Adoption is not just a big step for adoptive parents but for the children who are making their new life with them. Adjusting to this new way of life takes time. But here are some tops tips from adopted children themselves for potential or new adoptive parents…
Equal but different
Treating all your children the same is important. Children are equal but not the same, but as long as differences are valued and accepted, children adapt easily.
Listen and hear what is being said (and not said)
Communication is not just about speaking and listening. It’s more than this. Adopted children struggle to find the right time, space and language to communicate what is concerning them. How will you create an atmosphere in which your children feel comfortable communicating with you?
Be prepared to talk about adoption
Adopted children will have questions about the ‘why, how, where, who, when’ of their adoption. These questions are difficult, but you need to have the answers, delivering information with reassurance and empathy.
Be prepared for reactions
As an adopted parent, you may need to tell your adopted child or children something sad, upsetting or confusing about their birth family. Think through their possible reactions and be prepared to work through it with your child.
Don’t seek perfection
No child is perfect. EVERY child becomes angry, confused, or unsure about the world and their position in it. EVERY child presents challenging behaviour as they grow and develop. And sometimes, none of it is to do with being adopted. Sometimes, it happens because it just does!
Understand there are triggers
Some adopted children identified triggers which leave them feeling confused, unsure or angry. For example, being told someone in their birth family has died. Just as we remember other people with memorials, do the same with your adopted children if that is what they want.
Open and understanding
Letterbox contact is where your child may receive a letter or a card from their birth family. It is annual contact and adopted children have said that they find this awkward and hard, especially when they love their adoptive parents. You too may find this contact difficult but what adopted children have said is that being open and understanding about this makes it a little easier.
Love, no matter what
fulfils many needs for the child and for you. Just like other families, there will be ups and downs (mainly ups!). An adopted child may need more reassurance that no matter what, you will always love and cherish them.
The biggest lesson from the working group of adopted children who created a list of hints and tips for potential and new adoptive parents is both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time – never leave.
An adopted child will become part not just of your family unit but of your extended family too, not just now but for decades into the future, just like every other family.