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If love is not enough, what is?

(29 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Fri 09-Nov-12 23:30:35

Sorry if that sounds like a daft question.

Lots of people say it, Love is not enough! So what is, to make a adoption a success. (Maybe I would need to define 'success' but I think you know what am asking. What aside from love do I need to give/do/be?

Any helpful comments, welcome.

Thank you.

Devora Sat 10-Nov-12 00:43:21

You need loads of empathy - to be able to really understand your child's point of view, and separate it out from your own view/ needs/ perspective.

You need to be able to fully accept and embrace the responsibilities of parenthood, while understanding that your child had other parents once, and one of your jobs will be able to help them explore that, even if it sometimes feels like a rejection of your love, even if it means being generous about people who hurt the child you love.

You need to be resourceful, able to work out what your child needs and advocate for it.

You need to be able to accept your own needs and imperfections, ask for help when you need it, accept that you have limits, forgive yourself when you fall short of the standards you set yourself.

HappySunflower Sat 10-Nov-12 00:46:52

Keeping your focus on helping the child to feel safe and secure- because that will help to build positive attachment, for you both.
Patience. It can take time for love to grow, and the timing is different for everybody.
Being able to talk about how you are feeling to your partner, friends and family. Asking for help when you feel you need it.

Seeing it as a journey helped me, a journey with an unknown destination, but where the route you take is actually the most important part!
I enjoy most days with my daughter. Most but not all. And on the days I don't enjoy, I keep my focus on the fact that the next day is soon to come smile

adoptmama Sat 10-Nov-12 06:43:28

DD1 was RAD. For us love was definitely not enough but help and psychological support were. What helped? Being stubborn - more than my DD could be. Persistance. Trusting my own feelings, not listening to all the 'well meaning' people who saw a big smile and a false confidence and kept telling me she was fine when she wasn't. Seeing the gains that appeared tiny but were huge - like the time she finally let me hold her and rock her to sleep. Never forgetting, no matter how long they are home, that issues can be adoption related not 'bad behaviour.' Patience. Knowledge.

What helped her? Therapy, definitely. Helping her identify and name feelings. Time; time to heal, time to trust, time to feel secure. And time for it to happen at her pace, not mine or anyone else's.

Kewcumber Sat 10-Nov-12 09:49:30

Cold blooded acceptance of the responsibility you have taken on.
Stickability when you aren't sure if this is quite what you'd planned but you keep going anyway.
Taking pride in the "baby steps"

I wouldn't say that love isn't enough, I would say its not relevant - except where it helps you or your child with the various points people have raised.

I would venture to say that many children who were adopted were not unloved before being adopted - it isn't a shortage of love that (often) causes the problems - its a shortage of stability, effective parenting, ability to put your child's needs above yours etc. I know it sounds strange but many times I really don't think those shortcomings are down to a lack of love but an inability to be an effective parent consistently enough.

Any child with any degree of additional needs requires this kind of parenting so I don't think its outside the scope of what any parent might be called on to provide, its just that the likelihood of needing them is higher.

And sadly even all these extra things AND love isn't enough.

Lilka Sat 10-Nov-12 12:34:13

I agree with Kew. Most adoptive children are loved by their original families but love alone won't provide what a child needs. That said, it has been very important for me, the love I feel for them. That has always partly kept me going through hard times

The rest depends on which child you get. Empathy, resilience, the ability to seek help, are all very important things to have anyway, but with one child, just the good consistent safe parenting might well be enough, with others, you might need more input maybe from outside agencies. For instance, for DD1, therapy over several years was necessary for her to make progress and be able to live in a family, alongside being in a safe home. But I consider success to be an adoption which does not break down, and just being a family is a successful adoption as far as I'm concerned

I have successfully adopted 3 times because I have 3 children and haven't disrupted. For me, success isn't about behaviour or achievements really. Perhaps if you had a different definition of success you'd give a different answer to me. Good parenting, the qualities listed above, and sometimes outisde help and good therapy should be enough to make the vast majority of adoptions successful

Italiangreyhound Sat 10-Nov-12 22:43:22

Devora, HappySunflower, adoptmama, Kewcumber and Lilka THANK YOU so much for your wise words and your wisdom.

