Strengthening Your Marriage

 

As many people have experienced, children can put stress on a marriage relationship.  In fact, research shows that marriage satisfaction decreases after a couple has their first child.  Adopting a child, can create even more pressure on a marriage.  You may have already experienced infertility or other losses that has created stress.  You may also be anxious as you wait for a child, which is often out of your control.

Then, of course, once the child enters the home, there are the concerns related to the child and the child’s background. Because any adopted child has some uncertain background concerns, you are required to take pre-adoptive education.  This education will include attachment-informed parenting.  Such training is to help you improve the relationship with your child and help your child to heal from trauma, including the trauma caused by pre-natal injuries such as exposure to drugs/alcohol and maternal stress, and in addition to the more obvious traumas such as abuse and neglect.

While you are learning more about attachment-parenting, you can use this same type of training to also improve your marriage. Not only is a stronger marriage always better for the child who will enter your home, but the way that you improve your marriage can also be the means by which you can be a better parent to your adopted child.  In fact, the marriage counseling that has been scientifically proved to be the most effective is called Emotionally Focused Couples Therapy, and was developed by Susan Johnson.  Dr. Johnson is perhaps the foremost expert on attachment and marriage, and her book Hold Me Tight, and accompanying workbook, provide an easy to understand and step by step means to creating a closer more loving relationship.  If each spouse is more connected to each other, this leads to each one also becoming more securely attached.

For those wanting a book from a more Christian-based perspective, there are two excellent books by the Yerkoviches How We Love and How We Love Our Kids.  The first book provides attachment-based marriage strategies, and the latter, attachment parenting skills.  This husband and wife team compels us as Christians to look at our past to heal our futures.

Another book, specifically designed to help couples draw closer together and weather any storm and written from a Christian perspective, is Safe Haven Marriage by Archibald D. Hart and Sharon Hart Morris.  Certainly adopting a child from difficult circumstances can create some serious demands, and you will want to be well-prepared to navigate calmly the unexpected pressures.

The connection between having a strong marriage and being effective parents to an adopted child goes beyond just creating a stable home environment.  A strong marriage can create two securely attached individuals who can help their child to also become securely attached. An adopted child—especially one from a difficult past—cannot become any more securely attached than the parents.

Therefore, even if you did not have an ideal past, which may have resulted in your being less than securely attached, you can change to become what is called an “earned” securely attached person. There is further good news.  If you become securely attached as a result of the marriage and individual changes you make, studies show that you will be even a more empathetic parent than if you did come from a healthier background.   The even better news is that your adopted child is more likely to become securely attached.  Remember your adopted child can only become securely attached if you, the parents, are securely attached as well.

Learning to become a more empathetic listener and responder not only will bring you more aligned in what the Gospel calls us to be to others, but will also allow you to become more securely attached—meaning our families can also be stronger.

As with the effort that you have invested into adopting a child, improving your marriage will take time and resources.  And like adopting a child, there are priories that needed to be rearranged.

 

 

 

*If you would like to begin today to learn some practical  strategies that have  incorporated attachment-based  methods into their marriage, take a look at some of the book suggestions above and maybe even consider visiting the Smalley Institute  https://www.smalleyinstitute.com/  which provides a free couples communication course.

Waiting For a Child: How do I Pray?

When I started an adoption agency, 20 years ago, I soon learned that the most difficult part of the adoption journey for adoptive parents was the wait.  One of the first programs included adoptions from Ukraine.  Families traveled to Ukraine to select their child. Often these families experienced delays in their anticipated date of travel to Ukraine, where they identified and adopted their children.  These were truly blind matches.  Each one of these children had to be on a registry for at least one year.  Many times families who had a minor delay in getting to Ukraine found out that their children had just “come off the registry.”  If the parents had traveled just a week earlier, their child may not have been available. Once the parents realized this reality, they knew why God had allowed them to have a glitch, such as  finger-printing delays or waiting for a doctor’s letter.

Parents who have adopted domestically and have waited “too long” to be matched with an expectant mother or who have been matched only to have the birth mother change her mind, know all to well the range of emotions that comes with being passed by as the expectant mom selects another couple—or worse—watch as the baby goes home with a mom who may not be ready to parent while the couple  tearfully leaves the hospital with an empty car seat…Yet, when they finally receive their baby, they then understand and often say, “She was worth the wait.”

These stories have happy endings, and within a few months if not any more than a few years, the parents understand why there were delays and even rejections and denials.  But how do parents pray when they struggle to understand why a child waits in an orphanage while the country, which has decided to “become Hague-compliant” puts adoptions on hold, causing scores of children to languish in orphanages instead of thriving in loving families? How can the parents of these children see God’s perfect outcome when we all know that children belong in families and not malnourished and alone in orphanages?

Giving answers to provide hope for these parents is more than quoting a Bible verse.  For 20 years, I have hesitated to writing such words in how to pray while the parents wait. Here is one reason for my hesitation: a long-gone agency would send a list of Bible verses to waiting families that  I sensed had the overtone of “you are just not praying enough, and your impatience is sinful.”  I always felt that “telling” families how to pray was patronizing and did not send a message of empathy.

