Category Archives: Adoptees

What Adoptees Want Adoptive Parents to Know

what-adoptees-want-adoptive-parents-to-know

In the adoption community, you may hear one term consistently used when describing those touched by adoption – the adoption triad. The adoption triad refers to the three corners of the triangle that is adoption and is comprised of adoptive parents, birth parents and adoptees. When reading about adoption in the mainstream media, we often stumble upon articles written from the perspective of the adoptive parent or birth parent. Rarely do we catch a glimpse into the mind of the adoptee, the child who will spend their lives questioning who they really are and why their journey has led them here. It is important to give a voice to these children who grow into inquisitive adults. Their unique perspective suggests an unparalleled assistance to adoptive parents as they navigate adoption. Here, we offer a snapshot of adoption as told by the adoptee. These words of wisdom encompass some of the many things that adoptees wish their adoptive parents knew.


Invite the Curiosity of Strangers

People outside of the adoption triad are not the best at understanding adoption. They fail to use proper adoption language, they ask a lot of questions, and they aren’t aware when they “cross a line” into insensitive territory. Don’t worry about me and how I will handle the millions of questions that our family will be asked on a consistent basis. I understand that adoption is a part of my journey and that there’s a natural curiosity surrounding adoption. Answer others’ questions (if they’re non-offensive or non-invasive), educate them about adoption. Accept that people are going to be somewhat intrusive and that’s okay.

Communicate with One Another Always

The key to every happy and successful family is communication. This is especially the case in families impacted by adoption. Always answer my questions truthfully. Probe me with questions of your own if you sense that I have questions that I’m withholding from you. Try to leave the judgment behind in these painful conversations and invite the love in.

Searching for my Birth Parents Doesn’t Mean That I Don’t Love You…

In today’s day and age, the field of adoption is a completely different landscape than it was decades ago. More and more, we are beginning to see open adoption take off. For these adoptees, I can imagine that there’s a relief to understanding who they are and where they come from. I deserve that same sort of contentment. If I decide to branch out one day and look for my birth parents, please do not take offense. Seeking my birth parents does not mean that I don’t love you. It doesn’t mean that I want to leave you. It simply means that I want to know where my roots are and meet those that I’m genetically tied to.

…But I Understand if You Struggle with My Decision

Just as you must accept my desire to meet my birth family, I will accept that you may be heartbroken by my decision. It’s natural to be fearful of my search. It’s normal to worry that you could lose your child in a metaphorical sense. Your feelings will be validated because I love you.

Thankful Doesn’t Begin to Cover It

At the heart of every adoption is a loss. Though people don’t necessarily consider this as often as they should, it’s the fact of the matter. Despite the fact that a loss occurred in my life, and in the life of my birth parents, I am relieved that I found you through the loss. Thank you for loving me and giving me a forever home and family. Thank you for raising me to be the person that I am today. Thank you for allowing me to spread my wings and fly.

Celebrities Adopt: Inspirational Quotes About Adoption

“Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother.” – Oprah Winfrey

“I have a lot of respect for my birth mother. I know she must have had a lot of love for me to want to give what she felt was a better chance.” – Faith Hill

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“We look at adoption as a very sacred exchange. It was not done lightly on either side.” – Jamie Lee Curtis

“They’re as much my blood as I am theirs.” – Brad Pitt

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“However motherhood comes to you, it’s a miracle.” – Valerie Harper

“You don’t have to give birth to someone to have a family. We’re all family – an extended family.” – Sandra Bullock

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“I don’t think of them as adopted – they’re our children. Deb and I are believers in…I suppose you call it destiny. We feel things happen the way they are meant to. Obviously, biologically wasn’t the way we were meant to have children. Now as we go through life together, sure there are challenges, but everyone’s in the right place with the right people.” – Hugh Jackman

Adoption and Back to School

Back to school means new friends, fun projects, and of course lots of learning. Despite the excitement of this time of year, it can also be a nerve racking one for adoptees and their parents. If your child is old enough to understand the concept of adoption and its role in their life, you might start to wonder if and how to go about discussing adoption with their teachers and classmates.

“Will my child be made fun of?”

“What if there is a family tree project in history class?”

“Will their teachers understand how to be inclusive to all types of families?”

“How will my child react if his or her friends and teachers don’t seem accepting or understanding of adoption?”

