Category Archives: Parenting

Feel the Love: How to Bond with Your Adopted Child

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The best things in life are unseen, that’s why we close our eyes during a kiss, a laugh and a dream and bonding is no exception- you can’t see it, but you can feel it. Bonding with your child is important and becomes almost critical if the child was adopted. Although we know adoption isn’t a birth mothers rejection, oftentime’s to adoptee’s it can feel that way. Is it important to reassure your child that they can depend on you and are safe and loved. Bonding is a process that cannot be rushed. A deep meaningful relationship can only develop through shared experiences, trust, and time. It’s essential for children to feel accepted, cherished, and loved in the purest form- unconditional and true. Remember, a family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.

“A family isn’t made from blood, it’s made from love.”

The Science Behind Bonding

Attachment is a strong, affectionate bond we have with special people in our lives that lead us to experience pleasure when we interact with them. We often feel comforted by those we have an attachment to in the times of stress. The beginning stages of bonding starts earlier and simpler than many think. According to famous Psychologist Bowlby, babies are born equipped with behaviors like crying, babbling and smiling to ensure adult attention and adults are actually biologically programmed to respond to infant signals. When a parent performs small steps such as holding their children close, singing sweetly to them, comforting them and rocking them softly to sleep, their child knows that their parent is dependable which creates a secure base for the child to begin exploring the world and feel loved while doing so. These things along with keeping a calm voice, skin-to-skin contact, and carrying your child are the beginning steps to making your adoptive baby feel safe, secure, loved and cherished beyond belief.

Vera Falhberg, pediatrician and specialist in the field of adoption attachments, categorizes the following as long-term effects from positive attachment:

  • Helps a child to sort out perceptions of the world in which he lives
  • Encourages the development of logical thinking
  • Develops social emotions in a child
  • Cultivates the formation of a conscience
  • Helps an individual cope with stress, frustration, worries, and fears
  • Fashions an appropriate balance between dependence and independence
  • Sets the stage for the unfolding of healthy future relationshipsUntitled design

The Importance of Comfort

Making sure your child has comfort is a nurturing, everyday desire all parents have. Comfort increases productivity and boosts self-esteem in children and who doesn’t want that? Contact-Comfort takes it a step further and examines the relationship between physical and emotional comfort with love and security. For example, we’ve all seen the reaction that a crying baby can have due to being picked up by its mother; the child relaxes and stops crying. This is believed to be a result of its first feeling of safety and security derived from this close contact. A famous experiment that is a true testimony of the importance of comfort was conducted by Harry Harlow in 1959. The experiment focused around baby monkeys that were separated from their birth mothers and reared to two mother-like figures; one terry cloth covered doll and one wire meshed doll. The babies held on tightly to the terry cloth covered dolls for security and comfort despite the fact that the wire meshed doll had a bottle attached to it. This experiment demonstrated the importance of a warm and comfortable environment to help a child thrive rather than a cold, uncomforting one.

Building Comfort for your Child

We suggest having an age-appropriate crib or bed, warm sheets and blankets, a few pieces of child size furniture and some toys they might enjoy. You may feel the need to over-indulge with bold prints and glitter, but decorating with too many bright colors may be too overwhelming. Decorating with soft, warm colors will put your child at ease and displaying few attractive toys that are soft and fuzzy will calm your child and help them feel right at home. Another tip we suggest is carrying you child in the front of your body, closest to your heart. The Moby wrap can help you keep your child close and aid in bonding while also freeing your hands.

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Ready, Set, Bond!

True bonding is not measured by time spent together or the favors done for each other but by the comfort you find when you realize you have each other. Now that you have some background knowledge on the importance of bonding, let’s put our theories and science to work. Here are some tips we offer to help promote a healthy bond between you and your child.

Be Sensitive and Empathetic

Empathy is all about standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with someone else’s heart, and seeing through someone else eyes. Be sensitive to the needs of your child and handle with care and compassion. If your infant is crying, take time to rock them gently and sing to them softly.

Sit and Play

Playfulness decreases any feelings of threat and harm. Sit alongside your child and follow their lead. Find activities that will interest your child and stimulate them emotionally and intellectually. “I see you” is a great game to play that promotes eye contact and helps the child become familiar with your facial features and laugh.

