Tag Archives: adoption

Feel the Love: How to Bond with Your Adopted Child

Smith & Sons (2)

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.

Untitled design (1)

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?

 

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

 

 

 

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/

Adopting a Substance Exposed Child

Adopting a Substance Exposed Child

 

Substance abuse amongst pregnant women is more prevalent than one may believe. About 1 in 5 women will use an illicit drug or substance during pregnancy. Detecting the effects of substance abuse on an infant or child may be difficult because oftentimes the symptoms presented are subtle and similar to that of other illnesses.

Symptoms of Substance Abuse during Pregnancy

Babies who are born to moms who abuse substances during their pregnancies can encounter an array of complications. Some of these complications include:

  • Premature Birth
  • Low Birth weight
  • Heart Defects
  • Birth Defects
  • Infections
  • Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome ( NAS)

Babies who are born to moms who abuse substances during pregnancy may also encounter other problems later on in life. Some of these include:

  • Learning and Behavior Problems
  • ADD/ADHD
  • Slower Than Average Growth Rate
  • Sudden Infant Death Syndrome ( SIDS)
  • Sensory Integration issues

newborn-617414_1280

Adoption Process

Prenatal exposure to substances can affect all types of adoptions: Infant or older child, domestic or international; public, private, or independent.

Some initial steps that can be taken when going through the adoption process are as follows:

  • Ask for a complete medical history and details about exposures: what substances were taken, for how long, whether or not the child can be or was born addicted, results of neonatal and subsequent testing, developmental aptitudes, etc.
  • Seek independent medical evaluations
  • Learn about prenatal exposures, what they are and potential effects.
  • Examine your attitudes and work with adoption and/or counseling professionals if you need help assessing your own abilities and capabilities.

Most agencies will offer you access to, information about, or assist you in finding resources to help you before, during, and after the adoption process. Here some resources that may be helpful for you to utilize:

 

  • Adoption and/or medical subsidies
  • Continuing to seek out information about support and/or educational services
  • Health and child development follow-ups throughout the preschool years
  • Special education services, including tutoring for those children who are underperforming
  • Counseling Services, including assessment and intervention for neuropsychological problems
  • Support groups for parents
  • Behavioral Management Services, including education and guidance for dealing with children throughout various developmental stages
  • Respite care
  • Legal assistance for parents in finalizing the adoption and pursuing services

It is Important to Remember..

Remember that every child responds to substance abuse differently and there is no way to predict how your child may be affected. However, if impairment is present, don’t assume that there is nothing that can be done to help your child. The greatest asset to you is assessing the needs of your child and intervening early on.

Children with developmental delays can and should be referred to federal early intervention programs or programs offered by adoption agencies and local school systems. Mental health professionals can also assist parents in coping with their child’s difficult behaviors and helping children attach to their caregivers.

Although parenting a child who has been exposed to prenatal drug use can be challenging to even the most skilled parent, research shows that when parents work with professionals and provide a loving and stimulating home, most children are able to thrive and adjust well.

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.

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/