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Loving Adopted Children Well | Dr. Laura Shaler

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
March 23, 2024 1:00 am

Loving Adopted Children Well | Dr. Laura Shaler

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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March 23, 2024 1:00 am

Adoption brings unique challenges. Love and bonding don’t always come naturally. So how do you deal with the emotional distress, frustration and disappointment in an adoptive family? On this Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, co-author Dr. Laurel Shaler joins Dr. Chapman to talk about Loving Adopted Children Well. Don’t miss this Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: Loving Adopted Children Well

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Adoption is a place where joy and sorrow meet, but it's not second best.

And these children are not a backup plan. They were God's plan for our family and for the family of other adoptive homes from the very beginning. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Adoption brings unique challenges.

Love and bonding don't always come naturally. So our program today is dedicated to those who have adopted children or are considering adoption. Dr. Laurel Shaler wants to help you infuse love, hope and attachment in your family. And we are so excited about the book that Dr. Shaler and Dr. Chapman have written that is our featured resource at the website buildingrelationships.us. The title is Loving Adopted Children Well, a Five Love Language Approach. Just go to buildingrelationships.us. Gary, tell me the story behind this latest resource based on "The 5 Love Languages" .

Well, let me just say, Chris, right up front, I would not have written this book were it not for Dr. Shaler. She came to me some time ago, and she was very familiar with "The 5 Love Languages" , because she teaches in the counseling department, among other things that she does at Liberty University. And she said, you know, Gary, I really think that if we would team up together and write a book for adopted parents, and as we talked, I found out she said, I have two adopted children, plus I teach in the counseling department at Liberty. And I said, well, you know, I had not thought about writing a book, especially for adopted children. But with your experience and your training and what you're doing, I'm willing to work with you on this.

So that's the background. And I'm very, very grateful that she took the initiative to do that, because I think this book is going to help a lot of people. adopted parents. Because through the years, you know, I've had some interfacing with adopted parents, and I know some of the struggles as well as some of the joys of that journey.

So yeah, I'm excited about this book. And I really appreciate Dr. Shaler and her involvement in this. Yes, I think everybody is every parent who's listening is going to be helped by the conversation today.

But especially as you say those adoptive parents. Let's meet her. Dr. Laurel Shaler is a national certified counselor, licensed marriage and family therapist, licensed professional counselor and licensed social worker, professor at Liberty University in the Department of Counseling, Education and Family Studies, like Gary just said, we've talked with her about the book relational reset, unlearning the habits that hold you back. That's a great resource. But our featured one today is the new book loving adopted children.

Well, a five love language approach. You can find out more at Building Relationships.us. Well, Dr. Shaler, welcome back to Building Relationships.

Well, it's good to be back. Let's begin with your own journey to motherhood. Did you always think in terms of adopting but tell us a little bit about your story?

Sure, I'd be happy to. So I actually have had a passion for foster care and adoption since I was a teenager. And I didn't know what the Lord would wind up doing with that. But quite a few years into our marriage, about nine years into our marriage, my husband said to me that he wanted to adopt. And I said, Well, that's wonderful, because I've always wanted to adopt. But I knew that that's not something that I could have forced on him or pushed him into it needed, it needed to be where our hearts were in alignment about adoption. And we had not yet had a had any biological children.

We weren't told that we could not have them, but we just had not happened yet. So we began our pursuit to parenthood through adoption. And we moved forward with working with several agencies.

And it took quite a few years. And our story actually didn't wind up in involving an agency, we didn't get either of our children, either of our traditionally adopted children through connecting with them through an agency. But we, we were connected through just people. It's really incredible how our daughter who is now seven, our oldest daughter came to us, we actually connected to her through my childhood Sunday school teacher, she knew a family that needed some help with a baby that had been born. And so we were brought together. And we were able to help help out that family when our daughter was really young. And when she was about eight months old, we were given custody of her. And before she turned a year old, we finalized her adoption.

And a few years later, the attorney that helped us to adopt our daughter called us one day and said that there was a young lady that he knew that was eight months pregnant and was seeking an adoptive family for the little boy she was carrying. And he asked if we would be interested. And I said, Yes.

