Please don’t say “all kids do that” to adoptive and foster families…

thegirlsToday’s blog post is from Shannon Dingle. Shannon serves as co-director of the Special Needs Ministry at Providence Baptist Church in Raleigh, NC alongside her husband (Lee). Shannon also serves as a church consultant for Key Ministry. Here’s Shannon…

Children cry. Children have meltdowns. Children sometimes push or shove or hit. Kids act out from time to time. Some kids shut down when disciplined or even simply when an adult talks directly to them at all.

I could go on, but you get the picture. Many behaviors or responses are common for kids.

But behavior is always a form of communication. Who we are, where we’ve been, and what we want others to know all direct our responses. While all children act out or shut down or lose tempers or cry from time to time, what each one is communicating with that behavior might be different.

While all children display certain behaviors, not all children have lost their parents to death or abandonment or addiction or disease. Not all children have been uprooted from the home or country or familiar voices in the womb to live out the rest of their days in a different home and maybe a different country and with a different mother. Not all children have witnessed or experienced abuse or neglect or malnutrition. Not all kids have permanent structural changes to their brains due to early childhood trauma. Not all kids have learned that adults aren’t always trustworthy, home isn’t always safe, and family isn’t always forever.

Some of my kids have, though. And some other kids who have been adopted or are in foster care have too.

I have two daughters turning 8 soon and two sons who’ll be 6 in March. For each pairing, one arrived via birth from my womb and one joined our family by adoption after years of life experience before us (almost 7 years for our daughter and 4.5 years for our son). Sometimes our kids act out in similar ways, but I know their behavioral responses aren’t coming from the same place.

shutterstock_173700593For example, my friends recently adopted a preschooler. They already had another son less than a year older than their new addition, so they’ve parented a two year old boy before. They’re familiar with those things that all kids do. But like any good parents, they know their kids. They know that when one son is clingy at Sunday school drop-off, it’s just age-appropriate separation anxiety that will resolve not long after they’re out of sight. Likewise, they know that when their other son does the same, he’s acting from a genuine fear based on a history in which other caregivers left and never came back. It looks the same, but it’s not the same.

I get the temptation to say “all kids do that.” Truly, I do. But when foster or adoptive parents like me hear that, it feels dismissive to the real grief, pain, and trauma our kids have experienced and how that history still influences their actions today. Usually when someone tells another parent “all kids do that,” the words are meant to be helpful, to soothe our nerves or encourage us in the midst of a hard parenting moment. But that’s not what your words do. Instead those words invalidate what we know to be true and minimize the extra layer of thinking that parenting kids from hard places requires.

Finally, every adoptive and foster parent has different ground rules about how much we can or will share about the children in our homes. You might not know our children’s trauma or circumstances, because you don’t need to. You don’t need to know the details of their personal pain to understand that when our kids cry or yell or fight or melt down, they might be acting out of deep losses and hurts.

So, please, don’t say “all kids do that” because even if behaviors look the same, that doesn’t mean they are the same for our kids from hard places.

***********************************************************************************************************

shutterstock_120941872Key Ministry’s Annual Fund helps to support free training, consultation and support for churches seeking to welcome, serve and include families of kids with disabilities, and allows us to provide this blog as a resource for over 40,000 visitors each month. Please keep our team in your prayers as we prepare for 2016 and consider a generous financial gift to support the ongoing work of our ministry team.

About Dr. G

Dr. Stephen Grcevich serves as President and Founder of Key Ministry, a non-profit organization providing free training, consultation, resources and support to help churches serve families of children with disabilities. Dr. Grcevich is a graduate of Northeastern Ohio Medical University (NEOMED), trained in General Psychiatry at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at University Hospitals of Cleveland/Case Western Reserve University. He is a faculty member in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at two medical schools, leads a group practice in suburban Cleveland (Family Center by the Falls), and continues to be involved in research evaluating the safety and effectiveness of medications prescribed to children for ADHD, anxiety and depression. He is a past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). Dr. Grcevich was recently recognized by Sharecare as one of the top ten online influencers in children’s mental health. His blog for Key Ministry, www.church4everychild.org was ranked fourth among the top 100 children's ministry blogs in 2015 by Ministry to Children.
This entry was posted in Adoption, Families, Foster Care, Key Ministry, Strategies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

74 Responses to Please don’t say “all kids do that” to adoptive and foster families…

  1. linda says:

    I am an adoptive parent and a physical therapist. Actually, the developmental trauma that causes structural changes in their brain may not be permanent. Neuroplasticity means that the brain can change with proper treatment. Neurofeedback (NFB), Magnetic Resonance (MRT),
    Neurological Reorganization (NR) which is developmental exercise, can all help the brain to change

    Like

    • Great points. I am in the process of writing a follow-up post that talks about all that! My point in this post is that is can be permanent, which research does support even though that’s not always the case.

      Like

      • linda says:

        Yes, I do understand your point. The brain changes can and most likely will be permanent unless the child receives therapy. Good parenting alone won’t fix it.

        Like

      • Liz Gustafson says:

        This is our family story. It is real. Yes, the brain is resilient. Love. Therapy. Experience. Endless support systems and resources do help. But sometimes, with some children, the damage is profound. It also feels insulting and dismissive to deny this.

        Like

    • K Starr says:

      Disagree when there is so much going on it is not possible….