These are all questions you may be asking yourself. However, there are many great resources and ideas for you and your child to utilize. After all, you want to make sure they are as comfortable as possible so they can learn as effectively as possible.

Prepare your child

Talking with your child is the first step you should take in preparing them for back to school. Answer any questions they may have themselves and then discuss possible questions others may ask them. The answers you arm your child with depend on what makes sense for your family, but below are some questions you can expect other kids will ask…

  • “Who are your real parents?”
  • “Why did your real parents give you away?”
  • “Where did you come from?”
  • “Why is your skin a different color that your mom’s?”
  • “Do the parents you have now love you like my mom and dad love me?”

These questions can be tough to answer even with positive adoption language. With unknowing children, it can be even worse. Prepare your child for what they may hear and how they can answer when they want, in a way they are comfortable answering.

Connect with their teacher

The first thing you can ask your child’s teacher for is a curriculum and/or summaries of lesson plans. Let the teacher know your family’s situation and go over the planned classwork with them. If and when you see potentially exclusive lessons to “traditional” families, offer up some ideas to welcome everyone, including your little one.

Some projects you may see in the classroom to discuss with your child’s teacher are…

  • Family tree
  • Timeline projects
  • English or Art biography assignments that involve
    • Illustrating your family
    • Writing a story about your family
    • Etc.

Click here to find more adoption friendly versions of these long held school projects.

You may also consider speaking with your social worker or attorney on educational materials you can provide to your child’s teachers and administrative staff.

Get involved in the classroom

Offer your personal experience and expertise and get involved in the classroom. Many teachers will have parents come in as a guest for story time. Offer your time and read an adoption related story. Check out some great ones here. Contribute to your child’s career day by asking your social worker or attorney to come in and talk about adoption and what they do to build beautiful families like your own!

Talk with other parents

Take time to introduce yourself to other parents in your child’s class. If and when you feel comfortable telling them your experience with adoption, be willing to tell them more about adoption in general and answer questions they may have. If the parents know and understand about adoption, it will glean a positive influence on their children.

When you’ve found other parents who are understanding to your family dynamic, try setting up play dates. Your child can make a new friend and you can have the peace of mind knowing the family will make sure both children are as comfortable as possible!

Paint a picture for other parents. They may be step parents, single parents, an interracial couple, have multiple religions in their family, or other non-traditional dynamics. Explain that adoption is just like their family. It’s “non-traditional,” but it’s just another way to build a wonderful family in a loving and happy home.

Celebrate adoption!

Schools are often looking for volunteer and community service opportunities for students, their families, and faculty. Suggest some local events and fundraisers through adoption agencies like the Adoptions From The Heart Paper Heart Project, or Find Her Footing 5K , which includes a kids dash!

You may also want to talk to your child’s teacher about celebrating your little one’s adoption day at school, similar to a birthday. Offer to come in and explain to the class what an adoption day is and bring in a special treat.

Understanding and celebrating others begins with you and your child. Encourage your child to be welcoming to all of their classmates and open to all different types of people, just as they hope their classmates will accept them.

 

No matter what steps you may take to help your child with back to school, the most important aspect is their ability to learn and grow. Make sure to check in with your little one and ask about their day and what they learned. School can be tough for any child. Parenting a child having school difficulties isn’t easy either. Reach out to your agency and social worker for more resources and specific thoughts on how to help your child thrive in school.

Adopting a Child with Special Needs: What Does It Mean and Why it Could Be the Right Choice For You

There are so many children with special needs waiting to be adopted into loving families. For some adoption agencies, children with special needs are often thought to be more difficult to place than other children, but for other agencies all it takes is finding a family that is equipped with the resources to care for and the room in their hearts to love a special needs child.

Adopting A child With final
Adoption.com explained some of the legislation surrounding this area of adoption. The Adoption and Safe Families Act of 1997 (P.L. 105-89) has focused more attention on finding homes for children with special needs and making sure they receive the post adoption services they need. Congress enacted the law to ensure that children in foster care, who cannot be reunited with their birth parents, are freed for adoption and placed with permanent families as quickly as possible. We will continue to outline some of the important points to know if you are considering a special needs adoption.

What Does Special Needs Mean?

