Raising an Adopted Child

Today, many families are turning to adoption to start or to expand a family. Whether due to issues with infertility or to a desire to extend love and care to a child in need, adoption is a way of enjoying the blessing of family life.

If you are thinking about adopting a child or if you have already adopted a youngster, consider the following tips:

Important Facts to Consider
When we think of having a baby in the family, we usually imagine a smiling little cherubnik cuddled in our arms. The reality of small human beings is often very different however. Children are complex, bringing a host of exhausting, painful, frightening and difficult  experiences to parents. While it is possible to find oneself raising a very easy child, it is even more likely to find oneself raising a complicated little person with a variety of issues (because that’s just how people are!). While there is no reason to expect worse case scenarios, realistic expectations of child-rearing can help adoptive parents be prepared for the journey of raising a child and be sure that this is what they want. Consider the normal and common challenges: a baby can suffer from intense colic or various health issues. Toddlers can be wild and uncontrollable. School-age children are often uncooperative or even defiant. When parents of naturally born children discover their child has developmental issues of some kind – learning disabilities, emotional problems or behavioral challenges – they handle the stress knowing that this is their child who they must raise the best they can. When their adolescent rebels, goes on drugs or gets into trouble with the law, they feel intense pain but they know that this comes with the territory of raising children. Adoptive parents can face a bit more difficulty in coming to terms with the difficulties in parenting and particularly with difficult-to-raise children. If it turns out that their adopted child has truly challenging issues, they may feel that they got a raw deal or that they could have had an easier life if only they hadn’t gone to the trouble of adopting. Just like natural parents, adoptive parents have to be psychologically prepared for everything and anything. Having or adopting a child is something like buying a piece of property “sight unseen.” As long as you are prepared for this reality, you will be able to take the challenges of child-rearing more in stride.

Biological Parents in the Picture
Whether you decide to be open about the adoption with your child, or you want to keep it a secret until the right time, your child will almost certainly want to meet his or her biological parents someday. You will eventually have to face the task of sharing what you know about them, and assisting your child in the search for them. This can sometimes be a painful process for both the child and the adoptive parents. Your child has to process issues of abandonment and feelings of not being wanted. You have to deal with the reality that being an adopted parent is a special role, one that involves forever sharing your child with the people who brought him or her to the world, whether in fact or just in your child’s mind. However, being prepared for this part of the parenting journey helps significantly. If possible, find out what this process was like for other parents – how they went about it, how it felt for them, their child and the biological parents. The internet alone is filled with group sites, blogs, and forums catering to adoptive families. Others can offer practical and emotional support to ease the way.

Family history is a critical part of a person’s identity, and your child may even struggle with the issue of why he or she is put for adoption in the first place. Your child may go through an “identity crisis” as he or she tries to work out his or her place in the world in general and in your family in particular. A child’s racial and cultural heritage will always be a significant part of his or her persona. Recognizing and honoring all parts of the child’s background helps the child to remain healthy and whole.

Relationships are Nurtured and Healed with Love
Just like their adoptive parents, adopted children have an extra set of issues to contend with in their family. They know that they come from other people and this creates a challenge for them. Children always resent their parents at some point because parents, being just regular human beings, sometimes behave poorly or make poor judgments or somehow manage to let their kids down. Naturally born children take this in stride, having the “luxury” so to speak, of resenting their folks but knowing that these are their parents. Adopted kids will also experience disappointment in or anger at their adoptive parents but they may think, “my real parents would have loved me more” or “why did I have to get adopted by these horrible people?” Expect your child to go through bad moments of feeling completely alienated. Allow for the bumpy road. But continue to do the best you can, providing consistent, unwavering love and generous doses of positive communication. In the end, this will help to ensure that your adopted child will be as close to you throughout life as any “natural born” child would be.

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