      Like

    • AJ Carly says:

      That’s great IF, and I do mean IF, you live in an area where you have therapists trained. That type of therapy is specialized and dependant on the referral of the primary care provider. Many times I KNOW the pediatric chiropractor can and will help a child in care but the primary refuses to make the referral.

      Like

    • Karen A says:

      Wish I could afford all these fancy things for my adopted child’s very traumatized brain. She has RAD…unfortunately she has FAS too. You can’t fix that. You have no idea what a nightmare everyday life is.

      Like

      • kdschielke says:

        Very true. We live in and with exactly the same situation, RAD/FAS mixed with bi-polar. Our son’s behaviors may look the same from day to day but we know that sometimes it means one thing or comes from one place while the next day it could mean or come from an entirely different thing! Some damage is certainly permanent and makes our lives as parents nearly impossible.

        Like

      • Marion Hardwick says:

        Karen, I am a case manager for kids in foster care and I have a little guy that has the same diagnoses, and I KNOW what a nightmare that can be. My kiddo has been diagnosed also IDD and the poor little guy as well as your daughter, gets hit with a triple whammy. It’s not bad enough having to be diagnosed with FAS but to end up being RAD as a result of the system just puts me over the edge. My prayers go out to you. My kiddo has only been recently diagnosed with FAS so he’s been struggling all his life with those issues as well as Sensory Processing disorder. Unbelieveable.

        Like

      • sandra says:

        We adopted a child with RAD and FAS. We knew something was wrong but the CW said he was just fine. He wasn’t. When we placed him in a 24/7 treatment home we were told, “RAD and FAS are a death sentence.” Blessings, hugs and prayers as you parent your daughter

        Like

      • Melanie P says:

        Exactly! FAS is permanent, unchanging brain damage. No amount of love or therapy will ever fix it. Geez.

        Like

    • Melanie P says:

      Ummmm…then you do not know much about fetal alcohol disorder, and you are doing exactly what this article is warning against.

      Like

  2. I totally agree. Sometimes I get that knee jerk reaction to explain why my child is acting the way they are but then have to rethink before I speak. Why do they need to know? The question to ask when they see a child acting out is, “What I can do help this child feel better?”

    Liked by 1 person

    • I tend to have the initial reaction of offering too much information, too. We teach our kids that they are only allowed to share their own stories and not the stories of their brothers and sisters, and I try to follow that too.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I had to explain some things in the beginning since my daughters were adopted and there were some affects from being in an orphanage, but overall, I found that it wasn’t necessary to explain. And I try to set the example when there are several adults around and a child is having a meltdown, I usually will ask how we can help and not make a point that unnecessary statements are not needed because it doesn’t help anyone, especially the child who is in need at that moment.

        Like

      • Jason Mahurin says:

        I mean no disrespect whatsoever – but I have a sincere question. Is it too much to expect all people (specifically in the situation you described as church volunteers) to be familiar enough with the conditions described to NOT say something they clearly intend to be helpful, even if it isn’t always received that way? Even in our education system, where teachers and aides go through years of education and annual ongoing training, not all personnel can be expected to be familiar enough with each and every family to the point at which they will know what a foster/adoptive parent may or may not hear as supportive – especially when they are not willing (and rightfully so to protect their children) to share the details that may impact the behaviors.

        In no way do I intend to diminish the responsibility or endless devotion required to do what you do. My wife and I brought a 14 yr old girl into our home with issues we struggle to manage, and that pales in comparison to what many foster/adoptive parents face. But being familiar with many foster families and organizations that support them in our area, I see a tendency at times to project the heartless and careless behaviors those families have no doubt endured, onto genuinely caring people who truly want to help – even if they don’t always have the right words to do so.

        Injustice and carelessness exist. There are schools, churches, communities, and people who are simply immune to the plight of others, but many of us may not have said the right things prior to the experiences we have had. I think we can work just as hard at not being offended as we do at not being offensive – especially when our responses to those well-intended individuals can be a help to the next parent they work with. I have seen GOOD foster/adoptive parents be snide to people who may not have said the right thing, but would do so if they had known better. Instead of expecting or demanding it, we could live the standard we expect from them, and understand their perspective before demanding they recognize ours.

        Sorry for such a lengthy response – bless you for all you do.

        Liked by 1 person

      • onemorewithus says:

        Jason, I’m Gloria, foster(adoptive-to-be) mom of a child who suffers from trauma and has emotional special needs.
        I read your comment, and I would like to respond to you, from my own opinion-
        I am so glad you wrote because you are right. Many, in fact most people don’t go out of their way to be disrespectful to parents of special needs children. I totally get that. You are obviously speaking with politeness and respect.
        There are two things that are happening. One is that nowadays, where we can connect through blogs and social media in general, moms and dads can find like-minded people more easily. Long gone are the days where people had to face hard times alone. These days we can find each other and vent. We can express these feelings and find that so many others think alike. So when our reality hits us, we can write about it, and we have others who say, “I totally get it. I’m right there with you.” This post hits home to so many of us, and we speak more freely because we know the other person understands. We tend to be sensitive because we feel the sting of unkindness first hand. We go home with our hurt kids and watch, first hand, the hard reality of living with these side effects of abuse or mental illness. We tend to be more protective and sensitive. Does that make sense? We are affected by that one rude comment and tend to take for granted the many other kind ones. Like, my son has a sincere problem with anxiety. School was a huge burden last year. He is better this year, but it took A LOT of professional help. But church is where he does not have to “fit in the box”, right? So last Wednesday (where we have kids church at night), the volunteer “teacher” came to tell me that he “hasn’t been doing his work” and needs to do his church home-work. Seriously?? Church is the one place where he should be able to feel free to relax and enjoy and now he has more home-work to do? Is the Lord really requiring that of him or is that the woman? Can he just be the kid he is for once? (see? I become extra-sensitive) When I tried to explain, she acted as if I was making excuses. She didn’t get it. I wasn’t making excuses. I was actually protecting him from her way of thinking. All other kids may not have a problem with “more homework” or with those expectations, but my son does, and frankly, church classes are not fundamental to his “future career”. So I don’t see the point in making church another “work place” for him (and I don’t like doing that in regards to my two bio-daughters either… But that’s a whole new subject)
        The second thing that happens on posts like these is that we are, indeed, attempting to bring to light the things we are learning as we walk this path of parenting special needs children. In the past, many parents walked alone. There weren’t studies to support them or professionals. Things were very black and white. But now we have greater understanding, so we want to “educate” those around us. Like the lady at the supermarket who asked outloud, “where did you buy this kid?” when she saw my foster son for the first time. We have used that supermarket since forever, she knows all of us and one day we showed up with this boy, and she perhaps meant to be funny when asked that question. But it was soooo offensive. I didn’t get mad at her. I didn’t answer her with anger or strife. But if she reads this post, perhaps she will be more careful next time.
        My answer to you as also long, but I loved the opportunity 🙂 As you can tell, I have been here a few times already. That’s because it is a subject that hits home for me.
        Thank you, Jason! I appreciate your comment.

        Like

      • Jason says:

        Thank you for hearing it as it was intended. I would hate for any child – special needs or otherwise – to feel like our church was another place for “work” and I don’t think that kind of ignorance should be ignored. Hopefully, most of the time people are truly there to help and a gentle nudge toward better understanding is well received. Thank you again.

        Like

      • Jason, great point! I always said I’d never write a “please don’t say…” post because I think we all ought to give each other more grace rather than asking everyone to walk on eggshells for fear of offending us. That said, “all kids do that” is a comment that I hear a lot of parents, not just foster or adoptive parents, take issue with. Regardless of the background of the child – foster care, adoption, special needs, or simply having a rough day – if a parent seems frazzled or expresses some concern about something related to their child, “all kids do that” dismisses them in a way that seems like we haven’t even listened or tried to relate.

        Thank you for commenting here, because you’ve added so much to the conversation! I *love* what you had to say here: ” I think we can work just as hard at not being offended as we do at not being offensive – especially when our responses to those well-intended individuals can be a help to the next parent they work with. I have seen GOOD foster/adoptive parents be snide to people who may not have said the right thing, but would do so if they had known better. Instead of expecting or demanding it, we could live the standard we expect from them, and understand their perspective before demanding they recognize ours.” YES! I do find that a lot of parents – especially those in foster, adoption, or special needs circles – are quick to be offended and snarky. I know we all tire of educating others sometimes, but the only way for us to create a world in which our kids will be treated with softer hearts and much grace is to offer that ourselves.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Natasha says:

        I’ve just been working through this in my mind and I felt like you were talking about my church situation. I don’t have any adopted/foster kids but there are many in my congregation and some others with special needs. I don’t know about the people at your church but it only just occurred to me (due to a conversation I had with an adult volunteer about one of his students who “wasn’t doing his work . . .”) that I am probably the only adult working with that child in the church context who has any training in education and/or psychology. I think a lot of the time adult volunteers in churches are well intentioned but don’t have any idea how different kids’ needs can be vastly different. This particular volunteer doesn’t have children, and sincerely wants to help. I’m thinking of having a training session with the adults specifically along these lines – is this something you think your church leadership would be open to? Just a thought since I read this and it seemed so in line with what I’m facing as well.

        Like

    • AJ Carly says:

      Thank you! I have a standard answer that I use now: “Thank you for your concern.” Sometimes followed with, “I am so happy you know in less than 5 minutes what is best for my child.”

      Liked by 1 person

  3. onemorewithus says:

    I love your post! I have two biological daughters and one foster son, whom we are trying to adopt. He is only a year younger than our youngest girl. I have walked (twice) through the normal behavior that healthy kids have at this age, and I can tell you that when it comes to my son, who has been emotionally hurt, it is a whole new ball game.
    I like the way you explained the same behavior via different meanings, “Likewise, they know that when their other son does the same, he’s acting from a genuine fear based on a history in which other caregivers left and never came back. It looks the same, but it’s not the same.”
    Thanks!

    Like

  4. csnelson01 says:

    I had no idea. My intention when saying this is to reassure parents because often parents are upset by their child’s behavior. What would be a better way to offer support and encouragement?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great question! For me, “you’re doing a great job” offers that encouragement in a huge way. Simply asking, “how can I help?” is a good opener too.