Be Predictable

Keeping rituals and routines help let the child let him know what’s expected of them as well as what they can expect from you. Try to keep feeding times the same; the earlier your child realizes that when they’re hungry you will feed them the better it is for all. As soon as your baby shows signs of hunger, sit in a cozy spot with a drink of water, a nursing pillow and soft music playing. If your baby is easily distracted when feeding, you might try going in a quiet room with the lights low, says Jim Sears, M.D., author of The Baby Book.

Skin-to-Skin Connection

Child or infant massages are a way for you to gently nurture and spend time with your baby. They promote parent – to child interact and are often soothing and calming to your child.

Relax and Enjoy It!

Bonding is not like instant glue which suddenly and irrevocable cements the parent-child relationship together forever. Bonding is a life-long process of parent-child interaction. Take a deep breath and enjoy bonding with you child; not only will this make you feel better, but also help your child relax.

What are some rituals your family does to promote healthy relationships?

 

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Adopting When Your Partner is Reluctant

So you are 100% on board with the adoption process, you are ready to submit your application and get started creating your profile, but your partner isn’t as enthusiastic as you are. What do you do?

Reluctnat Adoption

“It is common for people to be in different places about adoption, yet it is something we do not often talk about,” says Jill Smolowe, an adoptive parent and author of an adoption memoir, An Empty Lap. “That makes the person suffering through it feel alone. I thought my marriage was flawed in some fundamental way when my husband and I couldn’t agree, and yet I struggled in isolation.” In this blog post we will explore some tactics to handle adopting with a partner who is reluctant about the process.

Reluctant Partner v. Reluctant Relatives

 

Reluctant Parent-To-Be

Imbalance can be frustrating when you are ready to have a baby in your arms, but your partner continues to raise concerns about parenthood. As Adoptive Families explains, reluctance to become a parent often centers around what must be given up, or anxiety about meeting expectations. Ask yourself and your spouse these hard questions, knowing that some may be unanswerable until you’re living with the changes a child brings. Many spouses aren’t reluctant about parenthood but parenthood through adoption – maybe it’s all the infertility treatments that have taken a toll emotionally, financially and physically that adds to a partner’s reluctance. Bottom line, really try to get down past the symptoms and to the root of the fears and concerns where they can then be understood better and addressed.

Questions to Ask

  • Age: Will my age negatively affect my ability to parent?  Will I have enough energy? Enough patience? Enough love?
  • Money: How can I save for a college education when I need to save for retirement? Will we ever get to take a vacation again?
  • Time: Will a child be too disruptive? Will I have to curb my work hours? Do I want to?
  • Family: Will my parents reject a child who comes into the family through adoption? Will my children from a prior marriage resent me for starting a new family? Will I repeat my parenting mistakes?
  • The unknown: Who will the child be? What genetic surprises might be in store? Will I be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological one?

The key is to acknowledge your spouse’s concerns and fears, and take them seriously. Join a support group for couples considering adoption. Hearing other’s reservations may help both of you consider different angles and explore what’s fueling the reluctance. Speak with your social worker to find ways to balance out the concerns – for example if your spouse is mostly concerned with openness or how to fill out the profile key, don’t push them to accept a situation they might ultimately be uncomfortable with, there needs to be a balance of both partners’ needs and wants.

Reluctant Relatives

Announcing to your family members that you will be growing your family through adoption, sometimes you will be faced with hesitant or unenthusiastic reactions to the news. It can be a shock to have loved ones question your adoption decision and it is important to remember that they most likely are coming from a place of caring and have the best intentions.

The Power of Education

  • Share the research you’ve completed for yourself about adoption and educate your loved ones on the steps in the process.
  • Gift your family members books about adoption.
  • Suggest that your relatives attend a support group or meeting with your adoption social worker so they can ask questions and learn more about adoption.

Waiting for your relatives to come around might be a tactic you will have to implement if your family isn’t supportive during your waiting period. Many families find that if there were doubts in the minds of their family prior to placement, once their child finally comes home those doubts are erased.

Communication is Key

There are no magic answers as one adoptive mother explained.

What worked for us, may not work for you.  We kept the lines of communication open; talking about it more than he wanted, but less than I wanted.  I asked his permission to share my research with him.  I tried to understand his concerns more than I tried to convince him.  After about a year, he became more comfortable with the time and financial commitment.  He loved me enough and valued my happiness enough to take the risk.  We compromised on what special needs or disabilities we were willing to consider.  And we slowly moved forward.  For what it’s worth, our daughter has been the apple of his eye from the moment he first held her, and he says he has never regretted his decision for one minute.”

