them – no matter what. For example, if your child doesn’t make the soccer team, avoid saying something like, “Well, next time you’ll work harder and make it.” Instead, try, “Well, you didn’t make the team, but I’m really proud of the effort you put into it,” or, “It took courage to try-out, and I like that about you.”
  • Bust inaccurate views
    • When experiencing frustration, some children may be quick to make cognitive generalizations about themselves such as “I’m a bad at school.” As adults, we have the capacity to help children realize the inaccuracies of these statements and view things more objectively using reason. For example, you might say, “You are a good student. You do great in school and your teachers really like having you in class. Math is a subject that you need to spend more time on. So, we’ll work on that together.”
  • Reduce conflict at home
    • Children who are exposed to conflict at home, or high-conflict divorces are at-risk to internalize a sense of guilt. In addition, the child may develop a pattern of thinking that they have no control over their environment and begin to feel helpless. As a parent or caregiver, if you are finding that you have a tendency to be harsh on yourself, or pessimistic about your abilities, your kids might eventually mirror your attitude. By paying attention to your mental health and taking the steps necessary to nurture your own self-esteem you will become a positive role model for your child.
  • Counseling
    • Georgia HOPE offers a variety of services for families and individuals, children and adults for counseling and mental health services as well as family preservation services. We also offer free community support groups, HOPE Happenings, including Support for Foster Parents, Youth Hang Outs, Support for Teens, Support for Parents and Grandparents, to learn more about our groups, click here.
    • If you’re interested in taking the next step with us, enroll here or contact us to learn more.
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