When most of us entered the world of foster care and adoption we did so with an understanding of what we thought love looks like. We thought we knew how to love and nurture a child. We thought there was one correct way to parent, which was the way we had been brought up and the way our friends and family were bringing up their children.
In this world of foster care and adoption however, love may take on a different appearance than we were used to.
Love means helping our children bond. When a biological child enters the family, we think nothing of passing the child around for people to hold. We even let them give our child a bottle without giving it a second thought. But the children we bring into our homes need to learn who mom is, they need to learn that she is safe, that she will feed them and meet their needs. newborns need this as much as an older child. To do this, only mom or dad holds baby while in a crowd and only mom feeds him. This is a critical stage for a "new child." As foster and adoptive parents, we long to pass our baby around so others can snuggle and admire her. But we also know there is a lot at stake, we know that keeping our child in our arms equals stability and love for them.
As they grow this same concept may need to be used. Some children attach and bond easily, others struggle for the rest of their life and as parents we need to keep that in mind. Loving them means we take in consideration where they are in the bonding process and parent them accordingly.
Sometimes "our children" as I will refer to them in the remainder of this post, need to learn the hard way, just as all children do. However, some of our children come from places where they needed to be in control to survive, this can even apply to infants. These children learn best from immediate natural consequences. It can be hard to follow through with a consequence when you are not with in the confines of your home where everyone knows the rules and expects immediate action. Love can mean following through with a pre agreed upon sanction, even though it may make you as the parent look bad. Our children thrive on the knowing that mom and dad are going to do what they say.
Sometimes loving our children means we have to say no to the things we as parents would enjoy doing. Our social life at the moment consists of church, family night and a few other activities because that is what one of our children needs. Love means saying no when we want to say yes with all our hearts.
Love may mean placing our children somewhere where they will receive the help they need.
Love means advocating for our children even though we tremble in our shoes at the thought of doing so. Especially when speaking up and questioning someone wiser than you was always something you avoided at all costs.
Love means holding your child close and assuring them of your love after they have called you every name in their limited and sometimes not so limited vocabulary.
Sometimes love means putting distance between you and someone who is hurting your family by their words and actions. May be they undermine you in front of your children or they may do it in more subtle ways. We would all like to be strong and say these comments don't affect the way we relate to our children, but we are human. Right now the most important thing is to meet your child's needs, not revamp your parenting so someone approves of you.
Sometimes you have to put distance between your family and a child who is being abusive. This is another form of love, although it might not look like it and it certainly won't feel like it! By not allowing the child to continue to mistreat your family as well as sparing siblings more abuse, you are showing love.
Sometimes loving our child means listening while he pour's out the pain in his heart. Hearing things like, "I wish I could live with my birth mom, cause I grew in her belly." Listening and empathizing when only moments before he was screaming and throwing things at you, is a form of love.
And then there are times where love means forgiving and showing grace. Our children are familiar with grace. If you ask them what is means they will say something like, "Not getting a consequence even though you deserve one."
"Sometimes LOVE looks and feels like anything but LOVE. However if you search long enough, buried deep beneath what anyone else can see, is... LOVE!
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