By Dawn Kantor
(Dawn and her husband Michael have adopted 4 children internationally, all of whom were at different stages of life.)
My mother had a magnet on her refrigerator that said:
“Nothing in life can hold more joys or more tears, can make you more proud or more tired, or give back more rewards than being a mother.”
(She was probably awarded that after my own turbulent teen years!)
The same can be said of parenting and especially parenting through adoption. Think of parenting adopted children as potentially parenting children with an extra set of challenges regarding attachment, abandonment, bonding, identity, and trust. Adoption means learning to love a child you did not give birth to. It is a living picture of how God sees His chosen, beloved children, implanted into His forever family with all the rights and privileges of a natural-born child. Adoption is beautiful, but can be more difficult than imagined. It requires flexibility, humility, perseverance, a thick skin, and a sense of humor.
For the child adopted into a new family, the developmental task of forming their own unique identity is still there as they wrestle with questions like: “Who am I? Who do I look like? Do I have biological siblings?” And the more painful and fundamental question: “Why didn’t she keep me?” An adopted child may fear appearing ungrateful or disloyal and avoid asking painful questions of their adoptive parents, preferring to search for answers, instead, through the anonymity of the internet.
For the adoptive parent, it is critical to realize this is NOT about you; it’s about your child and moving toward them to help on their developmental journey of forming their own sense of self, even when it means seeing them making decisions that you would not make. Parenting an adopted child is a means of grace that calls you into the Father’s heart to learn more deeply about mercy, perseverance, sacrificial love, and your own need to receive and extend forgiveness (see Isaiah 1:2). As Christians, we are called to demonstrate to others the grace we have received. John White said regarding his own prodigal child, he had learned to live by this principle: “As Christ is to me, I must be to my children.” (from 99 Thoughts for Parents of Teenagers by Walt Mueller, 2011, p. 11.)
Not everyone is called to adopt, but everyone can be pro-adoption. You can provide respite care for adoptive families, you can pray, and you can encourage adoptive families. For more suggestions of practical ways to be involved with adoption, see www.familylife.com and the article “10 ideas: Ministering to Orphans”.