Adoption is loss. It as a beautiful gift. An opportunity. A true joy! It is also pain and hurt and difficult attachment.
Brown-eyed girl looks at me with eyes of fear. Brown-eyed girl smiles at every stranger and pushes momma away. Brown-eyed girl wants love and affection…
…from everyone else.
How can the same little girl who clung to me as a one-year-old push me away so vehemently as a 13-year-old?
I wouldn’t change one thing about my decision to adopt.
Not. One. Thing.
She makes me a stronger, wiser, more patient, grace-giving, truth-telling parent. When we finally wind our way through all the difficulties, she will be a resilient, thoughtful, grace-understanding, truth-telling young lady.
Those brown eyes are a treasure. Those brown eyes changed my life in painfully beautiful ways.
There are many things I wish I’d known before those brown eyes joined my family. Check out a few hints that can make a big difference for a small child who has experienced hard things.
- Keep her in a wrap or front pack—physically attached to mom as often as possible.
- Play silly little games that require connection by looking into each others eyes.
- Snuggle, read, and play even more each night before bed.
- Create your own special routines that make turning out the lights a little less scary.
- Sucking on a bottle helps her learn about calm and safety. I wish I hadn’t encouraged my little one to give up her bottle like a “big girl”. We would have snuggled with that baba for many more nights just so she could calm herself with the sucking and safe snuggling.
As she grew, I quickly learned that raising my sweet brown-eyed girl the way I was raised would not work. The wounds are so deep. Kids who have experienced hard things need a different approach to parenting.
So, I adjusted the more simple strategies from above for my teen:
- Keep her physically close by going on walks, baking cookies, taking her to riding lessons, watching movies. Anything that allows us to be together with a little less conflict.
- Look for opportunities to make eye contact with soft eyes that tell her she is precious—sometimes even when she isn’t acting so precious.
- Read together. Sometimes I read to her. Sometimes we listen to a pre-recorded book. Sometimes we each read our own books in the same room by the same fire.
- She may be 14, but I still give her a hug good night and take a moment before lights out.
- I am trying to make 10 minutes of alone time twice a day for each of my kiddos. Those of you with busy families know just how difficult that can be.
- Since sucking and chewing are both calming behaviors, I keep suckers and bubble gum easily available. All she has to do is ask—the answer is almost always a yes. (For those of you wondering… Yes. When I first offered, we went through suckers and gum beyond anything that was reasonable. After three weeks, the rate of consumption began to decreased dramatically. We still have a sucker and a couple of pieces of gum each day. Sugar free is a good option. I strategically choose calm over an argument about how much is too much.)
Parenting my brown-eyed girl is beautiful, painful, and I wouldn’t trade it. It is not the mother-daughter relationship I enjoy with my mom. However, when my strong, precious daughter takes a step forward, it is a moment of great rejoicing in my momma heart. Can’t wait to see what she becomes.
What strategies do you use to help your teen?