And he said, Well, don't you think you should ask your husband? And I said, Oh, he'll say yes. At that point, we were definitely in alignment. There was no problem.

So he, of course, was in agreement. And we met our little guy when he was three days old, and we wound up adopting him a few months later. So it was a real joy and privilege to be able to walk through that adoption process for both of those children. Let me ask you this, were the expectations that you all had about adopting a child or children, and the reality of the adoption process?

What was your your feelings and thoughts working through that process? There were definitely ups and downs through the years, it took a long time, many years before we were able to adopt our first child. And then, almost in the blink of an eye, we we adopted our son from the time we found out about him to the time he was born was only a month. With our daughter, it was years before we were able to adopt her.

So I think the expectation was that it would be an easier, simpler, shorter process than it actually was. So we had to do a lot of work digging into being patient, and to waiting on the Lord's timing was such a big part of the journey as we awaited our first child. And then with the second child being flexible and willing to just follow his his call, even if it meant, you know, a sudden upheaval in our in our lives, because at that point, you know, things were steady and routine with our daughter. And then it's like, oh, okay, in a month, we're going to add another child to not having as much time to prepare. So that was a big difference. But with expectations versus reality of the process.

Yeah. Well, as I said earlier, when you contacted me about this idea, and I saw your background, and that, you know, your professional background, and then the fact that you had adopted children, I knew that you were the person to write this book with. So what made you want to write this book? Well, actually, I first read your original book, "The 5 Love Languages" . And then as I started to read some of the other books, in particular, the one for children, I loved it.

And I thought it was so helpful and beneficial. And the one thing that I thought a number of times as I read through it is, oh, wouldn't it be neat if there was an example or two connected to families who have adopted, and maybe it would be helpful for me and for other families if we had this. And as I started exploring some of your other resources, like, for step three, or step families, blended families, and then also your book on families that have special needs children, I thought, oh, this would be, I think, a really helpful addition to this series of books for unique family circumstances.

And so that's why when I had actually met your acquisitions editor at a conference, and I got to talk with him, I started chatting with him about this idea, and the ball started rolling from there. Dr. Saller, you mentioned earlier that you had read "The 5 Love Languages" of Children, a book that I wrote a number of years ago. What is the difference between this book and that book?

Right, well, of course, the actual five love languages remain the same. It's really more about how we apply them and the examples that we provide. So we want to give practical guidance to families that have adopted. And then the other difference is that we are looking at some unique circumstances that adoptive families might have experienced and try to address those specifically. So, for example, if they have any challenging circumstances, or looking at sibling relationships, or what parents can do when maybe they don't feel a connection with these child or children that they brought into their home.

So those are some of the differences between the two books. Yeah, well, I think that's one of the highlights of this book and why it's so important is because it is going to help adoptive parents with issues that biological parents don't have. So let me ask you this. Is there a struggle for parents in using the term adopted when, you know, you don't want your child to feel anything less than, this is my child, because it is your child. What about that use of the word adopted for parents? Is that a struggle?

Yes, absolutely. And I am so passionate that it's so clear to everyone that my children are my children. And I don't walk around and say, oh, I'd like you to meet my adopted daughter. I'd like you to meet my adopted son. These are my children. And that's how I introduce them. And even in writing the book, I wanted to make that clear that the reason that we're using the term adopted is just for clarification's sake.

But in real life, we don't walk around using that term because, you know, I don't completely understand how God works, but my pastor always says God can hit straight with a crooked stick. And so the reality is that adoption is a place where joy and sorrow meet, but it's not second best. And these children are not a backup plan. They were God's plan for our family and for the family of other adoptive homes from the very beginning. And I can't explain it all, but I just know that that's the way it is.

Yeah. Well, you know, the scriptures say that we are God's adopted children, but we don't go around saying I'm God's adopted children. We say I'm the son of God.

I'm the daughter of God. Absolutely. Now, I think you mentioned earlier that you and your husband from the very beginning were on the same page with this idea of adoption. And we know that's not always true with couples. Speak to that issue.

