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Tempering Expectations: Being First-Time Adopters

Parenting is a gratifying and overwhelming job. Neither adoption nor the biological method is easier than the other. At the end of the day, you have to keep your focus on what matters most: the children.

The heart of an adopted child is a desperate, fragile, and brave little organ. That child has already borne more trauma than any child should have to, and as adoptive parents, you must accept that. When you love a child, you recoil at the idea of harm coming to them. But suppressing that revulsion and facing it head-on is the best way to help your child recover from their trauma. This means dedicating time to understanding their experiences and life before they become your kid.

What Your Child Needs

The state-assigned social worker or your family attorney should find out any documents and records regarding the child that any other government agency filed previously. Use these documents as a pathway to building a framework of the life your child has lived. It will give you context for what to concentrate on and how to help your child recover. Naturally, a therapist is a must. Sending your children by themselves and doing family sessions is an essential key in unlocking their fears and helping them accept the sanctity and permanence with which you have undertaken their care and well-being.

There are naturally many other ways you can help as well. Read through this post and see which ones resonate with you for your child.

Patience and Constant Reassurance

Adoption is a lengthy and draining process. Your child will have heard horror stories of parents backing out at the last minute. Visit them as often as you are able, take your other children to see them, and constantly reassure them that the wait is worth it.

Get their input on colors and decor for their room, make grand plans for their first week at home celebrations, and generally make them feel loved. Keep up a conversation with the people involved in the process to be sure that everything is going smoothly and you can bring your child home as soon as possible.

All Children Want the Same

Treat all your children with the same game plan. Naturally, some children will have more or fewer responsibilities than others, depending on their age and school/extracurricular activities. Overall, work on making it clear that you favor no one more than the other.

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Take the time to explain the difference (different bedtimes, different chores) to the children as a group, and follow up individually so that they understand it is about their ability and not a preference on your part.

Both biological and adoptive children will feel pressure to integrate into the new family unit and get attention and affection from parents. You must be ready to meet these sensitive emotional needs until everyone settles in. Always be on the lookout for your actions to ensure that you do not treat your biological children better than your adopted children.

Factor In Their Past

If there is anything about your child’s habits, behaviors, or personality that you are having difficulty with, consider it likely due to their experiences. Children can remember traumatic experiences from as young as two or three years old. So if your child acts out or hoards food, do not use punishment on them where you can use compassion and understanding.

Talk to their caseworker, foster parents, and the adoption center to learn why they behave the way they do. If you can contact their birth parents, have a candid chat with them about the behaviors to find out if they can shed any genetic light on the habits.

Talk It Out with Them

Candid discussions about the adoption that brought them into your home are critical to help your child normalize and accept it for themselves. Talk about the preparation for your adoptive children the same way you talk about preparing for your biological children. Drop anecdotes, laugh about memories of scary moments, and answer any questions that any children ask truthfully.

It is vital for your children’s health and the family unit that they all see how normal it is to be an adoptive child. Keeping up this open forum for discussion will help everyone not to feel different or pressured to keep fears and worries inside.

The first few weeks or even months are going to be wild. Every child is the same when they are in overwhelming situations. They do not have the maturity and experience to deal with significant changes of this nature with serenity.

Despite being happy and delighted, your child can act out, throw tantrums, and break down fairly regularly. Always keep repeating to yourself that they are dealing with everything that has happened to them to the best of their abilities. Develop a game plan with your spouse to help your children process, express, and move past this period. Your counselor and attorney should be a great help in developing this game plan.

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