Adoption is a wonderful solution for parents who hope to bring a child into their home, and it can be one of the best solutions for birth parents who are not capable of or ready for the responsibility of parenthood. Emotionally preparing to bring a child into your home is just as important as making room in the house, crafting financial plans, and envisioning the physical future. Here are some things adoptive parents need to consider in order to be emotionally ready to care for an adopted child.
Process your own feelings before adopting.
It's important for adopted children to feel accepted and important in the family. Many people choose to adopt after discovering they cannot have children on their own. It's important, however, that adoptive parents realize that adoption is not an "alternative" solution to building a family. Adopted children should not be an afterthought. It's essential that the adopted child feels no "replacement" pressure from the parents. For example, parents can unconsciously put all their hope and pain of not being able to conceive onto the adopted child. If the child knows that they were only adopted because no biological children were possible, they may have feelings of being only second best, or they may feel like they do not belong.
The best way to avoid this problem is to fully sort through your own emotions over your decision to adopt before bringing your child home. You might attend counseling, take part in a grief/infertility group, or talk with other adoptive parents for advice.
Appreciate the realness of your child's situation.
When children learn of adoption, they need to know what it means and how it relates to them. For many children, even infants, being taken from a biological family can be traumatic, and they don't even realize it until later in life. You can help make this process easier by
- accepting the realness of the confusion, pain, anger, or frustration. Young children struggle to understand the real-world events that drive adoption, and they have feelings of guilt and abandonment. They often do not have the acumen to reason away these emotions by understanding it was financially, emotionally, and socially better for them to be adopted. Show empathy for tears over being "given away" or "abandoned."
- being honest. Many adults try to curb the pain of adoption by using language like "we chose you because we love you so much" or by telling stories that are not true about the birth parent. This type of language creates a confusing dynamic, mostly implying that the birth parent did not choose them because they may not have loved their child enough. Instead, be honest. Say things like "We're a family. Adopting you helped us to bring you into our family. We like having you here," or "Adoption is a choice that adults make for their children. Sometimes it can be hard to understand all the reasons why." These calming statements accept the difficulty of the adoption dynamic, but they don't create more confusion for the child.
- being patient. Many parents want their relationship with their child to be hiccup-free. While this sometimes does occur in adoptive situations, adoptive parents should prepare for conversations and the possibility that there will be more bumps in the road than with a biological child. Don't pretend everything is lovely—many children feel like they need to keep up the pretense in order to keep their place in the family.
Prepare for questions about birth parents and the "might have been" life of your child.
These questions should be welcomed, even if they are emotionally hard for you to answer. Children naturally want to make sense of their past, and asking questions is healthy and normal. They are not asking about their birth parentage because they love you less or reject you—humans have a natural sense of needing to belong, and knowing the answers about their past will help in their quest to form a self-identity.
For more information on adoption, check out websites like http://www.achildsdream.org.