Becoming a parent for the first time takes some getting used to. “It is also pretty common to be completely overwhelmed by the demands of new motherhood/fatherhood,” says Dawn Davenport. And “settling into parenthood or the ‘postadoption period’ can present its own difficulties for parents,” according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway. So, it’s important to know what to expect when adjusting to life as new parents after adoption.
Adjusting to Life as New Parents After Adoption
Help Your Child Adjust (And You Too)
“Your baby or child is being separated from everything they know,” says Debra Harder, adoption information coordinator with Children’s Home Society and Family Services. This is especially true for older adoptees. “Be prepared for what those first days, weeks, and months might be like.” Help your child adjust and be there as much as they feel comfortable. Remember, this is a big adjustment for both of you.
Remember, Bonding Takes Time
“Many adoptive parents are shocked and a little concerned when their child is finally placed in their home, yet they don’t feel an instant connection,” says Nora Sharp, MLJ Adoptions. However, as the Supremes sang, you can’t hurry love. No, you just have to wait. Bonding takes time. It’s not something you can force. It takes the “repetition of hundreds of positive interactions,” says Rita Taddonio, director of the Adoption Resource Center at Spence-Chapin Adoption Agency.
Have a Plan to Get Some Rest
No matter how old your adopted child is, rest can be hard to come by. As we all know, newborn children are not the best sleepers. But older children can also struggle with sleep. Often, these older adoptees develop habits when in foster care. This institutional behavior can sometimes manifest itself in difficulty sleeping through the night. “Adoptive parents need to be cognizant of these challenges and incorporate those awarenesses in the expectations,” says Dean Kirschner, Ph.D., LCSW-C.
- Rotate nighttime responsibilities with your partner. Remember, you’re a team. So, while one of you gets some rest, the other can tackle whatever parenting duty pops up. “That way, at least one person gets a good night’s sleep, instead of both of you getting fragmented sleep,” says Denise Porretto, Parents.
- Don’t forget to take naps when you can!
- Be patient with your child. Until the child feels comfortable in their new surroundings, they may find it difficult to sleep at night, which means less sleep for you as a parent.
- “Talk with your child about her needs and fears,” says Davenport. Then, you can strategize solutions as a family.
- If you initially are relying on a physical and emotional presence at night to get your child to sleep, gradually back off as things improve. “For example, if you have been lying with your child to get her to sleep, you gradually move to sitting on the bed, to sitting on the floor beside the bed, to sitting by the door, to sitting in the hall outside her door,” says Davenport.
Establish a Support System
As the old saying goes, it takes a village. Raising a child is often a group effort. So, it’s important to surround yourself with a strong support system. This can be friends, family, or even an adoption agency worker/counselor, explains Dean Kirschner, Ph.D., LCSW-C. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. You may be surprised by just how many people are willing to pitch in and lend a hand when you ask them.
Maintaining a Strong Relationship With Your Partner
Adjusting to life as new parents after adoption is hard. Many new parents struggle to balance their duties as parents and their relationship with their partner. It’s easy to get caught up in being a new parent, but it is important to take the time to work on your relationship as well.
- Find time to be a couple. “We’re so accustomed to making our children the center of our world, but experts say that your marriage needs just as much nurturing,” says Holly Robinson, Parents.
- It is important to express the three A’s during your daily routine – affection, appreciation, and admiration – says researcher John Gottman, PhD, author of And Baby Makes Three.
- Take time to sit, talk, and listen to each other about something other than your child.
- Try something new. It’s important to find new ways to connect and keep your relationship fresh,” says Linda Waite, PhD, a sociologist at the University of Chicago.
- Most importantly, don’t feel guilty about taking time away from your child to be with your partner.
“No matter how great your marriage was before you had kids, you can’t just leave it on autopilot now,” says Robinson.
Adoption Counseling Can Help!
Counseling is a great way to explore your current situation and work through issues in a positive setting. This can be incredibly beneficial for adoptive families as you work through connection concerns, grief of older adoptees, Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS), relationship hurdles, etc. Counseling is a safe and constructive way to talk through what you’re feeling. And Adoption Makes Family is here to help! We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland. Our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time.
24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100
If you have any questions about adjusting to life as new parents after adoption, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.
- “5 Things To Do To Prepare For The Adoption Process.” Transracial Adoption: When Parenting a Child of Another Race, 4 Jan. 2017, afth.org/preparing-for-adoption/
- Davenport, Dawn. “Finding Balance with ‘Cocooning’ Newly Adopted Kids.” Creating a Family, 12 May 2017, creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/finding-balance-cocooning-newly-adopted-kids/.
- Davenport, Dawn. “Keeping Your Marriage Solid When Adopting or Fostering.” Creating a Family, 12 Apr. 2018, creatingafamily.org/adoption-category/keeping-marriage-solid-adopting-fostering/.
- Frank, Christina. “Life After Adoption.” Parenting, 24 July 2014, www.parenting.com/article/life-after-adoption.
- “Impact of Adoption on Adoptive Parents.” Child Welfare Information Gateway, Aug. 2015, www.childwelfare.gov
- Marano, Hara Estroff. “A Nation of Wimps.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200411/nation-wimps.
- Overstreet, Katie. “Preparing for Adoption.” Focus on the Family, 25 May 2010, www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/adoptive-families/adopting-children/preparing-for-adoption.
- Robinson, Holly, and Kate Powers. “Happy Parents, Happy Kids.” Parents, Parents, 3 Jan. 2017, www.parents.com/parenting/relationships/staying-close/happy-parents/.
- Shaw, Gina. “10 Tips For Adoptive Parents.” WebMD, WebMD, 21 Oct. 2011, https://www.webmd.com/parenting/features/essential-tips-for-adoptive-parents#1
- “Step 3: Prepare for Adoption.” The North American Council on Adoptable Children, 25 May 2017, www.nacac.org/help/how-to-adopt/steps-to-adoption/prepare-for-adoption/
- Westbrooks, Emily. “9 Ways Adoption Changes Your Marriage.” Romper, Romper, 25 Apr. 2018, www.romper.com/p/9-ways-adoption-changes-your-marriage-that-are-hard-but-worth-it-53118.