It’s safe to say that a child, whether biological or adopted, will drastically change your life. A lot of the times this change is for the better – you’re adding a new member to your loving family – but sometimes the new child can create certain challenges. Any new parent will tell you that sleep deprivation is very real.
“Adoptive parents need to be cognizant of these challenges and incorporate those awarenesses in the expectations,” says Dean Kirschner, Ph.D., LCSW-C.
Preparing Yourself for Adoption
“Parents who begin parenting with the right expectations and who are able to adjust and be flexible along the way seem to enjoy the experience most of the time,” says Dawn Davenport, Creating a Family. Here is our crash course on how to prepare yourself for life after adoption.
Learn to Live in the Moment
“Most of us are afraid of what we don’t know,” says Davenport. One of the most common fears, especially among adoptive parents, is the discovery of an unknown or unforeseen health issue. “This sort of risk, unfortunately, is not always preventable, despite parent’s best efforts to screen out difficulties,” says Kathryn Patricelli, MA. But this is not an issue unique adoptive families. NO parent can predict the future and you will drive yourself crazy if you dwell on the negative what ifs associated with parenthood. You need to learn to let go and live in the moment.
Learn That Bonding Takes Time
While this might not be an issue for infant adoptions, parents can sometimes struggle to bond with older adopted children. But don’t worry. As The Supremes once said, “You can’t hurry love. No, you just have to wait.”
“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. These things just take time. “With some patience, consistency and creativity, you and your child will slowly create that connection you both desire.”
- Relax: “Forming a bond between you and your adopted child will take time,” says Sharp. “Don’t expect you and your child to be instantly bonded the second they walk through your door,” especially when dealing with an older child.
- Communicate: “Be present and interact with him or her,” says Susan Kuligowski, Adoption.com. “Talk to your child often.” This not only helps establish a relationship, but also builds trust
- Give it Time: “Allowing a child to have their own space and privacy is important,” says Sharp, “especially for an older child or teen. By giving them some space to call their own, this will allow them to become comfortable in your home, and eventually let their guard down.”
- Create a Routine: “Children coming from foster care/institutions crave structure and routines,” says Sharp. “It helps give them a sense of control and allows them to develop trust.”
Learn to Deal with Rude Questions
As any adoptive parent knows, it’s often impossible to avoid nosy, annoying, and even outright rude questions concerning your son or daughter. Sometimes, even well-meaning individuals can be a bit too intrusive.
“Most of the time people who ask these questions are asking because they are curious and do not know much about adoption,” explains the Adoptions From The Heart blog Answering Awkward Adoption Questions. “They might not understand how personal and unique each adoption story is and can come off as being rude.”
It’s important to develop a plan of action to deal with these questions in a calm and respectful manner. This typically involves a two-phase approach: addressing your child, and responding to the original question.
- Address the Child: “Even for the child who is the toughest cookie, some of the questions can leave them speechless,” explains Meredith Resnick L.C.S.W., Psychology Today. So, it is important to first reassure your child that adoption is perfectly normal.
- Address the Question: “I like to use a three choice process when asked about my own adoption story. It is called the TIP process: Tell, Ignore, say it is Private,” explains Dr. Kirschner. “I can choose to tell the story of my child’s adoption. I can ignore the person, or I can say it is private.”
Learn to Make Time for Your Relationship
A new child will undoubtedly change the dynamic between you and your partner. It is important to find your new normal and learn to make time for one another.
“The greatest gift you can give your child is a healthy and happy relationship with your spouse [or partner],” says Davenport.
With so much emphasis on your child (and rightly so), it’s not uncommon to inadvertently neglect your spouse or partner. Parenthood can be allconsuming if we let it. So, take time to plan some one-on-one time with your partner.
“I credit our commitment to date nights with the strength of my long-standing marriage and with maintaining my sanity in parenting four kids,” says Davenport. “I firmly believe that you can have securely attached kids and a strong mutually satisfying relationship with your spouse.”
Learn to Ask for Help
Adoptive parents can benefit from a strong support system. “Women should share their thoughts on this experience and surround themselves with a supportive group of people,” says Elizabeth Danish, HealthGuidance. Everyone’s support system looks different. The important thing is to surround yourself with positive people who will actively help you throughout your journey – whatever that may look like.
“If you do not have a positive support system, you can see that through an adoption agency worker/counselor,” says Dr. Kirschner.
Counseling isn’t a dirty word. In fact, counseling can be a tremendous benefit for new and even experienced parents.
- Strengthen Your Marriage: Talking to a trained adoption counselor is a great way to “validate your feelings,” says Rita Taddonio, director of the Adoption Resource Center at Spence-Chapin Adoption Agency.
- Talk Through Issues: “In some cases, adoption-related concerns arise long after the adoption has been finalized,” says the Child Welfare Information Gateway, “and parents may be unprepared for the issues that may come up throughout the lifelong adoption journey.”
- PADS: Some adoptive parents may even suffer from what researchers have dubbed “postadoption depression syndrome,” or PADS. After months or years of anticipating parenthood, the excitement of the actual adoption can give way to a feeling of being “let down” or sadness in some parents. As with postpartum depression, it is important to speak with a trained professional.
Adoption Makes Family is a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland founded to meet the needs of birth parents and adoptive parents in a manner that is sensitive, compassionate, and personal. Adoption Makes Family offers counseling services, and 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.
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