Love Without Boundaries: Adopt Special Needs outlined different types of special needs that infants and children may have. It is highly recommended to speak with an experienced and trusted physician for more in-depth analysis of each condition. Here is the list they compiled:

  • Alcohol and drug exposure: drug exposure and fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Blood conditions: hemophilia, lead poisoning, and thalassemia
  • Chromosome disorders: down syndrome and turner syndrome
  • Congenital heart defects: atrial septal defect, complete transposition of the great arteries, double outlet right ventricle, endocardial cushion defect, patent foramen ovale, pulmonary atresia, and tetralogy of fallot
  • Craniofacial conditions: cleft lip and palate, hemifacial microsomia, and microtia
  • Development needs: autism spectrum disorder, institutional autism
  • Digestive system conditions: imperforate anus, gastroschisis, megacolon, and pyloric stenosis
  • Infectious diseases: congenital syphilis, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV, meningitis, polio, and tuberculosis
  • Metabolic disorders: diabetes, failure to thrive, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, and phenylketonuria
  • Neurological conditions: apraxia of speech, arachnoid cyst, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, hydrocephalus, and spina bifida
  • Orthopedic conditions: amniotic band syndrome, arthrogryposis, brachial plexus injury, club feet, dwarfism, fibular/tibular hemimelia, funnel chest/pigeon breast, hip dysplasia, osteogenesis imperfecta, radial club hand, rickets, syndactyly, and torticollis
  • Sensory conditions: blindness/visual impairment, cataracts, deafness, glaucoma, microphthalmia, nystagmus, ptosis, sensory processing disorder, and strabismus
  • Skin conditions: albinism, burns, congenital blue nevus, congenital nevus birthmark, eczema, ichthyosis, and scabies
  • Urogential conditions: ambiguous genitalia, anorchism, concealed penis, cryptorchidism, hypospadias, and polycystic kidney disease
  • Vascular conditions: hemangioma and lymphedema

It is important to not only discuss with a medical professional, but to consider all options as a family. There may be certain conditions you feel capable of caring for, but others you don’t. The adoption process whether you are open to special needs or not is all about doing what fits best and feels right for you and your family.

Understanding a Child with Special Needs

Sometimes parents, whose children have special needs, the path to understanding can begin before the child is even born. Adoption.com explains that chromosomal differences such as Down Syndrome can be detected prenatally, and other developmental disabilities can be predicted with varying rates of accuracy based on the parents’ genetic history and previous children. However, that is not always the case. Parents might discover their child has some special needs once they are a few years old or once they start going to school. If you think your child might have some special needs, but don’t really know where to start or how to determine exactly what they may be, there are some early steps to take.

  1. Evaluate your child’s medical history/academic history if that is available to you. If there are medical clues that indicate a particular special need you might not have noticed before. Review medical records if you have them or reach out to your social worker or child’s birth family to see if you can get a more detailed copy of records.
  2. Establish the special need and to what degree your child’s needs are. As described above, special needs come in many shapes and sizes. Whether your child has physical impairments that are easier to spot, or cognitive disabilities that are harder to pin point, talking to a child psychologist or any specialist might help you to understand what obstacles your child might have in the future and what you can do to help prepare your child to overcome them.
  3. Support you child and don’t be afraid to let other’s help you. No one wants to feel different than their peers and children can become very upset at the thought of being different. Being a support system for them and having a supportive friend group is beneficial to every child, but especially a child with special needs. Seeking professional or emotional support as a parent is also important.

Knowledge is power and by actively working to understand your child’s special need, you will be able to provide the best care possible.

Real Adoptive Parents and Their Experiences with Special Needs Children

In an Adoption.com article, adoptive mother Joy Lundberg expresses what it was like to have adopted a child with special needs. “We learned so much about what can be done to help children with disabilities. Most of all we’ve learned to focus on her abilities instead. We discovered that our love for her is her greatest asset, and ours. She is indeed a special child. And some days she still drives me crazy. But then I hug my husband and we remember to laugh at the humorous moments. When they’re not staring us in the face, we look for them, and we find them.”

Other Resources:

http://www.lovewithoutboundaries.com/adoption/realistic-expectations/
http://phdinspecialeducation.com/special-needs-parenting-handbook/
http://www.specialeducationguide.com/

Explaining Adoption to Your Child in Age Appropriate Ways

The process of explaining adoption to your child can be emotional. Feelings can range from fearful to joyful as you think of how to explain adoption to your child in ways that they can understand. While navigating this process, it is important to use age appropriate language in order to convey concepts that may be difficult for your child to understand. Here are some helpful tips to make this process just a little easier at any developmental level.