      Liked by 1 person

    • thegangsmomma says:

      When I’m visibly upset by my child’s behaviors (stressed, sad, frustrated, worn out, whichever), it has helped tremendously that the leadership team of our church knows the important/pertinent parts of our girls’s stories and that they are just standing with me for healing and hope. Their hugs and “we’ll get through this together” have a deeper meaning and grace because I’ve had to share and their “I’m praying for you” or “how can we help A settle in this a.m.” have gone farther than many other common platitudes that could have been offered. You are a great friend to ask for a better way and I would guess that THAT in itself will guide you to finding more ways to support. Thanks, from a stranger 🙂

      Like

    • Also, being willing to listen without feeling like you need to say something can be a huge blessing.

      Like

  5. Ann Holmes says:

    Thanks, Shannon! You challenge my words, responses, and heart! What you say applies more broadly in other ways as well like things people say to couples who deal with infertility issues. Bottom line is that we NEVER really know what crap another person had to slough through to get from there to here!

    Like

    • For this (and so many other topics), I love the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (from Ian Maclaren, but lately it’s been widely mis-attributed to Plato). Because you’re right – we just don’t know!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Katie says:

    There is the little matter that kids have a habit of living up (or down) to expectations. I have three sisters adopted from foster care at ages nearly-17 (my BFF from age 4), 8 and 7 (her baby sisters) — all of whom were drug/alcohol exposed in utero, all of whom were neglected during their first parents fight with drug/alcohol issues, had zero run-ins with the law, all of whom were honor students, college grads by age 22 and pretty much indistinguishable from my brother and I (the loved-from-the-second-we-were-conceived, college-educated, upper-middle-class parents).

    This business of “oh, the poor traumatized kid exposed to prenatal alcohol can’t be expected to [behave in a non-feral manner, be held to the same standard kids without a rough start are]” is a big, fat and incredibly destructive crock!!

    Like

    • linda says:

      Katie,

      I am glad things turned out so well for your 3 sisters adopted from foster care. However, as an adoptive parent and a physical therapist, I can tell you that it is rare for things to turn out so well. Some kids manage to escape the effects of in-utero and early childhood stress, but most do not. I have worked in an NICU and have seen first-hand the effects of prenatual substance abuse. If you read the literature you will find the studies that support this. There are treatments that can help with the effects of in-utero and early childhood stress; sometimes they work wonder and sometimes they don’t. Please don’t say “……destructive crock”. That is very painful for a lot of parents and children to hear.

      Like

    • Thanks for commenting, Katie. I never said that all kids who have been adopted, in foster care, exposed prenatally to alcohol or other substances, in neglectful or abusive environments, or otherwise maltreated during childhood will be arrested or drop out of school or anything of the sort. This post isn’t about lowering expectations but rather parenting children from a place of understanding so that they can meet expectations and, as church leaders, partnering with families in this endeavor. Just as Linda points out in her comment, though, peer-reviewed medical and sociological research shows a much higher correlation of adverse outcomes for kids from hard places, including objective brain scans showing differences in brain structure and amounts of gray and white brain matter, objective tests of levels of stress hormones showing persistently higher than usual amounts for many kids even after the stressful circumstances are no longer present, and objective tests of how the brain functions in response to fear with weaker connections for adolescents who experienced early childhood trauma. Does all of this mean we should be completely permissive for any child with a difficult history and further neglect them by not setting boundaries or expectations? Certainly not. But we can show grace to one another by not dismissing each other’s challenges with comments like “all kids do that” and we can use the research to guide us in raising kids for a more hopeful future, without implying that the parents whose children haven’t been as successful as your siblings must have set low expectations that led to their children’s outcomes.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Betsy says:

        High Expectations can also be harmful when the child is physically, emotionally or otherwise unable to live up to that expectation because then they just perpetually feel like a failure. Better is to expect your child to do the best he/she can. Katie’s belief is a common one, that basically love can cure these pre and post natal injuries, and the sad fact is that that is just not true. I wish it were! I can love my son beyond all reason, but his physical brain changes will always remain. His hurt at being neglected and abandoned will always be there and needs to be dealt with. Love does not conquer all, although it sure does help!!!

        Liked by 2 people

      • onemorewithus says:

        Betsy, and I am gonna go further and say that yes, love does conquer all, but the meaning of love needs to be understood first.
        Love is not a fuzzy feeling we get. Love can have that, but love is more. Love is a choice we make, a commitment from which we don’t turn, for the sake of the other person. Love is what carries us even when the fuzzy feelings are all dried out.
        Love is saying yes and also saying no.
        Love is giving and also taking.
        I say many people misunderstand fuzzy feelings for love. Fuzzy feelings is what gives us ideals, which can only go so far (especially when met with some hard realities).
        But the stuff that takes us to persevere on our hurting children’s behalf, that’s love, real love… And not very many can act on that because they think that once the fuzzies are gone, so is love.
        Nope.
        Love is what took Jesus to that cross, not fuzzy feelings.
        So, let us remember that love does conquer all. The question is, is everyone aware of what love really is?

        Like

      • Katie says:

        Almost every single parent I have encountered that used the terrible phrase “kids from hard places” does so as a means of explaining their kid’s off-the-charts-ghastly behavior. Even more so when the parent in question proclaims themself to a “trauma mama”.

        Betsy:

        The trauma mamas with kids from “hard places” — absolutely set pathetically low expectations. Love doesn’t cure trauma or prenatal damage but certainly goes a long way towards teaching a kid alternate means of [whatever’s difficult for the “hard places” kid to accomplish].