Yeah. So I always knew that I was called to adoption that I desired to adopt, and my husband wasn't always so sure. And so I just prayed that if that was God's plan for us, that his heart would be opened. And I knew that it couldn't be about trying to, you know, push him into it or force him or convince him. So I just prayed.

And there weren't even a tremendous number of conversations. It was just that I knew that if this was meant to be, then his heart would be open to this. And he did come to me, like I said, about nine years into our marriage and said, I think that we should adopt. And I was ready to go. All right, let's go.

I've got the applications right here. It's nice when you're praying for someone, they come and tell you the answer to your prayer, right? Absolutely. Yeah, definitely God thing. Well, what about those people where that's not the case, you know, where the husband or the wife, you know, is not on the same page with them, and they're struggling with that? What would you say to that couple? Well, absolutely, they have to pray about it. And I have had this conversation with quite a few friends through the years to pray. In my experience, most of the time, it's been the husband who was not on the same page, who maybe wasn't yet comfortable with the idea.

A lot of it had to do with insecurities or with lack of knowledge. So trying to answer any of those questions for them, maybe the couple could go and see a counselor or somebody who specializes in adoption, of course, or even speak with somebody from an adoption agency to just get some questions answered. So at least they have all of the information before they make a decision. And then for the couple to spend time in prayer together. So not just that the one spouse's heart would be changed towards adoption, but that the two of them would be in one accord, and that the Lord's will would be done in their family's life. So I know it's very painful when one partner wants to adopt and the other one doesn't. But you really do need to be on the same page, because otherwise, it's not going to be the best for the child or children that come into your home. I like that idea of getting all the information you can about the adoption process. Because the more information we have, the more likely we are to make a wise decision, right?

Absolutely. I feel like you can't make a wise decision without really knowing. And just like all parenting journeys, you can't know exactly what it will be like.

But you do want to get as much knowledge as you can before moving into something as major as adopting. Well, let's talk about the various love languages. Let's take words of affirmation, for example. Speak to how this love language helps with an adopted child.

Yeah. So I think of words of affirmation as being something that you're speaking life into your child or your children. You're using words to lift them up. And sometimes children have been through experiences where words have been used against them or negatively, or maybe they just never heard anything positive. Now, in our case, our children were so young that they didn't have that experience.

But that's not the case for every family that has adopted children. When I teach my students how to be effective counselors, they have to get feedback from their fellow peers, from their fellow counselors in training. And one of the things that I've taught them is to be specific, to not just say something like, Oh, you did a good job in that counseling session, but to tell them, Well, how did you do a good job? Well, maybe you did a good job demonstrating empathy, because I could see that you cared through your facial expression.

Or you specifically used an open-ended question so that you could learn more about your client that's sitting there with you. So I think when we're parenting our children, we have to be specific with how we communicate to them. And not just talking about things like you're beautiful. I mean, I tell my daughter, she's beautiful all the time, but I also want her to hear more specific. You know, what makes her beautiful from the inside out? What is she doing that I want to encourage her to continue to do?

Or what do I really appreciate about her as a human being made in the image of God? Because these children are seeking our approval, and even a child who has been adopted from birth or from a young age might still struggle with feeling like they fit in or belong or like that their parents approve of them. So we can really use these words of affirmation to demonstrate that we are proud of them and encourage them in who they are. You know, the biblical verse that comes to my mind is Proverbs chapter 18 and verse 21 that says, life and death is in the power of the tongue.

We can kill people by the way we talk to them, or we can give them life. And the last thing we want to do is speak negative, harsh words to our children. So I think if we understand the power of words, it's so, so meaningful to that child. Absolutely. And we can teach them how to then communicate that with other people and the fact that their words matter too. The other day we were having a family conversation and my daughter said, adults have feelings too. I'm like, exactly. So helping her to learn that was an important lesson.

Yeah. Well, let's talk about physical touch. It can be difficult for some children depending on what their background has been.

How do we address this reality? Yeah, so touch is so important and oftentimes children who have been adopted, especially if they weren't adopted again very young, they may not have received enough safe touch. Or they had a change in their caregiver and sometimes it's numerous changes. And so learning how to have that safe touch from that one loving caregiver can be really important because it can stimulate that oxytocin, that love hormone. And that can help promote contentment.

