Adoption: A Lifelong Process
As of 2014, there are close to 8,000 children in Ontario who need to find a home with loving, understanding, and attentive parents. Some of these children have waited for weeks, others have waited for years. Once you’ve navigated through the legal loopholes of adoption, it’s important to prepare for the arrival of your family’s newest addition.
Although it can be difficult to prepare emotionally and mentally for adoption, it’s vital to prepare. Your adopted child relies on you to provide a stable, welcoming environment. Sometimes the acclimation process can take months and even years. Here’s how you can make it as successful and stress-free as possible.
Adoption truly is a lifelong process. If the Children’s Aid Societies (CAS) removed your child from their original home, they might harbor angry feelings of resentment toward you or CAS. If your adopted child’s birth parents abandoned them, they may continue to feel abandoned.
Your child needs you to understand their feelings so you can give them the attention and care they need. Some of the most common emotions adopted children feel include the following:
If you adopted a newborn, it’s important to understand the birth parent’s feelings. There are two types of adoptions: open and closed adoptions. Open adoptions often require you to stay in contact with your child’s birth parents (some birth parents become lifelong aunt or uncle figures). Closed adoptions give you a bit more space and allow you to deal with your child’s emotions without having to deal with the birth parents as well.
If you have other children, it’s also important to understand the feelings they might be experiencing. Siblings who welcome an adopted brother or sister may feel neglected, forgotten, or jealous. They may not understand how much attention an adopted child needs. Stay close with your children to ensure they aren’t experiencing negative emotions. If they are, have open discussions so they can voice their opinions and help determine the best solution.
Your adopted child may want to know more about their adoption. Why did their birth parents give them up? Why didn’t their birth parents love them enough to keep them? Some of these questions are hard to answer. As a parent, you need to offer answers and be open to discussion. Help your children understand that their birth parents didn’t give them up—they gave them more.
Your children might want details on the situation(s) that led to their adoption. Don’t keep secrets. Divulge information that will help your adopted child understand why they were placed in your care. Never talk negatively about your child’s birth parents. Regardless of your child’s outward emotions, they probably still feel a strong connection with their birth mother or father. If you don’t stay positive, open, and honest, your children might start to experience feelings of mistrust, insecurity, and alienation.
Gather your family together often to discuss questions, concerns, and feelings. Help each member of your family feel like they can trust you and your counsel. Your children—adopted or not—want to feel like their concerns are valid. Listen. Listen to what each child has to say and then make notes in your journal so you can readdress any concerns in the future.
Your adopted child needs you to be physically present. Make eye contact with your child and smile often. Predictable actions will help your child associate smiles and eye contact with safety and love. If your child does something to upset you, handle it in a loving way.
Establish a routine so your child doesn’t stress out about changes. Set (and keep) a schedule for the following daily markers:
- Waking up
- Eating breakfast
- Catching the bus
- Attending school
- Eating lunch
- Arriving home
- Practicing instruments
- Playing with friends
- Eating supper
- Going to bed
Your child will feel safer and more secure if they have a set schedule to follow. Keep this schedule visible on a fridge or bulletin board as a daily reminder to each of your children. If something disrupts the schedule and makes your child feel uncomfortable, talk it through so you can help them prepare for any potential changes in the future.
Many adopted children need constant attention and close physical contact. Be patient and understanding so your child feels comfortable while in your care. Many adopted children also struggle with problem behaviours at school or with their peers. Talk with your child’s teacher and school administration so they know how to handle any problematic behaviour.
If you need more information or counsel on adoption, contact your local family law lawyers. Family law lawyers understand the ins and outs of adoption and will help you feel more comfortable as an adoptive parent.