Without a doubt adoptive parenting is the hardest thing you will ever do. But it can also be the most rewarding. For us, adoption was the only way we were going to become a family. It is the greatest gift we ever received and we are always grateful. However, adoptive parenting is not the same as traditional parenting.
From the start this journey is harder. You will go through all sorts of grief and loss just to get here often. And then it will be intrusive. It will be hard and also very worth it. But you might question that often. In the interest of helping somebody else maintain sanity during this process I wrote this post. Here are five adoption facts that I know now, that I didn’t know when we began this parenting journey.
Five Adoption Facts
Education is a constant process throughout your lifespan. Parenting is one of the greatest learning experiences of all. Adoptive parenting is the same in that one respect: you are always learning about your child and growing as a parent. But, it is also parenting amplified.
Our kids need more than the average neuro-typical children. That’s a fact substantiated by much research that has been done over the past three decades. Insults, even in utero, can cause lifelong triggers, behaviours, struggles and stuck spots. Mental health issues are often high in adoptees and special needs adoption is now more the norm than the exception, in Ontario anyways.
Five Adoption Facts
1. You will need support.
(Please take this to heart..it has been one of the most useful adoption facts) Other adoptive parents (peer to peer based supports) will be your greatest resource. Seek them out, find their support groups. If you do not find their support groups, contact your local Children’s Aid Society and ask where they are. If they don’t exist, then build one.
Everyone needs support. Adoption is different and the stresses are different for our families. You will need to bounce ideas off parents who have walked the walk before you.
2. Adoption is a lifelong journey:
Fact. This was brought back to me the other night by Barbara Jones-Warrick, a private therapist and an adoptee, who has helped thousands of families and children over the years. At various ages, events, and developmental stages there will be triggers for your child. Perhaps it’s a birthday, maybe it’s a trip, an airport, the noise of a balloon popping, a sudden change, a season, a school project, a transition, a memory, a smell.
3. You will get good at answering complicated questions about adoption
There are no other options really. If you fail to answer the questions then you will hurt your relationship with your child. If you refuse to answer your child learns not to ask and also learns adoption is a shameful fearful topic. Even if you have to say I’d love to answer that question tonight when it’s Mommy and Payton time, it’s okay. But do answer.
Answer at a developmentally appropriate level in simple terms.
Follow their lead.
Don’t volunteer more than they want to hear.
Relax, there will be many opportunities to answer over and over.
It always looks different but often this is tricky territory. For instance: Is my birthmom dead? Why didn’t they just get help? Why did they give me up? Was I a bad baby? Or the ever popular I’m leaving to find my birth parents. (because you told me to turn the TV off at dinner time or because I hit my sister and you are mad at me.)
PSST.. a little tip – I consistently tell my kids adoption is always an adult decision because of adult issues or choices. There is nothing a baby or child can do that would ever cause adoption to happen.
4. You will need to be an advocate:
Get very very comfortable with the role. Every child needs help advocating and learning to advocate or trust their voice. Our children are assaulted often by insensitive systems. School projects ask for baby pictures when foster children may not even have baby pictures. School projects ask sometimes describe the day you were born. Describe your heritage. (strange questions to figure out if you are dark skinned and your parents are fair skinned. How do you answer – as an adoptee or using what little you might know about your birth parent’s heritage.)
Be creative. Explain to the teacher your concerns. And if you are not a good advocate find someone, learn the skills, study and practice. 90 % of the parents I know who have adopted a child have had to learn advocacy skills. Others have hired a lawyer.
5. Separation anxiety for our children is often heightened.