It can reduce the anxiety and reduce the stress and ultimately it can keep us healthy and happier. I love how we call it hug science that this is true that hugs are healthy and can actually help your heart health and decrease the release of cortisol and those types of things. So it's really important that children are touched, safely touched, especially in the first few years of life and that we touch them just because we love them. So we know that we're going to touch them to change their diapers and to put on their clothes and to bathe them.

But do we just spend time cuddling with our children? And even my seven year old daughter loves to be held and touched and rocked. And she even likes to be squeezed. She likes that sensory input. And so she'll say, oh, squeeze me harder. This morning she was telling me that squeeze me harder.

And I said, well, I'm not a boa constrictor. So, you know, we laughed about that before she went to school. So I think we have to be mindful of the importance of touch. But as you noted, sometimes children have experienced harmful touch.

And so we have to be sensitive to children who have gone through that experience and make sure that we approach them carefully. And it doesn't mean that we just completely give up on touch, but that we learn from them what they're comfortable with. So maybe, especially if it's an older child, and maybe they don't want to be hugged as much. So maybe they'll do a fist bump or a high five.

Maybe at some point they'll give you a little side hug. So just learning what that touch looks like and how it feels safe and healthy for them is important. Yeah, I think that's really important. You know, I think sometimes parents are not aware, of course, of what has happened in that child's life in the past. You know, they've adopted a child that's older, but they don't know all the details that that child has been through. And if there has been physical abuse to that child, you know, and you can have every good intention of reaching out and hugging them and they might push you away, you know, and you're gonna say, whoa, wait a minute, what's going on here?

And that's where I think what you're talking about really is helpful. Maybe start with fist bumps and work up to a little pat on the shoulder. And as they get to know you, you know, and the bond is beginning to be made positive with you, then you'll get to the hug stage down the road. And physical touch may not be their primary language, but all children need to be touched in an affirming way.

But if they've been scarred, you know, in the past, then what you're saying is so important. Well, let's talk about gifts. Gifts and adopted children.

How does that work? Yeah, I think one of the main things I think about with gifts is the fact that we want to be careful not to overcompensate. Sometimes, and I have found this to be turned my own parenting journey, that I just want to give my children the world. I'm like, Oh, you've been through something tough, especially my daughter.

She's experienced a lot of loss. So I want to just give her the world so maybe I can, you know, buy her these things and that that will, you know, bring her some comfort or perhaps, you know, if my son is struggling with his emotions, I'm like, Oh, maybe if we go to the store and I get him a new little truck or hot wheel, he'll be happy. But the reality is we want to use gifts. We want to show our children we love them enough to buy them things that they would enjoy having.

But we don't want to do it in a way that communicates the wrong message. I give an example in the book about my daughter taking her to an estate sale and buying her a doll that was breakable. And she was really too young for that doll. But oh, she wanted it so bad. I wanted her to have it. And it looked like a doll that I'd had when I was a little girl. And oh, wouldn't that be so sweet?

And then she broke the doll on accident, of course. But it was just such an important reminder to me to not allow my feelings of trying to make things up to her, to override my common sense and to use gifts in a way that's going to be good for her. And that won't lead to any type of spoiling or like sending, communicating the wrong message to her about what gifts are really all about. I think sometimes with adopted children, we feel like if the child is begging for something and wanting something, I really want to give it to them because I want them to feel loved. And yet we can give them gifts, as you just illustrated, we can give them gifts that are not appropriate at that age. So I think we have to recognize, and particularly as children begin to grow up, they can really manipulate you or try to manipulate you to getting them something that you don't think is good for them. So I think what we have to keep in mind, what I want to do is give them a gift that's appropriate for their age and that will be good for them. And that's not always easy to determine, right?

Right. We want to give them something that's going to enrich their life or even if it's just something for fun, but it doesn't have to be the sole focus. I know that my two of my children were born in the month of December and right around Christmas. So there's a lot of gift giving going on. And sometimes what we have to look at is, well, how can we do something other than just giving gifts to give gifts, like giving something that's going to be meaningful, something that maybe it's something that they could cherish for a long time, or maybe it's something that they could use that they'll learn something that they really enjoy.