I am greatly encouraged.

Italiangreyhound Sun 11-Nov-12 00:12:09

Adoptmana, can I ask, RAD, is that Reactive Attachment Disorder? How does it differ from other attachment disorders? Or is there only one kind? Please only reply if happy to do so, or pm me.

Thanks so much.

Kewcumber Sun 11-Nov-12 11:33:59

I think (no expert) that there are varying kinds of attachment disorder but most people talk about RAD meaning any kind of attachment disorder - I have no idea if this is because RAD is the most common or because the most well known.

I'm sure adoptmama is more of an expert!

Lilka Sun 11-Nov-12 12:08:37

I hope you don't mind me answering. With the caveat that different people have different ideas and opinions about what AD's are and different types, so the answer i give might be different than the answer someone else would give. Even experts don't agree on it! This is my understanding of it, based on what I've been told when my children have had therapy and been dx'ed with attachment issues (not disorders though)

Attachment disorder is having enormous difficulty or the inability to form relationships, especially the one with your primary carer/s. AD is the blanket term. Anything more descriptive, I would say is a type of attachment disorder. I have seen and heard of children being diagnosed with 5 different types - RAD (inhibited), RAD (disinhibited), Avoidant AD, Ambivalent AD and Disorganised AD. Or just RAD or AD without any qualifier.

The way I see it, is the different types are like different types of any medical or mental condition. In AD it's about the childs patterns of behaviour and way of relating to people. Taking RAD as an example, if there are two children and one is dx'ed with disinhibited RAD and the other with inhibited RAD, they both can't form attachments, but they behave differently - the first child might be extremely friendly to strangers and try to cuddle them for instance, whilst the second would not want to cuddle or initiate things like that with anybody, stranger or parent. The three other types of AD are related to the three insecure types of attachment (disorganised, avoidant and anxious/ambivalent).

I think if you live in the US, you are probably more likely to get a RAD dx but in the UK you are probably more likely to get an AD diagnosis, with a qualifier like avoidant. My DD2 was identified as having an (insecure) ambivalent attachment style, and if she had been disordered, she would have got a dx of ambivalent attachment disorder, not RAD. There is some overlap as well, especially between the 3 AD labels and the two RAD labels, I've seen children dx'ed with disorganised attachment disorder who would probably have been dx'ed with RAD (disinhibited) if they'd been seen by different people. But a child with avoidant AD will have different behaviour patterns than a child with ambivalent AD, and a child with one subtype of RAD different behaviour patterns than a child with the other. Same basic condition though

Hope that makes even a bit of sense, that's how it was explained to me

Italiangreyhound Mon 12-Nov-12 01:55:32

Thanks Lilka it makes some sense! thanks, its complex stuff so hats off to you for knowing it and those who are dealing with it.

The more I learn, the more I realise I don't know enough!

Kewcumber Mon 12-Nov-12 12:33:03

Yes but you might not need to know. The trick is to be vaguely aware of as many of the potential problems as possible, ready to tap into it if you need to. Your child probably won't have 90% of the potential problems that will be mentioned.

Spero Mon 12-Nov-12 12:40:11

Attachment theory is just that - theory. It can be interpreted and applied in many different ways but it isn't a 'hard' science and I don't think there are any definitive answers.

One psychologist put it in a really helpful way to me - don't get hung up on the label, ask yourself what behaviour is child displaying, in what situations, why is this a problem and what can we do to make it better for the child?

I echo everyone who says 'patience'. Sticking with it. Resilience. All my clients say they love their children. But what a lot don't realise is that declarations of feelings mean sod all to a child if that child is dirty, hungry and doesn't feel safe. Love is a verb when it comes to children, I think.

Devora Mon 12-Nov-12 22:09:17

It's very hard to know what attitude to adopt to potential problems. Of course potential adopters should understand what difficulties their children may experience, and should not go in with romantic rose-tinted notions about what family life may be like.

