Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Just what does it take to be an adoptive parent?

That's the question Sally Maslansky asks at the Huffington Post in an article entitled Parenting and Adoption: Love and a Lot More:
Just what does it take to be an adoptive parent? As an adoptive parent and therapist working with adoptive families, I can tell you that it does indeed take a great deal more than love.

But I think the most relevant question to be asking here is: In what part of any of our lives is love actually all that it takes?

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I believe that what it takes to parent a child from such a background is the ability to put all preconceived notions of what it means to be a parent aside, and to develop an ability to begin to understand and honor the staggering reality of what this child's life has been up to the point of their adoption. To go into adoption knowing and honoring that this child has a profound history of its own.

How do we develop the skills necessary to understand our child's story in order to help them make sense of it for themselves? Well, the place to start is with making sense of our own story first. In fact, one thing that attachment theory informs us about is that the best predictor of a child's security of attachment is the degree to which that child's parent or caregiver has made sense of his or her own story.

* * *

This is crucial information that I hope will be helpful to the adoption community. So when asked, what does it take to be an adoptive parent, I would suggest it does indeed take a great deal of love, with a lot of self-understanding and knowing, an ability to be sensitive to your child's individual needs, as well as all the information on childhood development and attachment you can get your hands on. There is no such thing as a perfect parent, but efforts to perfect the art of parenting is the pursuit of any parent's lifetime.
So her answer to what it takes to be an adoptive parent -- love, self-awareness, honoring your child's past, understanding of attachment and childhood development.  What would you add?


The Drinkwaters said...

I don’t normally post, so I hope I can convey my thoughts clearly. I would add to the list of "What It Takes":

Acknowledgment that adoption is built on loss.

Recognition/Validation of the triad: birth family, child(ren), and adoptive family.

Anonymous said...

Only got to her article today. Really interesting. REALLY interesting in light of a disruption piece I just read where the person was heralded as being brave and wise and all the rest of it. It was Maslansky's specific piece about understanding your own story in order to deal with traumatized kids that made me see a whole bunch of things. Thanks so much for bringing it to our attention.