My daughter is really into science and experiments, so she loved getting things like, make your own volcano. So having those types of gifts that really communicate, hey, I see you. I know what you like. I know what you enjoy spending your time on. And I'm going to give you things that are going to be meaningful to you and then also oftentimes things that we can do together.

So then we get to add in some quality time as well. So, Gary, as you went through this material and Dr. Shaler, you worked on this book. Was there anything that surprised you or that stood out to you about adoptive parents and the differences, the different things that they face? I think, Chris, that really one of the things that really stood out to me was the fact that, you know, I have dealt with couples in the past who have adopted older children, especially.

It was just such a deep struggle for them. Of course, you know, this book deals with that as well. We're going to talk about that later. But I think that's probably one of the biggest things that that impressed me is trying to give help to those people because it can be very frustrating. And we are going to deal with that more fully in a moment. But, yeah, and I think also just recognizing that if we adopt a child that's not just been born, they have had experiences in the past and they're things that we don't know. And so we may be surprised sometimes at their response. And I think if parents can be kind of prepared for that and recognize that they may respond in a way that I'm trying to love them, but they may respond in a negative way.

It's probably tied with something that happened in their past that we're not aware of. So I think this book is going to help couples who are struggling in that area. We hope you're enjoying the Building Relationships podcast.

Tell a friend about the conversation. If you know an adoptive family that could benefit, send them to buildingrelationships.us. Our featured resource is the book by Dr. Chapman and our guest, Dr. Laurel Shaler. It's titled Loving Adopted Children Well, a Five Love Language Approach.

Find that and more at buildingrelationships.us. Dr. Shaler, in our former session, we talked about words of affirmation and physical touch and giving gifts to children. How about your observations about quality time and then later acts of service with an adopted child? Yeah, I think, of course, these two are so important for all children, but maybe in some different ways for children who have been adopted. And I think it's important that we remember that even a child has been adopted very young, that the fact they were adopted does impact their life in one way or another.

Even though we took my son home from the hospital, he had prenatal exposure that impacted his life. My daughter was two months old when we met her, but she continued to have a relationship with some of her biological relatives, including the relative that took care of her until we were able to get custody of her. And we had a shared relationship, and it was a beautiful relationship. And that precious woman who helped mother, our daughter, she's since passed away, but it was a really special relationship. And so my daughter was impacted by moving homes and also then once that relative passed away. So there's lots of impact that can happen, even if a child is adopted at a young age. So being able to spend that time together with them, I think, really communicates that they're cherished, that you love them, that you want them.

That is so important. Everybody wants to feel wanted. And when you've had a major loss in your life, especially when somebody has released you, like these children whose biological parents have either chosen to place them for adoption or, of course, sometimes they're removed from that biological parent's home because of abuse or neglect. So having that time with them really communicates that you're loved, you are wanted, and we desire to spend time with you. And I think in a similar vein, we want to do things for you. So this acts of service can be something that really communicates that message. I've shared many times that my daughter and son, even if they know how to put on their shoes, but sometimes they just want us to do it, and we'll do it to show them, like, this is in service to you. This is something that is meaningful to you and that makes you feel cared for.

And so we want to do that. Or even though these children are older and can definitely walk and run and often do run and will run away from us, sometimes they just want to be carried. It's like, OK, we'll carry you, which is great because there's physical touch and then there's also an act of service.

So I also love kind of the combination of using more than one love language at once. So hopefully that gives some ideas about some observations about this quality time and acts of service for these kiddos. Yeah, acts of service, we're rather forced to speak that language when they're little, right? We have to change diapers.

We have to put the food in and take the food out. That language, almost everyone, you're forced to speak acts of service. But the kind of things you're talking about, you know, come a little later in doing things for them. Interestingly, that maybe they are able to do for themselves, but especially if this is their primary language, they may want you to buckle their shoes or tie their shoes or, you know, some other thing that, you know, they're capable of doing so.