Resources

https://www.adoptivefamilies.com/store/audio/expert-audio-reluctant-spouse-partners-relatives-randolph

 

 

 

Adoptive Parents: Experiencing the Adoption Journey with Support

Support helps to build a strong foundation in every relationship, including those surrounding adoption. We will be focusing on the importance of support for prospective adoptive parents during each stage of the adoption journey. The Child Welfare Information Gateway created a very informative fact sheet that will be referenced through this post, if you wish to read it in its entirety, you can find it here.

Adoptive Parent Support

Before Starting the Adoption Journey

The decision to adopt is emotionally charged and there are lots of factors that need to be considered and addressed by the prospective adoptive parent(s).

Questions to Consider (from Child Welfare Information Gateway)

  • How will a new child fit into your life and relationship?
  • How will a new child affect family dynamics—especially if your family already has children?
  • What changes are you willing to make to ease the child’s transition?
  • How do you feel about open adoption—contact with the child’s birth family?
  • How do you feel about welcoming a child from foster care or an institution who may have experienced abuse or neglect?
  • How have you addressed your own past trauma or losses? Have you considered how adopting a child with a similar history might affect you emotionally?
  • Is there anything in a child’s history that you feel you would not be equipped to cope with, emotionally or financially (e.g., past trauma, sexual abuse, fragile medical condition)?
  • Are there any behaviors that a child could manifest that would make it too hard to maintain him or her in your family?
  • In cases of transracial or transcultural adoption, how do you feel about accommodating, helping, and promoting your child’s positive cultural and racial identity?
  • How will you inform family members and friends, and how will you deal with questions from family, friends, and strangers about adoption?
  • How will you answer your child’s questions about adoption, his or her background and history, birth family, and your reasons for adopting?
  • What are your dreams, fantasies, and expectations for your child and family’s future? How do you typically respond when reality does not match your expectations?
  • How willing are you to learn new parenting strategies that work better for children who have experienced loss and trauma?
  • How willing and able are you to seek help for yourself or your child when necessary?

During the Adoption Process

The life changing decisions that are made during the adoption process are exciting and also stressful. The home study process can feel invasive and might bring up emotional issues that have not fully been explored as a couple or individually. There are long wait periods that you might experience and uncertainty that comes along with that, so it is not uncommon for it to become difficult to go about your routines and to feel anxious.

Waiting Support

One survey showed that the majority of adoptive families identified some ongoing issues that made daily life challenging—including emotional, behavioral, and school concerns (Stevens, 2011).

A good agency and social worker will be there by your side throughout the adoption process to help manage stress, worries and to provide insight in the decision making and learning processes along the way. So, one place to start is with your adoption agency. Many agencies offer some kind of post adoption support and services. Adoptions from the Heart offers extensive support for all members of the adoption community as well as support groups for adoptive and birth parents.

Other services that adoptive families have found beneficial include the following as outlined by CWIG:

  • Support groups, whether online or in person, provide parents an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations, vent their feelings in a safe environment, receive supportive feedback, and learn new strategies from more experienced adoptive parents.
  • Adoption-competent counselors or therapists can provide targeted therapeutic services to children, parents, and the family as a whole to address adoption-related issues.
  • Adoption subsidies are available for some families who adopt from the child welfare system to help with the costs of caring for children with special needs.
  • Educational advocates help parents of children with special needs to understand their child’s educational rights and to work effectively with the school system to identify and access accommodations, programs, and services to help their child succeed

You can find more support groups in your area here: http://www.americaadopts.com/adoptive-parent-support-groups/

After Placement

Many think that completing their adoption placement means that the most difficult and trying time is behind them, but settling into parenthood or the “post adoption period” can mean a different set of obstacles for parents. Here is what the Child Welfare Information Gateway had to say about some of the issues that arise for adoptive parents post placement:

Parents may have difficulty attaching to the new child and may question their parenting capabilities. They also may be hesitant to admit that there are any problems after a long-awaited adoption.

In some cases, these feelings resolve on their own as parents adjust to their new life. If these feelings last for more than a few weeks or interfere with your ability to parent, peer support or professional help (with a therapist skilled in adoption issues) may help you to address the issues causing the depression and assume your parenting role with greater confidence.