On the other hand, it can sap the joy out of everyday life. My dd came to us with lots of warnings - NAS, FAS etc. She had a really, really tough start to life. Since then, however, she has done wonderfully. She is healthy and strong, beautiful and bright, and yet I find I am constantly checking myself, reminding myself that it is early days and anything can happen. I'm almost scared to relax in case I get punished for it later. I'm not sure it's good for her, or me, to be anxiously worrying that every toddler tantrum might be an early sign of ADHD, but it's been so drilled into me that adoptive parents don't have any right to expect normal happy family life, that I daren't do anything else.

Italiangreyhound Tue 13-Nov-12 00:40:35

Kew, Spero and Devora thanks for your wise words. I will try and keep it all on the back burner ready for when/if we get as far as matching and all this info becomes a real life thing!

Devora your DD sounds adorable, I am sure she will continue well but if she doesn't in any area I am sure it will in no way be a punishment! She will be whoever she will be and I feel sure from my brief knowledge of you on here, that you will tackle/cope/deal and love as is best for her.

YES Love is a verb, there was an old song that said 'Love is not a feeling it's an act of the will.' It’s a Christian song called ‘Love is not a feeling’ by Don Francisco. I do really agree love is a verb Spero.

FamiliesShareGerms Wed 14-Nov-12 07:13:01


And willingness to be in it for the long haul

Spero Wed 14-Nov-12 08:26:27

Love is not a feeling, it is an act of will - I think you have it all summed up, right there.

What a lot of traumatised children need is someone who will stick with them, no matter how badly they behave because they have been so let down in the past. But I agree with Devora, a very negative spin is often put on it - maybe to weed out the less committed? M parents avyedin an appallingly negative way when I saidi wanted to adopt, they assumed I would end up with a feces smearing 'bad seed'.

I think there are some children who are so badly hurt that they could not be contained in a 'normal' family, simply because you would need such massive reserves of time, energy and physical strength. I would hope the matching and assessment process means that these children are not placed with first time adopters, but the disruption rate for adoptions is pretty high at about 25%, which suggests improvements can be made.

But I wanted to adopt because I thought if there was even a chance I could raise a child well and give them a shot at a happy life, that would be probably the most amazing and satisfying thing I could ever do with my life. And if that came with feelings of love, that would be a wonderful bonus, but I wouldn't expect that from the start.

adoptmama Wed 14-Nov-12 13:23:14

Italian yes RAD is reactive attachment disorder. I think others have summed up nicely the issues with attachment disorders and the different types. So I'll try more to say what it looked like for us in daily life. DD came home at age 9.5 months from an institution where she had multiple and inconsistent carers. What it meant for us in practical terms was that DD was unable to accept affection or bond. She couldn't stand to be touched or held. She was great at self soothing to get to sleep, but if I tried to hold or rock her she literally fought me for hours, scratching, hitting, twisting etc. She was still under 12 months old at this time; I couldn't believe a baby could have such physical strength. She was home for years before I could hold and rock her; even now she can find it difficult. She couldn't make eye contact; I used to time it to see how long she could manage. Once she managed 2 seconds. Literally. I couldn't lie down next to her - she would scream and fight until she could crawl to the other end of the bed. She had no interest in interacting with me. When we went out anywhere she was all huge smiles and charm and crawling over to the nearest adult she could find to sit on - she was parent shopping as the terminology goes, making sure she had a new carer lined up when I left. She also had huge problems walking; at one point they thought she had CP due to the muscle problems in her legs and she had EEGs (negative for CP) and physical therapy. They diagnosed hyper-tonism - her muscles in her legs were too tight and constricting making it impossible for her to keep her feet flat and walk so she kept falling over every 2-3 steps. Interestingly as her attachment began to improve and she began to trust me, her physical problems began to disappear. I am convinced that the hyper-tonism was caused by emotional stress. I know my neck/back muscles tighten when I am stressed/worried and I think that this was what happened with her.