Right. And even when we look at the young children in the acts of service, one thing that I always try to do, even with my babies, is to say, like, you know, when I'm changing their dirty diaper, like, it's my privilege to change your diaper, like to just smile at them and to just let them know that I'm happy to do these things because I love them. So, yes, you're definitely forced. It's not always pleasant.

Sometimes it's stinky and you have to hold your nose and put on your gloves to do some of these tasks. But that it is a privilege that we get to do it. Yeah.

Yeah. Now, you know, we believe that each child does have or will have rather early in life, I normally say by the age of four, you can determine a child's primary love language. We're not trying to communicate that you only speak a child's primary love language.

Obviously, a child needs all five of these. But how did you figure out or have you figured out yet your child's love languages, primary love languages? Well, with my seven-year-old, she's so intelligent and insightful.

And so we can have really deep conversations. And so when I've talked with her and asked her some of the different questions to try to determine what is her primary love language, she makes it very clear that and one time when I asked her, she just shouted, it's words like she loves. She loves words spoken over her. She loves, you know, getting the compliments and being told, you know, how she's smart and how proud we are of her and what she's done. So I definitely feel like for her, it's words. And for my son, I don't know that that we've quite yet figured it out because I think that he enjoys all of them.

But I also think that we're starting to see, you know, some glimpses of what might be more important to him. So my older daughter, physical touch is more important to her than it is to my younger son. So he's the one that he's going to come and give you a big hug and say, I love you, mama, you're the best.

And then he's going to run away. Whereas my daughter might say, oh, can you rock me? Can you can you hug me?

Can you squeeze me? And we spend more time cuddling. So just starting to kind of figure it out as we go along. Yeah, each child is different, that's for sure. And I think, you know, ultimately we would like for that child to learn how to receive love in all five languages and learn how to give love in all five languages.

That's the goal I think that parents need to keep in mind that when this child gets older, I want them to be able to speak these languages to other people. We're preparing them for adulthood when we deal with meeting their emotional needs for love. Dr. Cher, let me ask another question I think is something that many adoptive parents are going to have to deal with. And that is, what if the adopted child comes into a family that already has biological children?

How would you counsel parents walking through this scenario? Yeah, I think it's a really important question to consider, and it can happen either way. You can have biological children first and then adopt, or you can adopt and then have biological children. And I certainly have known many families in both of those scenarios. And I've really tried to learn from them what do they view as being the best way to approach this. I think the most important thing is to just ensure that every child feels equal. Now, it's not always going to be the case where just because the parent does everything the best that they can and tries to demonstrate equality across the board, doesn't mean that every child is going to feel that way. I was at a conference once and chatting with a lady who just didn't know what else to do because she had biological children and one adopted child. And the one adopted child just always felt less than. So we talked about how she could try and make that child feel more special. And again, it's not always going to be easy and certainly also recommended counseling for that child and for the family so that they could all learn together more about adoption and the impact that adoption could have on that child's sense of self and sense of stability and safety and just her place in the family and really her place in the world. But I think that that's the best piece of advice that I can give is to just ensure that you're treating everyone equally. Dr. Scheller, in the book, we discuss embryo adoption. Now, can you speak to that issue and also maybe share your own personal experience?

Yeah, I'm thrilled to do so. So I've talked a lot about my older children who are seven and four, but I haven't yet been able to mention my baby girl who is only seven weeks at the time of this recording. So she came to our family through embryo adoption. And so she's not really shared about much in the book.

I do mention that at the time that the book was written that I was pregnant and I was expecting a baby, but I don't share as much about her. So embryo adoption is a really unique form of adoption where a couple will receive custody of an embryo that another couple is placing for adoption. The placing couple has been through in vitro fertilization and they have an embryo or multiple embryos that, for whatever reason, they're not able to have transferred into the biological mother. Sometimes it's because there's an excess of embryos and it would just not be possible for the biological mother to have all of these embryos transferred.