 

Talking to Infants about Adoption

Most experts suggest that parents talk openly about their child’s adoption, even during infancy, to set a good tone for later on, when their children are older and will want to explore their feelings on these issues more deeply.
One parent describes telling his one year old daughter she was adopted through a story he created about a squirrel. He told his daughter that the squirrel’s parents didn’t have enough nuts to give her, but found another mother and father who did have enough. Although his daughter could not yet grasp the fact that she was adopted, the story was a good way to introduce the concept.
Experts believe that it is important to begin using the word “adoption” early on and regularly. Although the word shouldn’t be the primary focus of the conversation, it is important to incorporate the word so that it feels natural to use and does not become taboo.

 

Talking to Children Ages 1-5 about Adoption

At this age, your child may be starting to understand the basic concept of reproduction. They may begin to ask questions about where babies come from and may wonder whether or not they were “in mommy’s tummy”. If your child is asking this question, you can say something such as “You grew inside your birth mother’s tummy, and then you came to live with us.”

Family Speaking About Adoption
It is important to take cues from your child. If they do not seem that into their adoption story, don’t dwell on the subject. It is also important to be patient. Even if your child acknowledges that they were adopted, they may not fully understand the concept until they develop a deeper understanding of conception and pregnancy.
At this age, children generally have positive emotions towards their adoption, and it is perfectly natural for them to be inquisitive about the story of their birth. So don’t become frustrated if your child does not seem to get it or continues to ask questions, even if they are the same questions over and over.

 

Talking to Children Ages 6-12 about Adoption

Don’t be surprised if your child, who was so excited to talk about their adoption story during ages 1-5, no longer seems to want to talk about their adoption during ages 6-12. Just because they are no longer talking about it doesn’t mean that they are no longer thinking about it. At this age, children often begin to have a better grasp on the concept of adoption and are now beginning to realize the relinquishment aspect of adoption. A child’s normal response to understanding relinquishment is sadness, grief over the loss of their birthparents, and feelings of rejection along with the desire to understand why their birthparents would decide not to parent.
School-aged children are also seeking approval and acceptance from their classmates at this age. They want to fit in and be like their friends, not stand out. Adopted children may feel as though they stand out simply because they are adopted. Your child may be faced with the attitudes of other children towards their adoption and questions from classmates that may not be as accepting as ones that they are used to. School assignments, such as creating a family tree, may create additional anxiety for your child. It is important to work with your child, as they enter school, to create a plan on how to respond to questions, comments, and assignments that may be difficult to handle.

Family with Older Adopted Children
Watching your child grieve can be difficult, but it is important to understand that your child’s feelings are not about you. Feelings of loss and sadness are not a sign of rejection for their adoptive family.
If the adoption is open, having your child write letters to their birth family can be a helpful way to have their questions about relinquishment answered, or to simply give them the opportunity to speak with them. In such cases, it is also important to work with the birth family to prepare them to discuss some topics that may be difficult or painful to talk about. You will also want to talk about how to best support your child’s needs for security and reassurance.
Remember not to force your child to talk about their adoption if they don’t want to, but to keep the lines of communication open and positive. You should send signals affirming to your child that it’s okay to talk about it. For instance, you could say, “You did great at your basketball game today. You’re a very good athlete. I wonder if your birthmother was also good at sports.”

 

Talking to Children Ages 12-21 about Adoption

The primary focus of most adolescents is developing their sense of self identity and thinking of who they would like to become. Adopted teens are no different, but their experiences may be more difficult because of their emotions towards their adoption.
You child may associate their relinquishment with a loss of a part of their identity, which they are trying to develop and express. Feelings of anger and frustration may surface as they are trying to reprocess the impact of their relinquishment on their self worth and belonging. This may cause them to struggle with their desire for greater independence with anxiety about separation from their adoptive parents and fear about whether or not they can succeed on their own.

