When you take a child into your home from a disadvantaged environment, you never really know what you will get. Depending upon the circumstances, odds are good that your new housemate has a lack habit. When a child is raised in an environment of not enough (not enough love, not enough food, not enough nurture) they develop a shell and a lack habit. They see everything through lack-colored glasses. Until they change this perception, nothing you do will ever be enough–and that’s okay. The only defense for a big lack attack is acceptance.
When I got my bonus child (our middle child’s best friend) for Christmas in 2010, I wasn’t sure how she would fare. All I was sure of is that it was the right thing to do. She needed a stable home, and we had one to give. I had always wanted to be a foster parent, so this seemed like a heaven sent opportunity to help a child without all the red tape. What I didn’t realize was how much she would help me while we were helping her. She came from an environment where adults were not dependable. As a result, she was always waiting for us to disappoint her. For the first three months she lived with us, we rarely saw her except at mealtime. I spent a lot of time and energy fighting this. I wanted to fix her immediately, because I knew from personal experience how painful it was to be raised in an environment of lack. I wanted her to “just get over it, already” and learn that we were here to support her. I refused to accept that she was still wearing lack glasses.
When I finally realized that my pushing her to be different was cementing her in the same place, I tried something new. I tried acceptance. I stopped treating her like she was a fragile flower and started treating her like one of my own. I accepted that her lack glasses were hers to put on and take off, and I had little to no influence on that. I put the energy that I had been spending on worry into building up my own self-esteem, by practicing self-care. I discovered that her lack habit was bringing up my own, so I began filling my own well. I started making things with my hands, listening to music while I worked, and exercising and eating well. These were all things that were in my control. I was showing her how to live a full life through leading by example. Since I wasn’t harping on her or pushing her to be happy, she felt less attacked and more secure. I noticed that she started hanging out with us when it wasn’t dinnertime. I knew my plan had come to fruition when she said to me one day, “Mom, I realized today that people are really good, like through and through.” She decided to take off her lack glasses and see the love.
When you take a child from a dicey environment into your own home, it is understandable for you to worry about the transition. It is understandable for you to want to control the outcome, because you want to give this child the best possible opportunity for success. However, all of that control will seem like interference to a child who is used to adults who don’t have their best interest at heart. Just because you come from a place of love doesn’t mean that the control feels any less controlling. Kids who come from an environment of lack are used to feeling that it’s them against the world, and they may see you as just another person who wants to change them. If you can accept them as they are, lack habit and all, you can show them how security feels. You can show them how unconditional love looks. Use the energy you would have put into worrying and spend it on self-care. Make your home happy and joyful, and then wait. It may take a while for them to come out of their shell; accept that reality instead of trying to change it. Take very good care of yourself, so that you pattern contentment for them to observe. They may have never seen contentment in action, and it might take a while for them to get used to it.
If you were raised in an environment of lack, and you’ve managed to overcome it and want to give back by giving another child a better chance, I applaud you. However, just because it’s the right thing to do doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. Practicing acceptance by not pushing an agenda on your new child is the best way to foster an environment of support. When you practice self-care and create a happy home, the contentment is contagious. The Beatles said it best, “All you need is love.”