One of the things that foster and adoptive parents need to pay attention to is their marriage.
Parenting, in general, can put a strain on a marriage, but that strain is magnified when parenting a child who has gone through trauma. Here are a few thoughts I have about that.
1) Make sure you are both on board and have a realistic idea of what you are taking on before you start.
This is a big deal. Every family I have talked to has said the wife was the first to feel called to foster or adopt and it took a while for the husband to be on board. This seems to be the normal response, so if you are in the pre-stages of this process let me emphasise the importance of both of you being completely on board. If it takes longer for both of you to feel comfortable with the idea, then take that time. This is a foundation that is completely necessary. It can be tempting to try and guilt your husband or wife to be ready, but this is not fair. Do not proceed until you both really are ready for parenting children with trauma.
This means making sure you have a realistic idea of what you are signing up for. Visit some families who have parented children with trauma so you can have a clear vision of what you are saying yes to. Also, visit families with fetal alcohol syndrome or drug exposure. When you start the foster, and adoption process you will need to express if you are able and willing to parent children who have been exposed to alcohol or drugs prenatally. We desperately need families who are willing and able to parent these children, however agreeing to something you are not both willing or able to do will hurt both the children and your marriage.
So... make sure both of you have a realistic idea of what you are signing up for, and you are both excited and ready for it.
My husband and I have a weekly date night. I can't express how important this is. I know it seems impossible but let me tell you how we have done it. When our girls were little we did a few things.
At one point we had a teenage girl who came every Thursday for two hours. She loved that she had a regular babysitting gig, our girls loved having her. For children who need to know what is happening, It is important to have the same person and the same day and at the same time. Some foster agencies require a police check for all babysitters, if your agency has this requirement it will be helpful to have the same person every week.
For a year we had our girls all signed up for a 2-hour gymnastics course at the same time. This gave us our date night and the girls had a great time in their class. My youngest is now a competitive gymnast so that idea paid off.
For a few months, we did a trade-off. I babysat for another family one week, and the next week they babysat for me. The downside to this is date night becomes every other week.
Now our girls are all teens and we can leave them home. We have been doing weekly date nights for six years!
Rules for the date night.
No talking about kids unless it is something positive.
Don't bring up anything that you fight about.
Don't break the bank, this isn't about a fancy night out, this about spending time together.
Have fun. This is a fun night out. Fun is the key.
Some ideas. -
pick a favorite coffee place. If you go often on the same night the people get to know you, and that is always nice.
Go for a walk and get some ice cream.
Go bowling and make a bet. This is even better if you add a sexual component to the bet... winners choice?
We started this about ten years ago. One weekend away is amazing. We stay within a two-hour drive in case we need to get back for an emergency. Our girls have had weekends with grandparents, and they love it.
4) Be O.K. with having different parenting ideas.
You're going to both be frustrated, your going to have different ideas of how to handle situations. Try different things, and know that your husband or your wife is trying. Talk through your parenting ideas, (not on a date night) and be open to an idea that is different than your idea.
For my husband and I, it is God, books, and politics. We talk about what we are reading, and will often read the same books. We both love politics and in today's world, there is always a lot to talk about.
So there are five things that have helped our marriage stay strong. - We both agreed to the process before we started it. We have a date night once a week. We go away for one weekend a year. We respect each others parenting ideas. We have things in common that have nothing to do with our children.
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