If you have adopted from foster care, you may have had visits with the child, or the child may have actually lived with you before the adoption. Even so, the finalization creates a permanent family situation, and you and your child may take some time to develop a bond and evolve into your new identities, just as a couple adjusts to marriage after dating for a long time.

If you have adopted an infant, received a child in an emergency placement, or adopted through an inter country adoption, the suddenness of the child’s arrival may leave little time for becoming accustomed to your new identity.

 

Strategies for Adjustment

There are a lot of different things that can be down to help a family adjust after an adoption. Whether you need the support right after placement, or years down the road, it is important to address identity and adoption issues throughout the life of your adopted child. Some things you can do include:

  • Establish family traditions or rituals
  • Create a family story
  • Connect with your child’s birth culture
  • Prepare to respond to outsiders including relatives, friends and strangers about the adoption

Perhaps the most important thing is to connect with parents who have completed a similar adoption. Learning firsthand how other parents have made the adjustment and have dealt with challenges can be reassuring. More experienced adoptive parents can serve as role models to newer parents as well. Parent support groups, like the ones explained above, are meant for just that—supporting and lending a hand and an understanding ear to parents who need it. Reach out to your adoption social worker or agency for the contact information of other adoptive parents who would be willing to help you through your journey. The adoption community is tight knit and surrounded by love, there are resources available and people who want to support and see you succeed in parenthood!

 

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/

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/

Back to School Tools for Adoptive Parents

The summer is coming to a close and that means it is time for the kids to head back to school. As a parent, you might be curious about ways to make sure your child’s classroom is an accepting environment for their adoption story and we wanted to give you some of the tools to ensure a safe and happy school year!

Back to School
Communicating with your Child’s Teacher

Write a letter to your child’s teacher

Your child’s teacher could greatly benefit from a brief explanation of your family’s background and this will give you an opportunity to make it be known that you are available as a resource for their classroom. You can even provide the teacher with the correct language to use when discussing adoption in the classroom setting. Children might ask questions and arming your child’s teacher with the right responses is invaluable.
Q: “Where are Julia’s real parents?”
A: “Julia’s real parents are the parents who are raising him, Matthew and Caroline, who pick him up from school each day. She also has birth parents who gave birth to her.”
Q: “Why didn’t Julia’s first family want her?”
A: “They probably wanted her very much but weren’t able take care of any baby at that time. Julia’s birth parents wanted her to have a family to love her and take care of her forever.”
Q: “Where is Julia from?”
A: “She’s from Pennsylvania. She was born in China, but now she’s a U.S. citizen, like you.”
Q: “Does she speak Chinese?”
A: “No. Julia came to the America when she was a baby. She was not speaking any language at the time just like most babies.

Educate the school’s faculty

While you are in letter writing mode, consider reaching out to the school principal or the parent-teacher association suggesting an adoption training session for staff. Some open adoption agencies, like Adoptions From The Heart, offer educational courses for families that could be attended by your child’s teacher or the school faculty.
Adoptive Families outlined five viral points for education professionals to understand (you can communicate these in your letter):

  •  Adoption is an open and natural topic in your family. Teachers should not be afraid to discuss it or to answer students’ questions.
  •  Children born in a different country are not experts on the language or culture of that country.
  • There are neither real families nor fake families. Adoptive parents are parents like any others.
  • Genetics can be taught without requiring students to trace their nuclear family’s roots.
  • Parents of all types will appreciate more inclusive versions of “star of the week,” as well as autobiographical timeline and family tree projects.

Navigating tough assignments with your child’s teacher

Like we mentioned above, more inclusive versions of classic school projects are better designed and you can discuss and present your child’s teacher with multiple options for the entire class, not just your child. Adoptive Families provided yet another great list of more inclusive projects that you can share with your child’s teacher:

  • Family Tree: Students can draw themselves on the trunk of a tree and someone whom they love on each branch, regardless of biological or adoptive relationships. Or they can place names of adoptive family members in the branches of a tree and birth family members in its roots. Using a house metaphor in lieu of a tree allows flexibility to incorporate all members of a child’s family.
  • Timeline: Instead of starting with their birth dates, children can cite memorable events from each calendar year they’ve been alive; older students can create a timeline that includes a national or world event from each year they have been alive.
  • Star of the Week: Request that students bring in photographs of themselves from a year or two ago, rather than baby photos.

