Giving and receiving love may seem like an easy thing, but for many adopted and foster kids it is hard. They have given love to people only to have those people disappear from their lives or not return their love. They have received love only to be moved to a new home, or the “love” they received was not love at all.
These kids are confused about what it means to give and receive love.
Many of them are indiscriminately friendly with adults and other kids. While on the surface it seems that they are so affectionate and loving, as a mom it is scary to watch. They don’t understand appropriate interaction with others and must be both shown and taught how to appropriately give and receive love. We talk often about personal space and when and how it is appropriate to give hugs and kisses.
I remember being at an Empowered to Connect training and seeing a video of Dr. Purvis doing what she calls a nurture group with a bunch of teenage kids. She gave all of them a box of band aids and told them to put them on each others hurts. At first the kids thought this was kind of silly, but soon the kids began asking them to put band aids on their heart and on real scars they had from previous abuse. These kids were learning how to receive nurture from someone else, and how to give nurture to someones wounds (whether inside or out).
I remember this often when my kids come to me with a wound. You know the one. You can’t see the itty bitty cut on the top of their hand, but it is causing them lots of pain. I used to be the mom that said, “You’re fine! I can’t even see it! Just go play,” but then I realized that I had a great opportunity to help my kids learn about giving and receiving love in a safe and appropriate place. Now we have TONS of fun band aids and a new house rule: You may have a band aid anytime you want, but you must ask someone else to put it on for you. This goes for Mom and Dad too. Often times the kids think it is silly, but it is great daily practice on giving and receiving love.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 (NIV)
Fore more on this same topic, read Michael Monroe’s article, Becoming a Band-Aid Dad.