Help With Loving Older, Hurt, Adopted Children

Moved From Home to Home

Imagine a knock at the door and encountering a visitor that instructs you to pack your bags while informing you that you will no longer be living with your family or in your home. After tears, hugs, and goodbyes, you are loaded into a car and delivered to a temporary home for an undetermined amount of time. You are confused about being snatched from all that you know. Envision the fear, the pain, the homesick feelings and not being able to call home for comfort and answers.

The temporary home provides all the necessities, except for the most critical need…love. Like all the future homes to come, this new home has different house rules, but the feelings of abandonment and isolation will be the same in each. The desirable attributes of honesty, respect, and trustworthiness will be delayed to hone skills for self-protection…lying, stealing, anger, and, manipulation. You don’t set out to perfect these new traits, but they develop anyway.

Time passes, and the visitor moves you again. She informs you that this is the final move and will be your permanent home. She dashes all hopes and dreams of you being reunited with your “real” family. Anger compounds the feelings of abandonment and isolation. You, however, have perfected talents that you will employ in the “forever home.” You have refined the skills of building walls around your heart, distrusting authority figures, and disconnecting from everything that brings pleasure. You are too young to recognize these behaviors as unhealthy, but you do recognize that the “big” people in your life are unhappy with these talents and skills.

Hurt, Pain, and Brokenness

Social Services introduced my husband and me to several of our children at this period of their life. We welcomed a four, six, seven, and nine-year-old into our home, all within thirty days of one another. I would like to say that I was well equipped to handle these additions and that I marched ahead with no hesitations. I wasn’t well equipped, and I’m not convinced that the average person can be well equipped for all of the hurt, pain, and brokenness that we confronted. Bottomline, it didn’t matter how unprepared I was; we had become a family, and I was committed to becoming the best that we could be.

In an earlier post, I shared that I not only wanted to be my adopted children’s mother, I wanted to be their mommy of choice, but at the beginning of our new-formed family, I had my doubts that I would ever fill this place in their hearts. I had visions and dreams of giggles and bubbles, warm blankets and story time, rollicks on the beach, hikes in the woods, and Christmastime where “the children were nestled all snug in their beds, While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads”…yada yada yada. Instead, I spent most of my time trying to navigate bad attitudes, sneakiness, distrustful looks, and anger.

I began questioning what was wrong with me. Not only did I not enjoy the new additions to our family, I doubted my ability to love them. I found myself googling, “Loving older, adopted children,” “Why is my love not growing for my older, adopted children,” “ What is wrong with me, help me love my older, adopted children.” I found nothing but happy stories with happy endings.

The lack of information to validate my feelings was not comforting. I felt ashamed and afraid. I didn’t want to voice my thoughts to anyone because I was fearful of their reaction. I had an incredible church family with great support, but I didn’t share my secret. My thoughts embarrassed me.

I was crying out to God one afternoon while walking to the mailbox. I was asking God to mend my heart and to fill it with love for my children. I asked for forgiveness for not being the woman and mother that He had trusted me to be. I begged and pleaded for help.

God’s Help

We often got newsletters from our adoption agencies, and that day was one of those days. On the front page of the newsletter was an adoptive mother’s story. This adoptive mother of an older child had suffered the same concerns as me, and she shared her experience.

This mother shared that her home was peaceful and calm before adopting her early-elementary-aged son. She indicated that she had had sweet and intimate times with her twelve-year-old daughter as she walked her to and from the bus; family dinners were calm and a time of sharing; and bedtimes were quiet. When they introduced the son into the family, his screams and tantrums disrupted all. She, too, questioned her ability to love, and she voiced this to a close friend. The friend counseled her to fake it and make him believe that he was loved. The friend encouraged the adoptive mother to speak, look, touch, and act like the son was much wanted because the son deserved and needed this mother to respond to his brokenness with love. The mother agreed to do it, and she began to fake love.

I knew that I, too, could do this, I could fake love, and I set out to do just that. I prayed that my children would see Christ in my facial expressions, hear Christ in my tone and feel Christ in my touch. When I would look at my children, I tried to look at them as if there was no one more important. My tone whispered pleasure, and my touch expressed love. I’m not sure when the transition happened, but one day I realized it was no longer fake. I loved my new children.

These new additions are mine, and they fill up my world with all I could ever hope for. I am their mother, and they are my children. My heart is full, and I don’t have fake it.

God answered my prayer. I’m just being real.

How to Save a Marriage


In the early years of my marriage, my husband and I would often attend marriage enrichment seminars. Sometimes we gleaned life-changing information, and sometimes we merely received nuggets that we stored away for future use. At one such event, there was a story shared that has stuck with me, and I tend to draw from it regularly.

Without divulging sensitive and private information, the Christian therapist hosting the event shared a story of a wife considering divorce. The wife felt ignored and ill-treated. She was angry and finished. The therapist, with an ulterior motive, encouraged her to stay with her husband for a while longer and thoroughly serve him before she left. The idea was to make the husband miss her when she was gone and regret the poor treatment. She agreed to the charade.

The therapist ran into the wife several months later and asked if she had been successful at leaving her husband. She was bothered that he would think such a thing because her husband was a wonderful man and they now had a sensational marriage.

I don’t recall if this is a true story or if the therapist later communicated that the story was fabricated. What I do know is that I caught the message; “Love is patient, love is kind…it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Cor 13: 4,5). I like what R. J Palacio said in Wonder, “If we have to choose between being right and being kind, choose kind.” I am a fiery and feisty woman, and I often have to guard against seeking my own. I’m just being real.

An Adoptive Mother Desires to be Loved


My husband and I have been blessed with the adoption of six children. Some of these gifts came as newborns and some as older children. Our pre-adoption counselor “warned” us about the hearts of older children. He conveyed that their hearts belonged to another mother and another father. He made sure that we understood that they would love someone else. He wanted us to understand that the mind of a child doesn’t comprehend the opportunities given by a loving adoptive family because the heart of a child will want to go “home.” He explained that the unfavorable conditions in which a child was removed didn’t factor into the child’s desires. The circumstances that they came from was what they knew, what they were comfortable with, and the conditions that they would willingly return. He encouraged us to look at the adoption of older children as a Christian service.

When your heart yearns for children and when you want so desperately to have children, you may try and convince yourself that fulfilling a Christian service will be enough. If you are the quality of person that can die to yourself and serve with abandon without expectations of a return, then when I grow up, I want to be like you. Truth is, I quickly discovered that I wanted to be loved. I wanted to be my adopted child’s mother, their mommy of choice. I became desperate for it. In hindsight, I should have known that “service” wasn’t my goal at the time. I’m just being real.