Supporting adopted children through transitions

Our eldest two children are adopted and they have been with us just over six years. That time has been filled with ups and downs, and honestly, we see ourselves just like any other family.

We’ve had many challenges along the way which have required us to ‘learn’ from our children. Since those early days, we’ve found ourselves always second guessing their behaviour – is this meltdown in the shop, typical ‘4-year-old behaviour’, or is there some underlaying issue that needs attention?

Anxieties in our children have almost always manifested in disruptive behaviour, but for children removed from their birth families, feeling safe and settled is not something that can be taken for granted.

There have been days where everything seemed to be perfect, our children seemed settled, the bond and attachment we had with them felt so strong, and most of the time we forget that they are even adopted.

But then there are also the days when they are struggling, and their behaviours are difficult.

When the children first moved in, any disruption to our normal routines could spell days of anxiety and unsettled behaviour. Over the past six years, this has eased, but we find that big changes in routine can trigger their old behaviours.

During this season of COVID-19, many elements of lockdown have been beneficial for our family. The children have had both parents constantly at home and we’ve very much enjoyed our time together as a family.

Stability and routine, coupled with both parents constantly at home, gave us treasured time together unlike any weve had before.

While the lockdown period seemed that it would never end, when the time finally came to go back to school our kids were (at least on the surface) really excited.

September is always a tricky time for our family regarding the children’s anxieties and behaviour. The change in going back to a different class, with a different teacher after the summer holidays causes anxiety for our son especially.

It also coincides with the anniversary of when the children moved in with us, and their annual letter from birth parents too. So there are a lot of emotions for both of our children – that they don’t even realise that they have – and that more often than not manifests in their behaviours.

Returning to school this year was met with a barrage of new questions:

  • Who’s is going to be there?
  • What is it going to be like?
  • Can I play with my friends?
  • Are we allowed to hug people?!

The problem was that these questions came constantly, and repeatedly. Then came the challenging behaviour.

Whether it was our daughter acting like a stroppy teen, or our son going into full meltdown over being asked to tidy away his shoes, we knew that they were worried and that the behaviour on the surface showed that something was troubling them.

We pray with our children every night, and night time prayers are often a good outlet for the concerns and anxieties of our children.

Their prayers were flooded with requests for protection from Coronavirus for them and each member of their family. On top of their worries about going back to school this year, the virus was also (understandably) very much on their minds.

But we have found that the best way to support them is by giving them the chance to honestly vocalise their fears. We try not to shut them down, or dismiss their worries as ridiculous (this is not easy to do as our eldest is definitely a worrier), but prayer time is often such a good time to be able to do this with them.

We have found the following really helpful:

Let them pray

Nurturing their faith, and giving them a real outlet for their anxieties has been incredible to watch. Their prayers are real and filled with the things that matter to them, no matter how silly or trivial they may appear to us.

We encourage them to ask God for what they need, to tell him the things that trouble them and to make a difference in their lives, their situations or the lives of those that they care about.

Pray with them

Let them see and hear you pray. Encourage them that when they speak to God, he listens, he cares about them and the concerns that they bring to him.

Pray for them

Praying over our children is one of the most important things we can do for them. We love our children so much, but God loves them even more, and we believe that God works through our prayers when we lift our children up to him.

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