Adopting a child is one of life’s most magical events.
It can also be among the most stressful. It’s understandable to have a lot of questions.
You owe it to your child to search your soul and find answers before bringing them home.
Here are seven things for adoptive parents to know.
Many people wouldn’t dream of walking up to you at the grocery store and asking you questions about your salary range.
However, the same folks don’t think twice about making an offhand comment about adoption when they see you with your little one — who doesn’t resemble you in the slightest.
Adoptive parents sometimes get asked rather rude questions from strangers, like “where’s their real mother” — as if you aren’t standing right there.
It’s sometimes tempting to respond with snark, although it’s more polite to go with something like, “both the birth mother and I are very real but play different roles in our child’s life.”
Another way to manage intrusive questions from strangers is to gently turn the tables back on them.
Saying “why do you ask” is polite but assertive, letting the speaker know they’re intruding on private territory and you aren’t going to pony up highly personal information to just anyone.
Becoming an adoptive parent can be one of life’s greatest joys — but it can also cut your heart like a knife when your child says something hurtful in the throes of anger.
It’s during these times that you need to call on your greatest strength reserves.
Please remember that anger is the second of five stages of grief. You might be over the moon to welcome your new child to your home, and they might be thrilled to be there.
However, they also survived separating from their birth parent, an experience that’s inherently traumatic.
Therefore, you should expect the occasional tantrum, more so than you would with your biological child.
Your child will, in essence, go through the pain of parental separation twice.
Once during the teenage years when they fight to individualize themselves from you and another as they mourn the loss of their birth family. Please be patient.
Trauma such as losing a birth parent can result in learned helplessness.
This psychological phenomenon occurs when people are repeatedly exposed to an adverse stimulus that they cannot escape.
Eventually, the individual stops fighting back and behaves as if they are utterly helpless, often to avoid further punishment, such as in abusive situations.
Trouble arises when chances to escape later present themselves, but the child reverts to their maladaptive, helpless patterns of behavior.
It’s similar to tethering an elephant when they are too young to break their chains.
After a while, the mere presence of a band around their ankle keeps them in place even after they grow strong enough to walk away.
Adoptive parents need to restore their child’s sense of agency, the idea that they can positively influence things in their world.
How do they do so? By gradually exposing their children to challenging situations and encouraging them to solve the problem with patience, gentle questioning, and guidance.
For example, if your tire blows while driving home, you might ask your adopted child, “how should we handle this situation,” and heed their advice on getting out the jack or calling roadside assistance.
Your children deserve to know the truth about where they came from.
However, they still should hear the circumstances presented in a loving, age-appropriate way.
Here’s one area where it pays to set the stage. If you adopted your child as an infant, start talking about the process around the same time you explain how babies are made.
You can present the birds and bees, saying, “and you grew in a woman’s belly until you were born. Then we adopted you and became a family.”
Please don’t wait for your children to start asking questions to broach the topic. Some children will withhold their questions out of fear of hurting your feelings.
Instead, look for opportunities to naturally raise the subject.
For example, you could muse, “I wonder if your birth mother was good at construction,” after your child masters the art of building a better birdhouse.
Adopted children often have legitimate abandonment fears.
Please get psychological guidance so that you know how to deal with the resulting behaviors that often arise when your child perceives they’re going to be left alone — even if their concern isn’t realistic.
Your child may need much more reassurance that you won’t leave them.
You might spend weeks checking on them every half hour at night if they aren’t used to having adults they can turn to when they wake up crying.
It’s okay to tell your adopted child, “I would never leave you,” and say it often.
Your parenting style might not resemble anything like your friends with biological children — and that’s perfectly okay.
After all, your child has endured stressors that they haven’t.
Maybe your BFF finds it a bit unusual that you and your little one text constantly throughout the day when you spend solo time, but they aren’t the ones dealing with perceived abandonment fears.
Being an adoptive parent means putting love first all the time.
Outsiders might not ever understand your family — that’s also okay. As long as you are putting the best interest of your child at the forefront of your decision-making, don’t worry if your household doesn’t resemble the ones on television.
Each family is uniquely beautiful in its own way.
Adopting a child brings many changes.
It’s crucial to know what to expect and prepare yourself to be the rock your little one needs in life.
Ensure you understand these six things for adoptive parents to know before you grow your family.