 

Key Points

  1. Keep Communication open – Your children need to know that they are able to discuss these subjects when they are ready, not necessarily when you think it’s a good time. Be available and willing to listen.
  2. Consult books and online resources- Know that you are not alone. There are a number of resources and families out there that are affected by adoption. Many of them have, or have had, the same questions as you. Books and resources can answer these questions and provide helpful advice.
  3. Join a support group – it can be helpful to join a support group to talk to other adoptive parents about their experiences. Talking with other families about their adoption processes and understanding that you are not alone can help provide encouragement during difficult times.
  4. Remember that your child is an individual- Accept your child for who they are. Don’t pressure your child to respond in a particular way. Give your child permission to be themselves, especially when it comes to interest, goals, and feelings.

Remember to reassure your child that you love them, are committed to them, and that they hold an important place in your family.

The History of National Adoption Month

National Adoption Month is quickly approaching which led us to wonder, how did this celebratory month get its start? Join us on an exploration into our favorite month of the year!

The History of NAM

The Beginning of National Adoption Month

National Adoption Week

National Adoption Month didn’t actually start off as a month long celebration of adoption, but instead was celebrated during one week out of the year. In 1976 the governor of Massachusetts, Michael Dukakis, proclaimed that his state would have an Adoption Week in hopes to promote awareness for the needs of children in foster care and the lack of adoptive families. Some reports say that later in 1976, President Gerald Ford announced that the Adoption Week started by Dukakis would be celebrated nationally in the United States. The Child Welfare National Adoption Month page explains that President Reagan proclaimed the first National Adoption Week on November 13, 1984. Proclamation 5280 states:

Families have always stood at the center of our society, preserving good and worthy traditions from our past and entrusting those traditions to our children, our greatest hope for the future. At a time when many fear that the family is in decline, it is fitting that we give special recognition to those who are rebuilding families by promoting adoption.

More children with permanent homes mean fewer children with permanent problems. That is why we must encourage a national effort to promote the adoption of children, and particularly children with special needs. Through the Adoption Assistance and Child Welfare Act of 1980, some 6,000 children have been adopted who otherwise might not have been, and the number is growing. The recently enacted Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act will provide further assistance to couples who adopt children with special needs. …

National Adoption Week gives us an opportunity to reaffirm our commitment to give every child waiting to be adopted the chance to become part of a family. During this Thanksgiving season, let us work to encourage community acceptance and support for adoption and take time to recognize the efforts of the parent groups and agencies that assure adoptive placements for waiting children. Most importantly, let us pay tribute to those special couples who have opened their homes and hearts to adopted children, forming the bonds of love that we call the family.

National Adoption Month

After President Reagan’s proclamation, more and more states began participating in Adoption Week activities and there just didn’t seem to be enough time to fit in everything that activists wanted to accomplish in one week. In 1995 November was proclaimed as National Adoption Month by President Clinton. Proclamation 6846 states:

For many people across the United States, adoption provides a means for building and strengthening families. It places children into loving, permanent homes where they can flourish and grow up to become happy, healthy, productive members of our national community. Adoption also enables adults to experience the unique joys of parenthood.

As many as 70,000 children in America’s foster care system may need adoptive families in the next few years—young people of all ages and backgrounds who, for whatever reason, cannot return to their original homes. Many, but not all, are children with special needs. These young people long for the same affection, security, and stability that most of us take for granted, yet too many have waited—and will continue to wait—for years to be adopted.

My Administration has taken important actions to encourage adoption and to support the wonderful families that choose to open their hearts and homes to waiting children. The Multiethnic Placement Act, which I signed into law in October 1994, helps to facilitate adoption for all children and families, regardless of their race or ethnic origin. We will continue to champion and improve programs that break down barriers to adoption through aggressive recruitment of families, financial aid to support placements, and technical assistance to agencies committed to special needs adoption.

As we observe National Adoption Month, we celebrate these achievements and recognize the rewards of adoption, but we must also remember that much work remains to be done. Citizens from all communities and organizations from the public and private sectors must join together to renew our commitment to finding permanent homes for each one of America’s children.

Celebrating National Adoption Month

There are a lot of ways to celebrate National Adoption Month and one of those ways includes National Adoption Day. National Adoption Day occurs with courthouses throughout the country where hundreds of adoptions are finalized simultaneously. According to the official website, National Adoption Day is a collective national effort to raise awareness of the more than 100,000 children in foster care waiting to find permanent, loving families. A coalition of national partners – Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute, The Alliance for Children’s Rights and Children’s Action Network – sponsor National Adoption Day. Adoptions From The Heart had some wonderful families participate in Adoption Day last year and you can read more about their stories here and here.