Class Room Activities

Read or Donate an Adoption Storybook to the Classroom

Read an Adoption Storybook

Stories are a great way to introduce new topics to younger children. You can simply read to your child’s class during their regular story hour time or consider giving an adoption presentation which we will explain further. We review popular adoption books on this very blog, our most recent post has some great suggestions or feel free to bring your child’s favorite!

Give an adoption presentation

Give an Adoption Presentation

This is a creative way to explain adoption to your child’s classmates. Adoptive Families suggests you explain adoption in a general way, rather than tell your child’s particular story. Using dolls or other props will help non-adopted kids relate.
Here’s their simple, parent-tested presentation to use as a model:

  • Bring in one of your child’s dolls or stuffed animals. Tell everyone her name — Sandy, for example — and let each student hold her.
  • Ask the kids to help complete two lists on the blackboard: “What babies need” (bottles, food, clothes, hugs, and so on) and “What parents do” (feed, clothe, change, hug and kiss, and so on). If the kids don’t say “bring babies into the world,” add it to the parents’ list.
  • Tell them that Sandy’s birth parents brought her into the world, but that they realized they could not do all the other things parents do.
  • Tell them that Sandy’s forever parents wanted to do all those things for her, even though they didn’t bring her into this world.
  • Finish by explaining that Sandy has two sets of real parents — her real birth parents and her real forever family — and that she needs both to be who she is.
  • Don’t forget food! End your classroom presentation with a snack.

Staying Involved

Throughout the school year, you can make sure to keep adoption in the conversation. Here are some suggestions for you to explore!

  • Educate other parents who might want to talk to their children about adoption
  • Spearhead a community service project during National Adoption Month
  • Donate a packet of materials for educators at the school

Are there other ways that you stay involved in your child’s school? Let us know in the comments!

Additional Resources

https://afth.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/a-teachers-guide-to-introducing-adoption-in-to-the-classroom-in-4-easy-steps/
https://afth.wordpress.com/2014/09/03/adoption-in-the-classroom-back-to-school-edition/

Birth Parents and Placing a Child for Adoption without Family Support

Deciding to place a child for adoption is not a decision that is made overnight. Birth parents are extremely strong individuals that sacrifice so much for their baby’s future, but just because they are strong it does not mean that they do not need support during the adoption process. Sometimes when a expecting mother shares her adoption plan with family members, she doesn’t receive love and support. This blog post will explore those situations and provide expecting mothers who are choosing adoption with other ways to receive care and support during their adoption placement.

Placing Without Support


 

When Family and Friends Don’t Understand Adoption

Telling your family you are pregnant can be an overwhelming task if you don’t feel you are prepared to parent. Will they support your decision to consider adoption? Will they want you to raise the baby on your own? Will they want to raise the baby? There are a lot of questions rumbling around in your head before having that conversation with your family and it is important to know you are not alone. There are great resources available online like this one that can help you figure out the best way to broach the topic with your family members. They might even benefit from online resources too. Pages like Adoptions From The Heart can provide family members with a wealth of information about adoption and how to be supportive through the process.

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Comments from family and friends like, “I could never give up my child because I love them too much,” are extremely hurtful. It is important to remember the real reason you are considering adoption- you want what is best for your child because of how much you love them.

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Sometimes it is helpful to understand why friends and family might be saying intentionally hurtful things or feeling uncertain with your adoption plan.


Why There Might Be a Lack of Support After Placement

Before and after placement, it can be hard for your family and friends to really relate to your thought process and what you are going through. Kacey Bailey a contributor for Adoption.com, outlined some reasons why they just might not be understanding you in one of her posts. Here is what she gathered from her own experiences:

1. They’re afraid to feel what you are feeling or what you’ve felt.

The first time I attended a group of birth mothers was when I was pregnant. I sat there, staring at these girls, terrified to be where they were in just a few short months. Pain was written in their eyes and I was literally afraid to feel that way. I had no words for them. I yearned to reach out and comfort these precious souls, yet was terrified to open myself up to them as they were doing for me. The reality of what birth moms have done for a child, to willingly allow another person (or persons) to stand in her shoes, is unimaginable. It seems unfair of birth moms to expect their friends and family to attempt empathy, especially when it’s so frightening to be that distressed.

