Handicap. Special Needs. Exceptional. Medically Fragile. There are different ways people try to label or explain situations like our daughter, Macayla. The designation is important as it keeps us aware, aware that everyone's needs are a little different.
Children like Macayla have uncommon needs. It is not common to need a feeding tube, wheelchair, or anticonvulsants. I guess that is why I prefer the term "special needs."
We are experiencing other uncommon needs. Adopted children struggle in ways that are uncommon in one sense, but in another sense, their needs are ones to which we can all relate....
Adopted children often struggle to form relationships or bond. They often have baggage from the past that impacts their development emotionally and intellectually. "Normal" or "common" approaches do not always prove successful with them. They will "freak out" or "blow up" over unexpected things, however it is often not the things themselves but an underlying anxiety or misinterpretation that is driving their behavior.
Adoption has certainly challenged our parenting modus operandi. However, the reality is that we all have hangups, hurts, and habits. Anxiety, lack of trust, anger, control, and selfishness impact us all in various ways. Our past experience can cloud our understanding of truth. Our desire for control and lack of trust can impede relationships.
This helps us with the kids and their needs. Anxiety has a way of feeding itself. When the kids are faced with problems they don't fully understand yet, they can easily freak out and fill in the blanks with all sorts of troubling scenarios and ideas. The solution is to go back to what is true.
Truth has a way of starving anxiety. We have to ground our kids with what they actually know and show them how it helps with what they don't know yet. By this I mean they are learning to first focus on the blanks that have already been filled. Like on a test, the answers we already know can help us with questions we have yet to answer. So, we return our focus to the fact they are loved and in their "forever" family. God has a plan for them that is better than any plan we could come up with on our own. We will provide them with what they need, not everything they want. We love them and we are for them!
We continually remind them of these truths, but it may not enough in a specific situation, so we find ourselves having to dismantle the inaccuracies, lies, and misunderstandings their anxiety has produced in their minds. We still use truth to do this, but it is specific to whatever false idea they have created. For example:
There are other, more severe examples we have heard from our children. They have created whole scenarios of awful possibilities that are not true. Unfortunately, we don't learn of these sometimes until they erupt into some sort of negative behavior. Even then, we wind them back down with truth.
Truth has to be repeated many times before it sinks in with these kids. We are "blue in the face" from repetition, but we are beginning to see some results. Most of us "sophisticated and mature" adults have this same need. It is more common than we want to admit. We need to know the truth. We need to stop our freak-out-fill-in-the-blank fest! We can know the truth, and it will indeed set us free! And I have this truth from a great authority.