This was the impact of abandonment and institutionalization on her. She was very, very rejecting of me. It was hard because although I could rationally understand what she was doing emotionally I was hurt by her continual 'rejection' of me. She could seem, as a young toddler, incredibly independent, yet really she was this terrified, insecure lost baby. Even earlier this year, when we were planning to move home and her behaviour went haywire, she confessed she was scared I would leave her behind. She knows rationally that I will not, but emotionally she is scared. Basically her underlying behaviour was to reject any type of attachment whilst also trying to line up my replacement to care for her. Eventually this anxiety caused OCD tendencies. She had huge sleep issues for years and still can and we still co-sleep often. She is also highly oversensitive to smell and texture, noise etc. This may or may not be linked to her early institutional deprivation. Eventually we went to therapy; it has helped a lot. It has also helped me understand that some issues may well never go away; I think she will always be emotionally vulnerable in some ways. I was very 'clued up' on attachment, or so I thought. But because of this I think I somehow thought my child would escape problems... looking back all the signs of what was to come where there during my visits to her in the orphanage. I just didn't put two and two together in the right way.

MaryZezItsOnlyJustNovember Fri 16-Nov-12 10:32:34

Bloody minded determination?

An absolute certainty that you are doing the right thing, and that no matter what happens you won't give up?

The absolute knowledge that no matter how difficult things are now that life would be so much worse, so much emptier, so much less worth living if you didn't have them?

Those are the things that keep me going with ds, anyway.

And wine.

Sorry, I'll be back to read the whole thread properly later smile

Italiangreyhound Fri 16-Nov-12 13:51:20

Thanks FamiliesShareGerms, Spero, adoptmama and * MaryZezItsOnlyJustNovember*. Thank you for sharing adoptmama about your journey. Your dd sounds amazing to have survived all that. You too sound like a pretty amazing mum.

It's scary to hear all this stuff but as someone else pointed out, Iam not sure what kind of issues we may have with a child we may parent, and so knowing about all this is helpful.

Thank you.

MaryZezItsOnlyJustNovember Fri 16-Nov-12 18:47:05

The thing you have to remember Italian, is that the issues you have to deal with are issues that you will just, erm, deal with, iykwim. Exactly the same as if you had a child born to you who had behavioural problems or SN.

I was lucky in that I had a wonderful few years with ds before he went off the rails, and I loved him wholeheartedly then, and I still do. I think it must be harder if the problems start before you love them.

Kewcumber Fri 16-Nov-12 21:40:25

the issues you have to deal with are issues that you will just, erm, deal with, iykwim

Exactly - a social worker once said to me that the problem with saying x% of adopted children have behavioural problems is that its not really relevant. Either your child has it or they don't. There is a 20% in the real world and if you have a child with a problem that is what you deal with (birth or adopted) and the fact that it was more or less common in children like your's doesn't really amount to a hill of beans.

Italiangreyhound Fri 16-Nov-12 22:04:44

Thanks, girls, you make perfect sense and encourage me.

Is it also true to say that being prepared, knowing the potential issues and knowing how to get help are all really helpful?

I have a birth DD who has had issues with behaviour (thankfully in the past now - party - majorly partly - due to me learning how to deal with them!) and who is also possible dyslexic. We've come through all this but I am sure knowing what was going on earlier would have helped me not to make some of the mistakes I made!

Or would you say 'ignorance is bliss'.

(I expect not but worth asking!)

By that I mean another friend has a child with a lifelong disability and when her child was born she did not know how bad/dis-abilitating it would be, she felt it was easier not knowing the full extent at the start.

Any thoughts?

(Please don't be offended by my crass questions!)

MaryZezItsOnlyJustNovember Fri 16-Nov-12 22:13:35

When it comes to something that can be fixed (or at least helped), like dyslexia, then ignorance isn't bliss, it's better to know as much as possible asap.

I suspect, though, that if it comes to a major debilitating issue, it would be nice to remain in relative ignorance while your child is little, to be able to enjoy them as a baby before heading into a lifetime of fighting the system sad.

when it comes to adopted children, though, knowledge is power - and not power over the children, but power over the system, being able to make an informed decision as to what you can and can't cope with, and being in a position to demand help where appropriate.

Having an older child will help you with this, because you will be much more aware (and probably a bit more laid back) than with a first child.

Italiangreyhound Fri 16-Nov-12 22:39:22

Thanks Maryz I hope so. On both counts would be nice!

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