2. You’re an individual.
The story of how I became a birth mom isn’t too exciting, nor is it uncommon. Girl meets boy. Girl and Boy become friends. Girl and Boy have a one night stand. Boy leaves when Girl gets pregnant. While it’s so very basic, it’s also exceptionally complex. Allow me to be selfish while I say that what I experienced was different than what anyone else will ever know. My personality led me to where I needed to be, my thinking process is what guided me to my son’s parents, and my pain was felt in a way that nobody else will feel. I’m an individual. Take anybody else whose story lines up with mine in every manner, and we will have two different experiences. Birth moms should not expect someone who hasn’t experienced a similar situation to try to grasp the amount of hurt that is endured daily.

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3. They wish they could help more.
I had many friends abandon me when I became pregnant. Others stood awkwardly at the sidelines. It’s been 5 years since placement and I know now that most of the reasoning behind it was simple. They wanted to offer me the world. They wanted to offer me food, a job, a place to stay, a way to provide for me. In my pride, I refused it all and they were left not knowing how to help. It’s one thing to tell them “just be there for me” when nobody knows what “there” is. They gave the advice they would have given to themselves and since they couldn’t do it all, some did nothing. Not out of spite, or anger, but rather out of fear. People fear what they don’t know. Let them know that you just need a shoulder to cry on. When that’s all they offer you, be appreciative.

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4. Everyone handles grief in her own way.
Yes, there are the 5 stages of grief that we all experience after a loss. How we work through them are different. There was a fellow birth mom who dived into school just days after placement. I laid in my bed and cry for a few weeks, then stood up one day and went back to my life as well as I could. Some people may start up a new hobby while others will invest themselves into an old one. There are many ways to cope with loss, everybody is unique. Thus, there aren’t any people out there who know how I handled the loss of a child—nor how I’m handling it right now. My friends don’t know that my sudden outbreak of tears is actually a healthy release. It’s certainly not fair for me to expect them to know, that while my tears are a sign of frustration and longing, they’re also a sign that my healing process is an ongoing process.

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5. Sometimes, they think you need to “get over it.”
I have been told to “move on” from this child more times than not. As I stand there, in tears, I see a friend roll her eyes and look away. It’s not as if my pain is interrupting her life. It’s more that her healing process is different from mine, and she doesn’t understand that. While there’s part of me who wants to cut those people out of my social group, there’s a smaller, smarter part of me that uses this as a teaching opportunity. I explain, and while explaining, I heal. Talking has always helped my mind to organize emotions. While she may scoff and respond with, “I just don’t understand why you can’t move on.” I just smile and say, “I don’t want to”. That child is my heart and soul. He is part of me in a way that he will never be part of somebody else. I hold him sacred in my heart and if I were to cut ties with his memories, I would lose part of who I have become.

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A lot of what Kacey felt and still feels is not uncommon for birthparents. If your family or friends don’t understand, it is important to realize that sometimes…they just don’t understand and then to explore options for other types of support during your adoption journey.


Finding an External Support System

Birthmother Quote

When you place through an adoption agency, many will offer some sort of continued support for birth parents before, during and after placement. Taking advantage of these resources might not always feel natural or like something you want to do, but it has proven successful for so many birth parents. In a previous blog  we discussed the importance of support. One AFTH Birthmother remembered the feelings she had surrounding her first support group meeting:

“I didn’t want to go at all, but I knew deep down that I needed to go. I reluctantly RSVP’d. I dreaded it and looked forward to it at the same time, knowing it was out of my comfort zone. My feet and heart were heavy when I walked into my first meeting, which was only 2 months after I placed my daughter. I was a ball of nerves with a pocket full of tissues. I kept telling myself I wasn’t ready to talk, but I thought hearing other stories could be helpful. I teared up as soon as I walked in the room and saw the other women who had done the same thing I did. It made adoption even more real for me, if that’s possible. It helped me realize that it affects many women from all walks of life and that I wasn’t the only one struggling with it.”

Whether you need support before or after placement, there are options for everyone. Use links like this one to find support group meetings or counselors in your area. Birthmombuds  is another great online resource where you may find support. And if you get the courage and are brave enough, share your story. Often times, people don’t know who they can turn to for support and you might find other birthparents or others who have been touched by adoption who will then become your support.