As a couple coping with infertility, we’re thinking about adopting children instead of proceeding with in vitro fertilization. If you’re like us – riding the infertility roller coaster – you might be interested in what I’m learning about successful adoptions. These tips will help to prepare you to be an adoptive parent!
“Because I’ve traveled the world sharing how an adopted child sees adoption and talked with many whose lives have been touched by adoption…I’ve learned that the emotional needs of those touched by adoption are similar,” writes Sherrie Eldridge in 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. “The adoption triad – birth parents, adoptive parents, and adopted children – have unique life stories, but there are common threads of grief, joy, and anger.”
Eldridge also wrote 20 Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew – click the book cover to learn more about either of her books. The following tips for couples thinking about adoption are from 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed. I’m just sharing ten of Sherrie Eldridge’s tips for parents here; she describes all 20 tips in more detail in her book.
10 Tips for Adoptive Parents
1. Discover the sweet spot of success. Your definition of personal and parenting success may change when you adopt children – and success doesn’t depend on your child’s response to your parenting.
2. Become “adoption savvy.” Learn as much as you can about adopting children and how different families are created: foster care adoptions, closed adoptions, open adoptions, overseas adoptions…the more you learn about adopting a child, the better prepared you’ll be.
3. Beware of mixed feelings. As an adoptive parent, you’ll experience a wide variety of both positive and negative feelings – and so will your children. “If parents welcome their children’s talk about their feelings, everyone will realize that they are a normal part of adoptive family living and no one will have to suffer in silence,” writes Eldridge.
4. See the big picture. Know that your adopted child’s perception of adoption may different than yours as a parent…and accept that. Your goal as an adoptive parent is to bring out the best in your child – and that involves feeling uncomfortable at times, accepting constructive feedback from others, and realizing that knowing “everything” about adoption” doesn’t guarantee good parenting.
5. Know when and how to talk about adoption and birth. Eldridge recommends talking about adoption from day one and making adoption language part of your everyday conversation.
6. Evaluate your emotional health. This is a wonderful tip for adoptive parents: don’t pass the pain from your past or childhood down to your adopted kids. You need to deal with the pain of your past so you can respond (not react) to your child’s physical, spiritual, and emotional needs.
7. Settle the “real parent” questions. This is complicated for both adoptive parents and adopted children – but it will come up in most families. Is the birth mother more real than the adoptive mother? Are the biological kids more real than the adopted kids? There are no cut-and-dried answers here, which is why reading books for adoptive parents is so important!
8. Be confident as an adoptive parent. “There is a special place in the adopted child’s heart for you as well as for her birth parents,” writes Eldridge. Don’t let feelings of inadequacy or confusion undermine your parenting skills – and deal with the fact that your child will struggle with her complex identity.
9. Grieve your infertility losses. Whether you lost a baby through miscarriage or a stillborn birth, lost a child, or never got pregnant because of infertility, make sure you grieve your infertility losses before you adopt a child. Eldridge points out that feelings of grief and loss may arise after the adoption.
10. Establish a support system for your family. Whether your support system is from your friends and family because the adoption and parenting was seamless or from a family therapist because you need a bit of help – make sure you’re not isolating yourself or your children. Reach out to support groups, online forums, or community activities that are designed for adoptive families.
More tips for adoptive parents from 20 Things Adoptive Parents Need to Succeed:
- Discover what comforts your adopted child.
- Strive for parent/child intimacy.
- Redeem insensitive remarks about adoption.
- Honor your child’s birth parents.
- Don’t go on guilt trips.
- Deal with perfectionism.
- Stay hopeful and faithful.
- Celebrate your family!
- Assess your stress levels.
- Know that being different is good.
If you’re thinking about being an adoptive parent, read The Benefits and Drawbacks of Adopting a Child.
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If you have any questions or thoughts on these tips for adoptive parents, please comment below…