Monday, May 27, 2013

5 Emotions You May Experience When Fostering or Adopting

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Today was one of those days in parenthood that I just want to forget ever happened. I want to kiss the sweaty, sun-darkened faces of my kids, put them to bed, and just erase the day from my memory. I think that probably all moms can relate to this feeling at least once in a while, but today I want to talk about how being a foster or adoptive mom can complicate the emotions you experience when you've had an especially tough day as a parent.

Fostering and/or adoption through foster care is a complex, unique, wonderful, and yet terrifying experience. Parenting a child adopted through foster care takes special care and attention that many parents aren't always naturally equipped for.

Here are 5 emotions you may experience when fostering or adopting through foster care:

1. Guilt, particularly if you have other children in the home. Foster children or those adopted from foster care are traumatized. Because of this, typically they come to you with challenging and often perplexing behaviors. They require a lot of attention and their needs are many. You may experience guilt because your foster/adopted child requires so much of your time and attention. You may wonder if you are able to balance the needs of your existing children with the highly complex needs of your foster or adopted child.

If this is you, think about this: In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul talks about how he was given a "thorn" in his flesh. "Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness'." If you are feeling guilty because you are spread thin and struggling to balance all that God has given to you, realize that you serve a powerful God who will sustain you and show His greatness as you parent this unique individual. When you are feeling this way, recognize the guilt as false guilt and understand that God's grace is sufficient to bring you through this difficult time.

2. Resentment. If you're not feeling guilty about the amount of time you are having to take away from your other kids to work with your high needs kiddo, you may feel resentment. You may wonder why you ended up with the difficult placement while others around you seem to "have it all together" or seem to know just how to deal with the issue their child presents.

If this is you, think about this: "Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2--4) The Lord has hand-picked you for this child. He knows what He is doing, and He will equip you to parent your foster or adopted child in the exact way that is needed. So with that in mind, let go of your resentment, and instead realize that through faith God will produce in you steadfastness.

3. Embarrassment. Surely all parents have felt embarrassed by their child's difficult behavior, but sometimes foster children can take "difficult behavior" to a whole new level. Despite your best efforts in child training, sometimes these special children will have moments that draw all eyes in the vicinity right to you. You may feel embarrassed that none of your previously successful parenting strategies work with this child. You may feel like nothing you do will resolve the issues your child is having. You may feel like a failure as a parent.

If this is you, think about this: "For you created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made." God made your foster or adopted child just the way He wanted to. Every hair on their head, every freckle, every birthmark was placed there by His mighty hands. But more importantly, every thought, every behavior, every personality quirk, every wound that your child has is not out of the hands of our God. He knows what you are going through. He knows it can be embarrassing. But He has crafted this precious child in a wondrous way. Through your dedication and commitment to your foster or adopted child, you will begin to see them healing from their past, and growing into the girl or boy God has designed them to be. Making that healing the focus during the embarrassing moments may help you put things in perspective.

4. Helplessness. Particularly in the fostering stage you may experience intense feelings of helplessness. Fostering is, for all intents and purposes a giant roller coaster ride with seemingly no end in sight. You will have days where you feel deeply connected to your foster child, followed by days where DHS is talking about placing him or her elsewhere. You may have days where you think you know what will happen in the future followed by days where what you thought you knew is now untrue. You will have days where you will be forced to leave your foster child in the hands of those whom you deem a danger to him or her. You will have to trust those you do not really know. If you foster, you will feel helpless. It's not really a question of if, but of when and how often.

If this is you, think about this: "Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand." (Proverbs 19:21). We may think we know what is best for our foster children. We care for them day in and day out. We have immersed ourselves in their care and well-being. God has placed them in our hands. But realize it is God Himself, the maker of the universe whose purpose will be carried out. No court, no social worker, no birth parent, and no foster parent can ruin the plans of God. Take comfort. You are not in control, but He is.

5. Anxiety.  Anxiety may be one of the most common emotions you may feel when fostering or adopting from foster care. This is because anxiety is all-encompassing. There is so much to worry about--permanency for the child, behaviors, visits, court dates, disappointments, the future. The list could go on.

If this is you, think about this: "Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done." (Philipians 4:6). The key to ridding yourself of anxiety is prayer. I love this verse--tell God what you need, and then, thank Him for what He has already done. Learn to pray, and your perspective on fostering will be forever changed.

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