Our toddler screamed at my wife, his adoptive mother. We were in the middle of a rehearsal for a Christmas pageant at church, with “Mary” looming over him “great with child,” and our young son had just figured out the whole babies-come-from-pregnant-women thing.
We did not know what to do with his rage. Not on that evening, or a dozen years later.
What were we missing?
If – back in the day – we were to have asked experts, if there is anything special we need to know about raising adopted children, they may very well have coined what would have been a new phrase 30 years ago: “It’s all good!”
After all, God adopts us! God saved the lives of these babies. God guided this young mother to search out and choose a strong Christian family to raise her child. God’s fingerprints and blessings were written all over our children’s stories.
But not everything that is good is easy.
From an early age, our son began to express that while he loved us – his adoptive family – there was a sense of loss, and therefore pain, regarding his birth mother and her family. While he knew and agreed with all the happy parts, there too were hard parts. He was certainly experiencing life in different ways from his peers.
Adoptive families today get a lot more training on some of the issues and challenges adoptive children face. Foster families face a similar, yet different reality.
Understanding what is going on inside the child’s mind and heart are key to parenting lovingly and effectively.
But who can tell what they’re really feeling and experiencing inside?
Dr. Karen Purvis, of Texas Christian University’s Child Development Center, has been looking at the science of it for the past ten years. Looking beyond the very real emotional realities, they looked at brain development, and resulting chemistry; “real” science for those of us who need that sort of foundation.
What they found was as fascinating as it was informative.
Based on their findings, Dr. Purvis and her team have developed adaptive interaction strategies for loving children from hard places. These insights and approaches to guidance and teaching, are now available to parents, teachers, and other care-givers. Insightful, innovative, and practical stuff!
On Saturday September 26th, about a dozen parents gathered at Pulpit Rock Church to view and discuss three of Dr. Purvis’ video lessons.
We learned just enough about the physiology of a baby’s development to understand how stress – during pregnancy, delivery, or infancy – actually impacts the way the brain gets structured. This stress causes their brain to work differently than that of a child with a non-stressful beginning.
To be honest, there was so much new and important information, it was hard to absorb it all. And during the time allotted for discussion of the material at the workshop, we found ourselves instead gratefully connecting with other parents who could understand our lives and journey better than anyone else we’ve ever met.
Sharing story with those who “get it” is an incredibly encouraging experience.
We’re so glad that we have opportunity to continue this learning and supporting process in a Adoption/Foster Care group at PRC on Sunday mornings at 10:30 am. We’re looking forward to understanding our children’s reality better, and developing more appropriate parenting skills for their benefit, and our peace of mind.
Written by Doug Lagassé