        I’m presently de facto parenting what would be considered a “hard places” kid — my eight year old’s BFF (call her “Bonus Kid”), whose parents are, umm, overwhelmed by the needs of her also-adopted siblings, and who spends 5 nights out of 7 at my home. And has since the start of the school year.

        Bonus Kid is/was a nightmare chez her parents and is a total sweetheart, a genuinely easygoing, happy kid at my place — nobody takes her “talker” at my house (iPad with speech app), nor are tantrums tolerated at my house. She has pretty severe apraxia & is enormously frustrated without the talker (that her parents don’t let her use at home, in a misguided attempt to improve her speech).

        Her morning “school refusal” tantrums were miraculously cured by refusing to put up with them — she spent maybe five days at home, with a very strict babysitter who endured she was SO bored that going to school was a MUCH more appealing alternative.

        Bonus Kid’s homework meltdowns? Caused by her inability to write in cursive? She types it. Her teacher? Accepts typed work and has been told to take it up with Bonus’ parents if it is a problem.

        Bonus Kid’s parents are beyond overwhelmed and blame so many of her “problems” on trauma and “hard places” — when SO clearly they’re not. I shudder to think of all that her siblings do NOT learn because their parents gave up on ANY expectations.

        (I never learned to write in cursive, or, um, legibly either. The world continued to spin on its axis — and I’m 44. And to this day don’t do cursive).

        Like

  7. THANK YOU for putting words to the feelings I have when people say this to me about my kids!! Even between my adopted children, I have to handle the same reactions differently based on the “why” behind the behaviors. It really irks me to hear “all kids do that.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • linda says:

      Katie,

      I doubt that you meant any harm, but I will be honest and say that as an adoptive parent I found your post upsetting. I understand you feel the term “kids from hard places” is a terrible thing to say, but I just can’t think of a gentler way of describing the developmental trauma that many adoptees and foster kids have been through. What do you think is a better term?
      I know that you are helping to care for an adopted child 5 days a week, but you are NOT the mother even though you are caring for her like one. I don’t mean this as an insult, but rather I am just stating a fact. This child knows that you are not the mother, and this is the reason she behaves differently for you than for her parents. It is very common for kids with attachment disorder and developmental trauma to behave better and sometimes even “like perfect angels” for people who are NOT their parents. This doesn’t mean the adoptive parents are lying about the child’s behavior or doing something wrong. This is just reality.
      You didn’t say if you are also an adoptive parent or have ever been a foster parent so I am assuming you have not had this experience, but please forgive me if I am wrong. Please don’t judge adoptive parents until you have walked a mile in their shoes. Surrogate parenting/caregiving 5 days a week (not sure of best terminology) is NOT the same as being an adoptive or foster parent, so you really have not walked a mile in our shoes.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Sherilyn Olsen says:

    Yes! Spot on. I feel validated by your post after feeling so dejected when others say this. There is no need to “normalize” these traumatic situations. It can make our adopted children feel so misunderstood when their feelings and grief are so big, yet tempered down by others, with “all kids do that.” It’s a massive disconnect for them and for us as parents who see just how deeply some of these hurts go.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. pam says:

    There are so many things I could say to some of the comments, so I am not sure where to start. First I have 2 grown beautiful and successful adopted daughters. They are biological sisters and were adopted as teens. They had suffered neglect and abuse along with there 4 other siblings. To look at my daughter’s you would think nothing ever happened to them, but there is still anger and frustration for them. And even as adults their behavior reflects what they have been through. Yes they did some of the same things other kids did, but their was still the underlying fears they had. During the training to adopt, one thing stuck with me. The earlier the abuse, neglect, abandonment, or whatever happens the worse the acting out may be later in the child’s life. As an infant there are no coping skills so everything is internalized and not forgotten. I now have adopted a toddler that was abandoned at day 1 on the side of a road. He was taken to an orphanage, where he lived for 5 months, then he came to the US to live with me. So I have had him most of his life, but he still suffered the loss of the mom who he heard for 9 months, the caregivers he lived with for the next 5, a language he understood to come to live with me. He has since had 4 surgeries, the latest just yesterday. And I would say yes my son’s behaviors look like other kids, but many days he is communicating from a very different place. He now goes to daycare and we (the teachers and I) work very hard to make sure he knows I am coming back. Sending him off to surgery yesterday was very hard because at 2 he still does not understand what is going on. Adoption and foster care truly are not for the faint of heart.

    Like

  10. Becca says:

    This was so needed for me today. We adopted our little girl 6 mo ago from Ethiopia and things are night and day different than our bio daughter when she was little. We also live near you, in Cary! These last few weeks of getting new teeth, crying over food, and not napping as well has made me feel like I’m on a tightrope!

    Like

  11. Heidi Viars says:

    Fostering a sibling group of three (7, 8 and 9) as we added them to our bio kids (14, 16 and 18) has been a challenge to say the least. We are learning/being taught so much. I think the biggest lesson for me has been the lesson on grace. I have been finding that while I am learning that we all have reasons why we do the things we do, God so deeply sees into our hearts and knows. His grace reaches farther and deeper than I had ever thought possible. Trying to teach these truth has been the greatest blessing and the biggest challenge, for we cannot teach that which we don’t believe ourselves. I have found that God indeed is who He says He is, compassionate and kind, forgiving and loving, strong and always available.
    It’s hard to focus on the tiny victories when fear has us look at all the odds which are stacked so high against kids with such painful pasts. Nevertheless, we keep on talking, loving, teaching, hugging, and praising … one day at a time (or even just from breakfast to lunch … that’s how I prefer it 🙂 ) …
    Thanks so much for the support. You are much appreciated!!!

