Applying to adopt is life-changing. And the moment you take home your newly-adopted child is a feeling unlike no other. But like any new parent, it is daunting too. So what it is that other adoptive parents think you should know?
#1 Manage your expectations
Adopting a child fulfils many needs, your own included. It is easy to assume that once home, everything in the garden will be rosy.
Children who are adopted will have attachment wounds that take time to heal. Trust can be lacking too. All this coupled with a deep-seated fear of abandonment can lead to them being withdrawn.
You may feel the urge to ‘fix it’. But attachment issues are not fixed overnight; however time is on your side. So take things slowly, build trust and confident step by step, little by little.
#2 You will need to re-define lots of things!
To you, it’s a simple instruction – make your bed, for example, or empty the dishwasher.
But for a newly adopted child, these ‘instructions’ can be daunting and nonsensical. ‘Make your bed’ is a colloquial term but if you don’t understand what it means, how do you know what to do?
As well as age-appropriate tasks, you need child-appropriate tasks. And this may mean re-defining a lot of things.
Don’t forget, children who haven’t had the level of care needed in their very early weeks, months and years of life may not have the same developmental age as that of their peers.
With love and attention, they will ‘catch up’ but in the early days of them living with you, meet your child where he or she is at, not where you assume or think they should be for their age.
In other words, you may need to show them, step-by-step how to empty the dishwasher or make their bed.
#3 Discipline will be needed – but fair and gentle
Once your adopted child has settled in, there will be instances in which you will need, at times like every other parent, to introduce boundaries.
And when boundaries are crossed, and rules are broken, there needs to be a consequence. Collectively known as discipline, as an adopted parent it can be easy to assume that negative behaviour will pass or excuse it because a child had a ‘bad start in life’.
But by ignoring it, you are doing a disservice to your child. By helping them understand there are boundaries and rules, by helping them to understand what they are and why they are there, you are teaching your adopted child to be resilient.
Don’t forget, your social worker is still there to ask for help and advice. And there are many support groups for adoptive parents too that will help you manage behaviour.
#4 Do something happy every day
With everything weighing heavy on your shoulders, the fear of doing something wrong and your adopted child not loving you back, it is vital that you remember why you become an adoptive parent in the first place.
Doing something fun and light-hearted every day is a bonding exercise. It can be something like teaching them how to play a board game, a game of football in the garden, an ice cream and a trip to the park or movie night with popcorn, something where you all get chance just to be together, to get to know each other and, the most important aspect of all, to laugh together.
#5 Struggle has many faces
We think we come to adoption knowing ourselves but we learn so much in the first few months as adoptive parents.
Struggle has many faces – in other words, what you didn’t think would be a problem actually is. Just when you think you have the whole thing sorted and ‘in the bag’, you feel uncertain and daunted once again.
Being a parent is not easy, at times. But it does get easier, better and different – and that’s what family is all about.
Adopters for Adoption are behind hundreds of successful adoptions every year. To find out more about how to adopt, contact them for more information.