Adoption Day
During the month of November, families can celebrate and bring awareness to the beauty of open adoption, the hundreds of thousands of children in foster care and just general support for the states, communities and agencies that make resources available for those touched by adoption. Keep an eye out for the activities planned by your agency, or engage in social media contests, sharing your adoption experiences. For example, Adoptions From The Heart celebrates National Adoption Month with the Paper Heart Project. This fundraiser encourages local business sell purple hearts cut from paper by local students and have supporters sign their names before displaying, showing their support of adoption.
Paper Heart Project

How have you celebrated National Adoption Month?

Older Child Adoption Guide: Adopting an Older Child & Parenting your Adopted Child as They Grow

Older Child Adoption Guide

Adopting a Pre-School or School-Aged Child

There are special challenges present when adopting a pre-school aged child. Deborah Gray, author of Attaching in Adoption and Nurturing Adoptions presents ten tips for the first year of placement that we suggest adoptive parents take time to read and discuss with family members. Here is an excerpt of her article, Top Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement.

  1. Spend ample time in nurturing activities.

    The most significant process of the first year home is creating a trust relationship. Intentional and ample nurturing promotes this goal. Restrict your hours away from the little one. Do not leave your child for overnight trips for this first year.
    Meet your little ones needs in an especially sensitive manner. Feed on demand. Respond quickly to fussing. Allow the toddler or child to regress, bottle-feeding, rocking to sleep, lapsitting, and being carried. Play little games that promote eye contact, like peekaboo, ponyride, and hide-and-seek.

  2. Teach children to play with you.

    Many little ones have missed the joys of play. Act as an amplifier, teaching toddlers and children the pleasure of play. Most children have missed the experience of having parents express joy as they played. Because of this, their reward centers were not stimulated. This restricted the association of exploration and play with pleasure. Set aside at least thirty minutes a day for play with your children.

  3. Talk to your child.

    Talking with KidsParents of infants use exaggerated voice tones to emphasize important concepts. Their “amplifier system” helps children with attention to most important parts of the whole environment. After children move into the preschool age, some of this “cheerleader” amplification diminishes. Continue to use this brighter emotional tone with your child as she understands your shared world even if she is not an infant.
    Explain things to him, even though you might think that the meaning of what you are doing is obvious. Not only are you conveying information to him, you are revealing your view of the world to him. Your voice tones guide him to better understand the context. Be sure to use your fingers and gestures to point out important things to him. This helps him to both attend to and understand the meaning of the context around him.

  4. When toddlers or older children have behavior problems, use your body to stop them.

    Be gentle, but be consistently and predictably competent in stopping negative behaviors. Gently move their bodies to where you want them to be. For example, if your little one is reaching for an item, move the child or the item. Use the voice for a back up. Do not remind or repeat several times. Instead, describe in a pleasant manner how precious or pretty the item appears to you as you move your child. Teach boundaries of respect from the beginning.

  5. Get enough sleep, good food, and exercise to stay in a good mood.

    Little ones who have been moved and/or neglected tend to be irritable, fussy, and hard to soothe. Parents use their own positive, well-regulated moods to help calm and engage these little ones. Your own emotional stability will help to steady your child’s moods. A depressed parent struggles to form a positive, secure attachment with her baby or child. Depression makes the parent emotionally less available. The parent who is tired, eating junk food, and inert by day’s end does not give a child a competent source of emotional regulation. Parents who find that their moods are slipping, even with good self-care, should see about counseling and/or an antidepressant. It is simply too hard to do this essential, nurturing parenting while being depressed.

  6. Be part of an adoption support group.

    The relationships between families are invaluable. The relationships can be emotional lifelines on hard days. If possible, find a mentor who is positive, and who likes you and your child. Ask her to be part of your circle of support. We all need to feel understood and authentically accepted. A mentor who can provide that sense of nurture for the parent helps the parent to be a good nurturer. The mentor relationship provides a sense of being heard and accepted, and tips and information. Parents are working harder emotionally when parenting a baby or child who has lived through uneven parenting. Parents need someone who cares for them. Sometimes this can be mutual support, and sometimes one-to-one.