    Like

  12. beatriz says:

    Great article. Same applies to kids of divorced parents. When they witnessed dad screaming and billitleling mom on a daily basis.
    Different trauma, but happy married couples can’t see it.

    Like

  13. Jennifer says:

    When I was teaching 2-3 year old Sunday School, there were twins in my class who had been adopted and I had no idea at first. However, somehow God communicated to me the idea that these two were acting out for a reason. I truly felt a deep compassion, especially for the little girl who seemed to always have more difficulty with coping with little things. My husband helped in the class and he was puzzled why I would take so much time with her. It was worth it all. Her parents had been working very hard with both of the children and did not let how anyone else saw them change their compassionate dealing with the two and before they moved away I was rewarded with seeing some of the fearful and previously uncontrollable behaviors come under control. The young girl would stop (when gently prompted) really think about her actions (which was made easier if given a hug or some other encouragement) and change her behavior. It was awesome to watch and I still pray for this sweet family today.

    Like

    • I love this sentence in your comment: “…somehow God communicated to me the idea that these two were acting out for a reason.” Because, truly, isn’t that the case for all kids? Yes, in this case, their behaviors were related to adoption, but many times the challenging kids in our Sunday school classes are acting out for some other reason. I’m a firm believer that behavior is communication, so there’s always a reason behind it. I think your approach is the perfect one for any kid who’s havign a hard time. Couldn’t we all use some deep compassion from someone else from time to time?

      Also, as a mom whose children you could have been describing minus a few details, thank you for praying for them. I know it means the world to me when someone at church or online or elsewhere stops me to let me know that our family is being prayed for by them. Such a gift!

      Like

      • Jason says:

        Well said, and to be fair to you, the context or incident(s) that prompted you to post this clearly are relevant and at the same time unknown to me as a reader. Hopefully – for all of us – someone minimizing the needs and distress of a child is easily distinguishable from someone making an attempt to comfort a frazzled or frustrated mom/dad. I had a picture in my head of what I hope families would see from our children’s dept volunteers: a compassionate worker attempting to ease the mind of the parents so they can be confident their children are cared for while they are in service. Unfortunately that probably is not the experience of all parents (even at our church) and clearly was not what Gloria experienced. I appreciate the responses from both of you.

        Like

  14. Pingback: Why “It’s not the same…” | A Beautiful Mess

  15. Maggie says:

    I would like to start by saying that I think adoption is such a beautiful thing. I think all life is precious and I love hearing about parents opening their hearts and homes to children who are in need. I have heard from many friends, who have adopted, that they are the ones who feel blessed. However, if I’m being totally honest, I must say that I felt offended when I read this blog. I would never want to say something to offend anyone. I have seen so many people raise funds for their adoption through social media and also blog about their experiences. I think this makes the people who give financially or pray with a family through their journey, feel as though they are a part of the process. I think that, then to turn around and correct people for every well-meaning comment, is a little much. I have children that I gave birth to, yet I don’t correct my friends who do not have children, every time they they make comments I listen. If I feel they are wrong, I gently give them my opinion on the matter. But, I do not make a blanket correction to everyone who is not in my shoes, chastising them for not understanding or being insensitive. That’s what I feel this blog and other comments I have read are doing. Correcting those of us who have never adopted and making us feel ignorant and rude for what we say isn’t necessary. I don’t mean this to be unkind or malicious, just food for thought.

    Like

    • I don’t think anything in my post called anyone ignorant or rude for their word choices. Just as you suggest gently giving an opinion on the matter, that’s all this post is meant to do. I never said or meant to say anyone was wrong, but instead I hoped to share how hurtful some comments can be. Because whenever I say something that hurts someone else, I’d like to know and have the opportunity to learn how to show kindness instead.

      Like

      • Maggie says:

        I didn’t say that you called anyone ignorant or rude. That is my least favorite thing about writing or posting–lack of tone. I do better in person. :). I have seen an increase of “open letters” and “Six Things You Should Never Say…” blogs/posts. I feel people are obsessed with correcting one another. When I was pregnant, people rubbed my belly and constantly asked me if I was going to pop, or if I was sure I wasn’t expecting twins. They meant well, and at times their well meaning thoughts got lost in translation. By no means do I think that is the same as the trauma these precious children have experienced. However, I do believe people are just trying to enter in and show some kindness and understanding–maybe even trying to relate. All parenting has its challenges. Maybe if we could find more similarities, and not so many differences, we could encourage one another better. I admire you and wish you and your family many blessings.

        Like

  16. nicky says:

    We would love to adopt at least 2 children

    Like

  17. TG says:

    Every one of us has something that we deal with that others just don’t “get”. While it is important to not be offensive toward others, it is also important to not be quickly offended by others, & to realize that just because someone doesn’t “get” what you’re dealing with, does not mean that the intentions were not well meant. Sometimes we really just have to get over ourselves.