It could be age, it could be a health problem, any number of reasons. And so in our case, we received an embryo, a frozen embryo, and I was able to move forward with having that embryo transferred, a frozen embryo transfer. So she was transferred into my body and I was able to carry her. And I explained it to my older daughter that we just adopted another baby, but she was so small you couldn't even see her. And it's really amazing to think about the fact that we would have had to have a microscope to see her when we adopted her. And now she is a seven week old baby and she definitely makes her presence known now.

So it's been a really exciting and remarkable journey. Yeah, that is a very different type of adoption, but certainly an adoption. You would think, theoretically, that carrying that embryo, that baby, for those nine months would give that child more of an emotional connection to the mother.

Do you think that's true or not? I think there are definitely some differences between traditional adoption and embryo adoption. One is you're able to create this environment of safety for your child. And I'm not saying that every child that's been placed for adoption did not have a safe prenatal experience, but many times they do. And in the case of my older two children, their experience when they were in utero was definitely not safe or healthy for them. So I know that our youngest child had a safer experience because of how I chose to live out my pregnancy without the use of drugs or alcohol, tobacco. I was able to go to all my medical appointments and take prenatal vitamins and exercise and try to eat the right foods, sometimes easier said than done. But definitely that experience was different, and so it has definitely made a difference in the infancy experience for our daughter.

So that's one major difference. And as far as the connections, you know, of course, she's still so young and I feel so connected to my older children. But I also recognize that not everybody who adopts feels that way. I think we have to be realistic that sometimes parents bring home a child by adoption and they don't feel as connected to that child. And I think if we ignore that, then we're just setting them up for failure and setting parents up to feel guilty and shame and to not want to pursue help, when really we should be encouraging them to pursue all the avenues that they can so they can feel better attached to their children. Because building attachment is possible, even if you did not give birth to a child, even if it's not your biological child. You can build a healthy attachment, a secure attachment. But if you're not willing to talk about the lack of attachment or not feeling love for that child, then there's no way for anybody to help you.

So those are kind of some of my initial thoughts about it. I think for me so far, one of the differences is I feel like, oh, I'm so used to having my baby with me because I carried her, you know, for nine months. And I'm like, I need her to be with me. So it feels a little bit more foreign even for somebody else to hold her because I'm like, oh, but she's mine. She was just, you know, it's a little bit surreal, you know, even the fact that they go from being inside of your womb to outside of your body.

So there was definitely that piece that I experienced with her. But with my older kids, again, I have been very fortunate, blessed. I'm thankful that for me, it was love at first sight with these kiddos. But I want to, you know, again, honor the fact that it's not that way for all parents and we want to help them to build that attachment.

Yeah. Let's go back to the love languages in terms of building that attachment. What difference have you seen using "The 5 Love Languages" make in your own children as well as others that you've talked with who have used the principles of the love languages?

Yeah, I love that it's a foundation that you can build your parenting around. You know, we make it clear in this book that this is not about, you know, other aspects of parenting. We don't talk about discipline or, you know, challenging behaviors.

You know, we don't address that. But how can we just demonstrate love? And how can we demonstrate the grace towards ourselves and towards our children, even in the way that we communicate love for them? And I've met so many adoptive families, whether it's now an adult adoptee who is sharing their story or whether it's a parent who has adopted. And sometimes it's both. I mean, it's really neat to talk to somebody who was adopted and then goes on to adopt and to hear their perspective having been on both sides, so to speak, and how they're able to use these love languages.

Again, it's just a foundation. When they don't know what to do, I don't know how else to best, you know, help my child. Okay. Well, how are you spending time with your child?

Let's talk about that. How are you, you know, okay, you're a stay-at-home mom, but maybe there's quantity time, but is there quality time? Do you take time out of your day-to-day routine of cleaning the house and getting the groceries and all of these things to sit down and play for 20 minutes uninterrupted where your child gets to be the boss and gets to say, hey, hey, mama, let's go outside and you can swing me on the swing, or hey, dad, can we go and throw a baseball, or can you help me learn to ride my bike today, or whatever the case may be, but really investing that time with them. And again, it's important for every child, and I'm not trying to, again, not trying to other children who have been adopted, but just trying to express that there are some differences. And so we want to make sure that we use these love languages to communicate that this child is valued and wanted, and that they may have had past experiences that have been traumatic even, and overwhelming or stressful, just painful, and they may not even always remember everything that they've gone through, but it's there.

