It’s hard to believe that it was just 15 weeks ago that we brought our precious little Grady home! It feels like he has been with us so much longer. I can hardly remember what life was like without him. Upon being home from our almost three year journey to adopt Grady, we have gotten a lot of questions about our process to adopt Grady and the transition home. In response to many of those questions, I came up with a guide for friends and family of adoptive parents. Even though the majority of individuals view adoption in a positive light, many do not know a lot about adoption. I hope this blog serves as a guide to help friends and family best support the adoptive parents and children in their lives. Happy reading!
Infertility Is A Painful Reality for Many Couples. When a couple announces that they are adopting, don’t ask if they are unable to have biological children. For individuals that are unable to conceive, that question gets old quick, and can be uncomfortable when asked repeatedly. If couples want to volunteer that information to you, they will. Don’t pry just because you are curious. Also, never refer to adoption as “plan B.” God has a plan for every person’s life, and regardless of whether infertility is involved, adoption is a beautiful way for God to grow one’s family.
Adopted Children Are Real. When couples announce they are adopting they often get asked, “Do you want your own kids too?” Or “Are you going to have any real kids?” This terminology implies that adopted children are somehow less ours or imaginary. Adopted children are just as much their parents as any biological child. There is no need to label my children “adopted children” and “biological children.” They are all my children, given to me by God.
We Did Not Buy Our Child. Adoption is expensive. There are many fees involved, however, these children are not goods to be purchased. If you are considering adoption and want to know more about the finical aspect, feel free to ask us about it, just be sure to ask when we are not in front of our child.
Adopted Children Need Privacy. There is a story behind every adoption. At age-appropriate levels we will tell our child about thier past and let them decide when/if and who they share their story with. This information is theirs to own and for us to protect. Again, this is personal information that some may volunteer. Avoid asking questions about the biological parents or reason for being an orphan to respect our child’s privacy.
Adoption Parenting is Different Than Parenting A Biological Child. Of course there are far more similarities that differences, but respecting the differences is key. When a parent of an adoptive child makes a decision you think is somewhat strange, don’t challenge their methods (even if you have been a parent for much longer). Adoptive parents often have years to prepare, reading textbooks and research studies, and most take a 12 hour education course. Adoptive parents are much more aware of the unique needs of their children so do not disrespect their knowledge by questioning their parenting choices. You don’t let an adopted infant “cry it out” while they are still in the process of attaching to you, just like you don’t initially spank a child who has been physically abused. Methods that are commonly used for most children can be ineffective or even harmful to adopted children.
Our Child Is An Individual. Please do not stereotype adopted children, even if you do so in a “positive” way. Just because a child has dark skin or slanted eyes, does not mean they are going to play in the NBA one day or love Karate. God has given our children unique strengths and giftings for the appropriate calling on his or her life. Constantly calling attention to the way a child is different can be difficult for a child growing up. Most children long to “fit in” so avoid making them feel out of place.
Our Child Has An Awesome Heritage. Many adopted children come from different ethnic backgrounds and this is something to be celebrated, not ignored. Many adoptive families have chosen to teach their children traditions from their own families, as well as incorporate new traditions from their birth country and/or cultural background. For example, our son is an African-American, born in Ethiopia. We as a family plan to celebrate certain Ethiopian holidays and participate in celebrating African-American history and traditions in addition to our own family traditions. There is absolutely no room for stereotyping or prejudice in the kingdom of God, and if you make comments that belittle any people group in front of us, or our child, we will lovingly correct your wrongful attitude.
Attachment Takes Time. It takes adopted children time to bond with their new parents. During the first few months up to the first few years home, it is vital for parents to help their new children learn to trust and them by meeting all their basic needs. This means for a period of time new parents will be the only ones to feed, soothe, diaper, and rock their children to sleep.
Adoptive Parents Need Help! Even though parents will be meeting all the major needs of their new children, family and friends can still help out by offering to come over and clean, do yard work, bring a meal, or run errands for the family.
New Stimulus Is Very Overwhelming to Adoptive Children. When parents first bring home their newly adopted son or daughter, they will slowly transition their child to their new world. New stimulus is overwhelming to adopted children and can cause a great deal of anxiety if not transitioned appropriately. It takes time for children to heal from their past hurts (no mater how young the child is). They must have a safe place for that healing to take place. This looks differently for every family so respect the parent’s choices about this life transition.
Adoption Is Not A Dirty Word. You don’t have to whisper the word adopted (we only whisper things we’re embarrassed about). Adoption is a beautiful thing and we clap and say, “Yay!” every time the word adoption comes up in our house. You can help our child out by also teaching your children about the gift of adoption.
We Are Not Mother Teresa. Please do not tell us what amazing people we are for adopting (even though we know people mean it as a compliment). We are just two people who have submitted our lives to the Holy Spirit, following his leading in our lives. Our child is not a service project or humanitarian initiative. We gladly care for our child, as all children are a gift from God.
No Child Is Perfect. Every child in the history of the world has made mistakes and disappointed their parents. When our child’s behavior becomes difficult, don’t ask us if we regret our decision to adopt or imply that “we asked for it.” Think about how rude it would be to ask a new, sleep-deprived mother if she regretted her decision to conceive!
Nobody Is Perfect. You might be looking at this list thinking, “Yikes! I’ve already made some of these mistakes.” That’s okay. We have spent two and a half years preparing to be adoptive parents and we realize that most people know very little about the subject. We promise to not hold grudges or be easily offended. We so appreciate that you care about our family. And we look forward to our children growing up with such a loving group of family and friends.