    Like

    • I’m the first to advocate to other adoptive families and special needs families – two groups that I’m part of and that can each tend to be an easily offended bunch – to extend grace and to be slow to anger, in the words of James in the New Testament. But my audience with this piece was different, so I wanted to share something about our realities so that others can “get” it too.

      I think all of us can do better at learn from and extending grace to one another, don’t you?

      Like

  18. mskatherinehotze says:

    Reblogged this on mskatherinehotze.

    Like

  19. Heather says:

    I don’t agree with all of these articles about what not to say to a foster/adoptive/special parent. Often people do not understand the situation and it makes them uncomfortable, but at least they are saying something. I would rather have someone say “I don’t know how you do it”, “it’s no big deal” or “all kids do that” than have people avoid me all together.
    It is not their job to understand the situation it’s ours. Who knows what issues they are already dealing with in their life. I have heard all of these countless times, and I don’t think anyone meant them in a negative way. Yes there are some people that want or have the time to find our more about your life, isn’t it better that they talk to you, and maybe even learn a little from you than not try, because they are worried they will offend you by saying the wrong thing?
    For example I get very nervous at funerals and fumble over my words, I still go, because being there is more important than the rest of it.
    I appreciate the points made about how different these kids are, and their different needs. I just feel like everyone wants people to understand then adds too many stipulations. I know the last time I someone said “all kids do that” to me they were simply trying to make me feel like I wasn’t all alone. I’d much rather have that than actually be all alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I agree that silence is far worse than fumbled words! I don’t agree completely, though, that sharing what words can be hurtful is adding too many stipulations. This isn’t about dos and donts. This isn’t about making anyone else feel bad. This isn’t about expecting others to have all the answers. This IS about offering tools and knowledge to others so they can empathize even without having experienced what we do. While it’s not the job of other people to reflexively understand the situation, I do think – as fellow human beings and, in the church, as fellow followers of Christ – it is our job to be vulnerable with and caring for each other. Being vulnerable involves sharing what hurts instead of helps, and caring for each other involves listening and learning. I think all of that is helpful.

      Like

  20. Kathleen says:

    Thank you!!!!! I needed to read this during the Holiday Season. I feel validated.

    Like

  21. Heather says:

    I pretty much lost my best friend after I returned home with our two adopted siblings from another country. The addition of our two beautiful children doubled the number of children in our home instantly. We had read all the books about attachment, RAD, FAS, parenting children from a traumatic start in life, etc. Our ignorance made us believe we were prepared. Oh man! Nothing could be further from the truth! My best friend had always been someone I could count on for support and prayer through difficult times. When I would reach out after our adoption, I would get comments like, “yeah, parenting four kids IS hard.” (They have four bio kids) “Or, he’s just being a boy. You’ve never parented brothers.” I felt so invalidated, and I knew the issues ran so much deeper. I slowly pulled away, and sadly, I hardly hear from her anymore. Great post! Thank you for this!!

    Like

    • I’m so sorry. I lost a dear friend shortly after our last adoption, and it still hurts. I’m praying God has or will bring new faithful friends alongside you to be that support you need. Hugs!

      Like

      • Heather says:

        God is SO faithful! He has provided so many dear friends on this adoptive parenting journey! I gave our friendship so many opportunities after our adoption. I truly don’t feel like it was a matter of being overly sensitive. I’ve come to realize that God gives us different friendships for different seasons in life, and that is not only okay, it is good! I still see my friend, we still talk, and enjoy each other, just not on the same level.

        Like

  22. Tracey Hand says:

    hello. Here is another example of what I am not supposed to say or do which may paralyze my natural response in the furture. While I have never said “All kids do that”, to any parent- I could see myself relating a story to show empathy to a struggling parent…without knowing anything about them. Case in point : When my son went to Montessori school at age 3, he had extreme seperation anxiety. Worse than any other child. It was so very hard on me, the Director would tell me it resolved and he was happy and busy the moment I was gone. But I didn’t know that, and wouldn’t have unless she told me, and I was traumatized by it. If a new parent was experiencing the same and I shared this story with them in an attempt to be empathetic …and I was met with hostility. ..well I would be hurt by that, as I would have been naively trying to make a parent feel better. While I appreciate you opening my eyes to something I had not thought so much about before, I feel very sad that you have taken my natural, empathetic response away from me. Yes, that’s it, we should all be silent for fear we don’t understand the situation well enough to show empathy.

    Like

  23. Brian Lotze says:

    Thank you for your post, I work in a residential treatment program for troubled teens. I have worked with a fair number of kids from what we term failed adoptions. What people aren’t told or don’t understand when they adopt is that the background these kids come from makes them often very difficult to work with and to love at times. If they have reactive attachment disorder, FAS, or some other mental health or behavioral issue related to early trauma, most parents do not know how to deal with them. On top of this is the fact that when the biological parents of these children were not able to care for them because of substance abuse, mental health, or other issues, there is a very good chance that these children are genetically predisposed to also have issues with substance abuse and mental health. I am not saying that love cannot overcome, but too many adoptive parents go into it blind without the knowledge or skills to deal with the consequences the brought these children to their homes. I have friends who were adopted and have had great experiences, but I have also worked with children whose adoptive parents took them in and then when they realized the problems sent them to “treatment” for years at a time rather than putting in the hard work to help them. Sending them away often just compounded the problems when one more person abandoned them. Some of the kids do need the residential treatment that programs like the one I work in offer, but others just need a patient and loving adoptive parent who is able to not take personally the behaviors and emotions their adoptive kids have.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Linda Kingston says:

      I am the adoptive parent of two teenage girls. Adoptive parents are human and there is a limit to what they alone can do. I really don’t think the problem is that they don’t want to do the hard work to help their kids; the issue is that many are simply not capable of doing it. They have jobs, other children, a home to care for, a marriage to keep together, and caregiving responsibilities for elderly parents. I also don’t think that not taking personally the behaviors and emotions of their adopted children will automatically make life easy for the adoptive parents. These are my ideas of the help that adoptive parents need from adoption agencies, the foster care system, and the community: 1. Someone to help with housekeeping, cooking, running errands, and driving their kids to appointments. 2. Financial help to pay their bills when they need to take an unpayed leave of absence from their job or quit their job to take care of their child
      3. After their child bashes holes in the drywall and kicks doors off the hinges, they need someone to do the repairs and pay for them.
      4. Another adult in the home that is not a parent who can help out when their child has a rage.
      5. An on-call 24/7 response team who can come to their home when their child has a rage and threatens or actually commits violence against the parents.
      6. Respite care so the parents can get a desperately needed break.
      7. Someone to pay for the therapy that the parents needs to recover from the secondary trauma of living with a violent child, and someone to babysit their child while they go to therapy.

      Like

    • Linda Kingston says:

      MORE -re: Brian’s post and residential care.
      A couple of things I forgot to add in my first post.
      I think the main reason a parent sends a child to RTC is fear.
      They may be living in fear for their child’s life because child has already done many self-harming behaviors and the help they are receiving on an out-patient basis is not helping or is not enough. The parents might not be able to sleep at night because they must be constantly on guard because their child has a history or sneaking out of the house at night and getting into trouble. If the parents can’t sleep and keep their child safe at night, their only option is to send child to RTC. It would be nice if somebody would help pay for a caregiver to stay awake all night with their child to keep him/her safe, but I don’t know of any government program or insurance that is willing to do that.

      Like

  24. Ellen says:

    Excellent comments. It has taken years with our four adopted children to get a mindset of seeing life through their eyes.

    Like

  25. Pingback: Please don't say "all kids do that" to adoptive and foster families | Church4EveryChild - Musings of a RAD Mom

  26. Karla Buchanan says:

    My husband and I have fostered and/or adopted a little over 30 kids in the last 9 1/2 years. Most of our kids have had some sort of disability and all but about 5 have been over the age of 13. Although I believe whether a child in foster care has medically diagnosable “special needs” just by the trauma that they have experienced, they have needs that are very different than the average child. Needless to say not only are these kids our family but we also feel called by God to make an impact, no matter how small, in their lives. We often hear things like “if he/she were my responsibility I would” or “is that what our next generation looks like.”. My church family has learned to accept my kids and look beyond their behavior to see the beautiful person God created. Trust me that is not always easy either! Now of course that is not universal. One older woman asked one time a new child joined our family ” and what is their disability” to which I responded “that life has thrown them a lousy curve, past that they are a unique child of God just like me and you.”. Some days I could strangle the people who look at my kids and I when things are not going so well in public. But of course being human I could also strangle my kids at that moment too. I just know God has given me a great journey!

    Like

  27. Debbie Young says:

    Are any of the children pictured at the top up for adoption we are already foster adoptive parents and have adopted 3 children already we really want to adopt again my number 8595852303

    Like

    • Dr. G says:

      Debbie…I think they’re all pretty happy members of the Dingle family! While not up for adoption, they’re probably up for a trip to Chick-fil-A.

      Like

  28. Just a thought: Shouldn’t we consider the ‘intent’ of the person’s heart that says things like “all kids do that”? And learn to either explain some things (in a loving way), or just accept that they mean to be encouraging without understanding everything?

    My son and his wife are foster parents and as his parents, we understand the reasons behind some of our foster grandkids behavior, but I don’t take offense when someone’s intent is just meant as an encouragement and not a criticism.

    Just as dealing with my grandkids, I have learned when something needs to be clarified and when you just let it go.

    Like

  29. amyingeborg says:

    So true, thanks for this. I’m sorry for times I’ve done this, before I knew what it was like to live through it.

    Like

  30. Melinda says:

    Look, please hear my heart on this. I get what you’re saying. My husband and I have 3 biological children and over the course of 6 years or so have fostered 5 children. We were desiring to adopt early in this foster process, however, we are the rare foster home where all 5 children were able to reunify with a family member. I have just about never had an interaction with someone while fostering where I felt that he or she was out to offend me. I know that many times it’s difficult to know what to tell any parent when raising children and I just felt blessed that anyone cared enough to engage, ask questions and generally be open to hearing what all this foster/adoption business is about. Come on, let’s be forgiving, long-suffering and easy with people. Don’t always make people feel like they have to say just the right thing in just the right way at all times. Pretty soon no one will feel comfortable interacting with you. Just a note of encouragement that most of us who are willing to foster or adopt are just plain grateful when you take the time to engage. As for me, I will do my best to know that you are trying to be supportive and helpful.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s