There's a book called The Body Keeps the Score, and the title is self-explanatory, that our bodies oftentimes retain the stress that we've been through unless we deal with it and cope with it in a way that's healthy. So having parents who are loving is going to be such an important key in overcoming our past difficulties. Dr. Scheller, talk to the adoptive parent who's discouraged. You know, the expectations were not met that the parent had, you know, and they're really struggling in raising an adopted child.

What would you say to them? I think the first thing I would want to do is just look into that parent's eyes and say, You are not alone. I think that, as I was kind of talking about earlier, when somebody feels ashamed or they feel guilt for how they're feeling, then they're not going to reach out for help. And we want to encourage families who have had adoption as a part of their story. We want these parents to reach out for help when they're struggling.

Everybody needs support, and certainly if you have been through an adoption, you know that you need support. I've been really fortunate to befriend parents who have been in this adoptive parenting journey longer than me, and I reach out to them and learn from them about how to manage difficult things that come up. You know, there are things that come up in our household that don't come up in non-adoptive families. So, for example, if one of my children wants to ask me a question about their biological family and why they were adopted or, you know, what happened in their past.

You know, these are things that we have to wrestle with and how to communicate in an age-appropriate way. And so sometimes the background, the past of those kiddos can be so difficult for an adoptive parent that they do start to feel discouraged. That maybe they thought that if they just loved their child well enough, then all the difficulty would go away. The maladaptive behaviors would stop. They wouldn't develop this disorder or that disorder.

But the reality is that that may not be the case. And so we want to be encouraging to get help. Seek out early intervention. You know, as a licensed mental health professional, I'm so supportive of early intervention.

Don't wait. The second that you see a struggle, seek out a counselor. Seek out an occupational therapist.

Talk to your pediatrician. But also get counseling for yourself. Get family counseling. Talk to somebody who's been in this journey longer than you. Go to a support group. And in turn, at some point down the road, maybe you can then become that support system for other families. I've loved being able to talk to others who are interested in adopting, who are considering pursuing adopting, and giving them some tips and things to think through as they consider this path for their own family. But I just want to, again, encourage everybody who's struggling, don't give up. You're doing a good thing. You've been called to this.

God will supply all of your needs, and you just have to continue to lean into him. You touched upon this a bit there in answering that question, but let me ask this. What advice would you give to prospective adoptive parents?

They're thinking about this, haven't decided yet. What would you say to them? First and foremost, I just, again, cannot emphasize enough the need to pray. Make sure that God really is calling you to adoption because it is a hard journey, and it's important that you're aware of the difficulties that could come up.

So get all the education. Talk to families who have adopted before you. There's many excellent books that I encourage folks to read so that they can be prepared. And I would also encourage them to just do their homework about all the different adoptive methods and to make sure that they're choosing a path that is going to be best for their family. Whether it's through an adoption agency, make sure that you do your homework on agencies because there are some wonderful ones and there are some that are not. So make sure you do your homework, that you're talking with families that have utilized these services in the past, and just making sure that even from the very beginning that you have a good start to your adoption journey. You're never going to be completely prepared. Like we said earlier, all parenting is a challenge, and you're never completely prepared to parent. But you want to have as much information as possible and to have that support network built up and ready to step in and help you as you move into this.

Well, great advice. I've enjoyed writing this book with you, and I want to thank you, Dr. Shaler, for being with us today on Building Relationships. Well, I'm so thankful to you as well, and I've just enjoyed being here. What a great conversation with Dr. Shaler today. The title of our resource, again, is loving adopted children well, the five love language approach. It's written by Dr. Chapman and our guest, Dr. Laurel Shaler. Find out more at buildingrelationships.us.

Again, go to buildingrelationships.us. And next week, your questions about the relatable struggles you're going through. Don't miss our Dear Gary broadcast for March and call us with your question at 1-866-424-GARY. A big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-23 02:25:59 / 2024-03-23 02:43:59 / 18

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