Dos & Don’ts: An Adoptive & Foster Parent’s Letter to Family and Friends
ATN is delighted to include another post from Carol Lozier. Carol, a member of ATN’s Board of Directors, is a clinical social worker in private practice in Louisville, Kentucky. Her website, www.forever-families.com, offers a blog, free downloadable tools for families, an excerpt of her book, and a supportive community of adoptive and foster parents.
Have you ever noticed that adopted and foster kids are especially cute? Their beautiful eyes, cute noses, and charming smiles often call attention to them and to their family. In the midst of this attention, adoptive and foster parents often hear remarks of how their parenting could be more effective, or possibly that they are expecting too much or too little from their child. Understandably, parents are caught off guard as they are hit with a critical comment, and sometimes are not sure how to address them.
I wrote the following letter, found on page 63 of The Adoptive & Foster Parent Guide, to help families express their needs and requests to their family, friends, church, after school caregivers, teachers, physicians, and others. Parents, please copy and use this letter; share it with your adoptive and fostering friends. Send the letter to any person(s) in your life who may gain a new understanding of how to help you and your family.
My Family and Friends,
Thank you for loving our family. We want to be a happy, calm and loving family and know you want the same for us. Sometimes you try to protect us from pain and disappointment though without realizing it, it causes us further stress. I understand it’s difficult to watch our struggles…it’s hard for us too. In loving guidance to you, please hear what is supportive and what is hurtful to us.
Please: Do not tell me I am being too easy or too hard on her. Therapeutic parenting uses a different set of skills. Do not hide her inappropriate behavior from me or try to rescue her from discipline. She needs firm limits and boundaries to grow. Do not make excuses about her choices in front of her or say, “All kids do that . . . kids will be kids.” Do not give my child gifts because you feel sorry for her or believe we are not doing enough for her.
Do not talk or judge our family in front of others; this is very damaging to us. Do not tell my child she is “lucky” to be in our family unless it is said to all the kids in the family. Do not allow her to talk poorly about me or convince you I am not doing enough for her. This thinking is a result of her early life and not a true reflection of our relationship. Do not correct my parenting in front of my child. If you think I’ve made a mistake, please wait and tell me when we are alone. I can accept constructive criticism, but please ask if I want feedback! Do not laugh at my child’s seemingly innocent jokes about me or anyone else in the family. These are her attempts to keep us at an emotional distance and she needs everyone’s encouragement to allow us to parent her. Do not allow my child to seek comfort from other adults, especially strangers. Gently send her back to me for comfort . . . that is my job!
Please support us: I need your support, hugs, and unconditional loving words. Help her to accept me through your words and actions. You have the power to be a wonderful role model. I need to hear, “I understand this is hard for you. I love and care about you and your family.” You may think I am not “doing enough” or “doing too much” to correct her, but I have a strategy. Support me even if you do not understand me. Support our child in being just another kid in the family and not “different.” Have an open and loving heart even if she tries your patience, or sometimes is hard to love.
If you think I need help ask me, “What can I do to help you?” Offer to take care of her for a day or a weekend. We want our child in a safe, loving environment while we are regenerating our energy and emotional strength. When I am tired and drained, I need reassurance. Help me see this time is temporary and will change as our child heals. Strengthen my hope through love, acceptance, prayer, and the power of family and friends.
Your daughter (son) or Your sister (brother) or Your friend