  7. Keep a calm, but interesting home.

    Match the amount of stimulation in the home to the amount that is within the childs ability to tolerate. Many children have been massively understimulated before they came to parents. Neglect massively understimulates children. They do not build neurology to process as much sensory stimulation. After adoption, their worlds can suddenly be overwhelming. Things are too bright, too loud, move too much, and tilt too much. Slow things down, buffering your baby or child to the extent that they can process the information coming their way. Often children who are overwhelmed by noise will begin shouting, or those overstimulated by too much movement will begin running with arms like windmills. Lay out predictable, consistent events for the day. Some children find the movement of the car to be disorienting. If your child is having difficulties, try a couple of days limiting the car, determining whether or not this makes a difference.

  8. Explain to children basics of your relationships as they gain language.

    For example, “A mothers job is to love you. I will always come back home to you when I leave in the car to go shopping. You will live with me until you are as big as I am. I will not let anybody hurt you. I will never hurt you. We will always have enough food.” One mother told me of her sons relief and better behavior when she told him that she would never allow others to hurt him. “Why didn’t I think to tell him the first year?” She questioned. “He was afraid every time we went to the mall. He has been thinking for two years that just anyone could haul off and hit him.” Another parent told me of the melting smile that her daughter gave her when she said that a mothers job was to love her child. “I just assumed that she knew that. But she didn’t. She looked at my face much more after that.”

  9. Do watch for signs of an exclusive attachment by the end of the first year.

    Children should be seeking out their parents for affection and play. They should be showing off for positive attention. They should prefer being with the parent. They should show some excitement about time together. When hurt or distressed, the child should seek out the parent. In a secure attachment, the child will calm with the parent and accept soothing.
    Trauma and traumatic grief are the common culprits when children are remaining wary, fearful, and controlling of their parents. Signs of trauma with younger children include regular night terrors, dissociation (child shuts off emotionally and stares away), scratching, biting, extreme moods, freezing in place, and destructiveness. Parents who see these symptoms should be finding a mental health counselor to help their child. If the child is under the age of three, the parent is given special parenting advice. Usually therapy with an experienced child therapist can begin not long after the age of three.

  10. Enter your little ones spacepositively.

    This often means getting low and looking up for eye contact. It means trying hard and trying patiently for a longer time. You are the one who has the responsibility of engaging your child positively. Do not use punitive techniques to try to build relationships. After all, no one wants to attach to a mean person. Instead, be strong, dependable, available, and kind. Veer away from advice that is strong, controlling, and mean in tone. Sensitive and kind parents gradually build empathy and security in their relationships with their children. That process takes time and the type of parenting that caused you to want to be a parent in the first place!

To read a more complete version of her article which is extremely helpful for parent’s in this situation, you can find it here. We also wrote another blog post about making a smooth transition when adopting an older child which is a great resource, you can find that here.

Parenting Your Adopted Child as They Grow-Up

Talking About Adoption

As a parent you will share information in an appropriate way for your child’s age and abilities. You have the responsibility to make decisions in the best interest of your child including what to share and when and how to share the information. It is a parent’s job to help the child make sense of the information and that can be done by explaining things in a positive way and answering any questions your child has.

Telling the Story during the Preschool Years

Adoptive Mother and Daughter

Our friends at Adoptive Families wrote a great piece about Telling the Tough Stuff  to your adoptive child. They explain that there are two keys to sharing adoption information with preschool aged children.

  1. Tell the child’s story as a story, not as cut and dry facts. Make sure your child understands that the story you are telling is true and not a fairytale.
  2. Tell no lies. You don’t want to risk confusing your child so make sure your story is truthful. At this age you also want to limit the amount of negative details you share.

Elementary –age Kids

As your young ones grow, they make a cognitive leap around seven to nine years of age. They are able to understand the concepts you described when they were younger and will likely have more questions about their adoption story. Kids are highly resilient at this age and it is often considered the ideal age for sharing tough realities.

Adolescence

This is the time to continue to fill in details. Just like with nearly every teenager, parents should be prepared for some rough patches as your child struggles to figure out who he is. If the adoption conversation has been open and honest from the beginning, it is likely to remain so and only expand as your child becomes a teenager. Talking to teens can be a difficult task and we wrote a blog post not too long ago on how to best approach the conversation, you can find post here.

Additional Resources

https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/08/06/talking-to-your-adopted-child/