I read somewhere the other day that a hug lasting 20 seconds or more releases tons of endorphins in one's body. I have been trying to hug more, just for that reason. I am going to try and keep up the practice even as we move into hot weather. I am also going to remind myself every day that teenagers need hugs and love - indeed, it's the miracle therapy.
I don't really like to get parenting advice from men because inevitably when I mention issues I am having with one of my teenagers they just say "Well tell them to straighten up or hit the road." So kicking a kid out of the house will solve everything. Men tend to see everything as black/white or ON/OFF - they are not complicated and nuanced in their thinking, much of the time. Women tend to be more willing to dig deeper into a complex solution or an unusual solution, in my experience.
When I was having major issues with my daughter years ago I couldn't let her continue to live here with us. I cried for months over that decision but I just couldn't see an alternative. She kept saying, too, that she didn't want to live here. I took a lot of criticism from non-adoptive parents over that choice but they simply didn't understand what I was dealing with. Many adoptive moms of older children have had to make the same terrible decision. It's just impossible sometimes to reason with a teenager who views adults as the enemy - particularly adults called "Mom" or "Dad" because these kids are so skeptical of those terms. There's no legacy of trust. Sometimes there's no really deep emotional bond as you usually have with birth children. Older adopted kids often see lying as perfectly normal, natural, and OK. I cannot bear it when someone lies to me. It just tears me up.
We've been having some issues with Michael recently and I can't be specific because I want to protect his privacy. However, the huge improvement I have seen in him in just the past couple of weeks has been an answer to thousands of prayers.
I wasn't going to kick him out - not ever. Lying is not the issue, as it was with my daughter. However, plenty of my guy friends would just say "kick him out" if I asked for advice. So I quit asking them, finally.
Responding with love gets you much further with kids like mine, even though it's incredibly hard sometimes.
For an older adopted child, particularly one like my son whose earliest years were filled with homelessness, neglect, and abuse, the transition to adulthood is terrifying. When your first memories are of overwhelming insecurity and fear, you fear the thought of being on your own. I can look back now, with the benefit of hindsight, and see what was happening with my kids as teenagers. [Mike will be 20 this summer.] I also rely on the blogs of other adoptive moms because it's oddly comforting to see that it's not just our kids, it's everybody's kids acting out. We usually see a kid around age 16-18 just go off the rails. [Yes, I know most teens can be a hand full but older adopted teens are far worse.]
Fear causes acting-out behaviors.
I have 3 friends who are adoptive moms of older teen daughters who just in the past 6 months have become grandmothers because their daughters got pregnant out of wedlock. I pray for those mamas and babies every day. It's hard enough being a parent, period, but a parent at 19? 20? With no education or decent job? Lord, have mercy.
What floors us, always, is the notion that our kids think they are worthless. The girls want babies because they want someone to love THEM - not realizing anything about parenting, of course. The boys act out differently.
Michael has just been very angry in the past couple of years. Thank goodness he is getting over that phase.
Michael said to me on Friday, "Why are you so nice to me? Every time you are nice and loving to me I wonder why." I wanted to cry. "I am nice to you because you DESERVE it, son. Everybody makes mistakes. It doesn't mean you don't deserve love. You're a smart, good, kind guy."
What makes me want to cry the most is that I had been truly delusional in my thinking that 9 years of living here in a pretty stable, normal home would have erased the damage done to him by his early years. It didn't. The early damage had left him with zero -- and I mean ZERO -- self esteem.
I don't know of any magic answers to any of this. I can only tell you this: loving our kids when they are going through this phase is far better than anything else. IF we, as parents, can keep calm, no matter what, our kids will benefit the most. Maybe the tough-love drill sergeant approach works best with some kids, but not with ours. Our kids need love and understanding piled on, as much as possible, because that's when we witness miracles.
Our kids need calm, peaceful conversations where they don't have to be defensive.
Our kids need a lot of hugs.
Our kids need constant reassurance that they ARE worthy of love. The future can be bright. There is joy in the world, if they look for it.
Faith really helps. Faith shines the light that nothing else can. Over and over the bible says DON'T WORRY! PRAY! [Phillipians 4:6] so in these days of witnessing my son struggle, I pray constantly. I pray when I'm working in the garden. I pray when I'm cooking. I pray when I'm listening to music. Usually it's just a heartfelt God please help us. I don't think it has to be formal. I tell Michael all the time, if things are stressful, PRAY. [Of course, he has finals next week. I want him to pray but I also told him he needs to study NOW.]
Love and prayer. Those are the engines of peace and miracles.