As waiting parents, we know that God cares for the orphan and unborn child, but how do we reconcile God’s care for this child yet the adoption is delayed or thwarted? More specifically, we each may ask, “How do I pray for my child and his adoption, knowing God is sovereign?”  After all, “He does whatever He pleases” (Psalm 115:3).

Perhaps it is not in the understanding of the delays or denials in adoption that should direct our prayers. Neither is it understanding the dashed expectations that come with receiving a child who has more serious medical problems, or unknown cognitive and developmental delays, or greater emotional issues than anticipated. Rather, it is knowing that God has a plan—whether we know or even like that plan.

Not only have we been told God has a plan, but we also know the character of God. This understanding of God rather than the circumstances enables us to pray for the child for whom we long.

So what do we know about God as we pray for our child?

First, we read in Ephesians 1:3-5 that God chose us for adoption in Him.  If God is in control of our adoption in Him, then he, likewise, is in control of our children’s adoptions. We also know from a few verses down, in Ephesian 1:11, that He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will.

God now only has a will and purpose for each one of us—starting with our glorifying Him—but He also has a will for waiting children.  In fact, God has a special place and concern for orphans.

10 Ways to Practically Praying For My Child’s Adoption

  1. Ask God to prepare your heart and minds for your child in realistic and practical ways.
  2. Ask others to pray. God can use these prayers to make your friends and family more sensitive to the plight of orphans, and the needs of birth parents.
  3. Pray that God would protect your child’s body, heart, and mind.
  4. Pray for your child’s salvation.
  5. Pray for your child’s birth parents.  You may never know your child’s birth parents living in another country, God knows who they are.  Pray for their salvation, their comfort, and their needs.
  6. Pray for government officials in Washington and abroad. So many delays and country closings are caused by those who sit in high places (Proverbs 21:1).
  7. Pray for the details of the adoption that God would enable the process to go smoothly according to His will. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. (Proverbs 19:21).
  8. Pray for those who work on your adoption. We need good health, strong minds, and resourcefulness to accomplish the tasks at hand.  The evil one would does not desire children to be in homes.
  9. Pray for your marriage and that during this time, you and your spouse will grow closer together.
  10. Pray that the adoption process would go smoothly and quickly.

Don’t Give Up on Those Healthy Resolutions!

After the holidays, it’s normal for families to start resolutions to get healthy again–especially after Christmas and New Year’s, where treats pop up everywhere, and cold weather means bundling up under the blankets and watching a movie or two. Once you’re ready to start fresh, staying active is a common and helpful resolution.

For adoptive families there’s a reason why staying active shouldn’t just be a new year’s goal. An active lifestyle has proven to help heal trauma in adopted children.

What is Trauma? Trauma disrupts your body’s equilibrium, freezing you in a state of hyper-arousal and fear. Essentially, your nervous system gets “stuck”. Trauma can be caused by a lot of different situations like a one-time event like abuse, ongoing relentless stress from living in an area that isn’t safe or where food and water isn’t plentiful, and the loss of a significant relationship like a birth parent. Often children who were adopted come from one or more of those types of situations.

Children who have experienced trauma at any age will need help from their adoptive family getting “unstuck” from their trauma, no matter what age they experienced it.

How Does Exercise Help? Studies have shown that exercise and movement can help your nervous system become “unstuck.” Exercise that is rhythmic and engages both your arms and legs—such as walking, running, swimming, basketball, martial arts, or even dancing—works best. This is a great activity for families to do together, and even helps with bonding. The more you can make exercise a family routine and habit the more you can help your child begin to heal from their childhood trauma.

Dance party anyone?

 

*please note that exercise should not be your only approach to addressing adoption trauma with your child(ren). If you have concerns about adoption trauma you should work with a mental health professional to make a plan that is tailored to your child’s unique experience and needs.

Is This Your Year To Adopt?

It’s that time of year again. Time to set goals, organize your life, and start fresh with the new year! Many couples decide that adoption might be one of the goals for the next year. Is this your year to adopt?

Of course a decision this big is not something that can be made simply by a resolution; research and action are both crucial steps to helping a goal become a reality. You may want to ask yourself some important questions to help decide what type of adoption you might want to pursue:

 

  • What age of child are we thinking about adopting? You may be surprised to find that the majority of adoptions that take place are not infants, but older children that are anywhere between the ages of 3-18.

 

  • What is our financial limit for an adoption process? Different types of adoption come with different costs, from travel costs to legal expenses and everything in between. You will want to start making a goal to save up, and consider if you are comfortable with fundraising, adoption grants or loans. Planning this important factor out will help you make this resolution a reality.

 

  • What type of adoption are you wanting to pursue? Adoption doesn’t come in one shape or size. Nightlight has several adoption programs available: including the Snowflakes embryo adoption program, international adoption, domestic infant adoption, and even foster care and adoption. Watch the video below to learn more about each program so you can begin to plan your adoption journey.

 

Learn more: Nightlight’s Program Overview