Recently I read an article written by a sweet mom who was in the process of adopting. She shared the crazy things people have said to her. They went on to list 5 things NOT to say to someone adopting. It was good advice.
Being on this side of adoption – 21 years later – I realize there are 5 things to say to someone adopting. In fact, we NEED to say! Now don’t get me wrong here. I am a firm believer that unsolicited advice sounds like criticism. In this case, when someone shares that they are adopting then I believe that gives me an opportunity to ask if they would like some suggestions. Which DID NOT happen with us. And trust me, a lot of heartache would have been avoided if people would have been honest! Given that, I am using that situation as a positive opportunity to come alongside families who are embarking on this wonderous, mysterious journey.
So here it is –
- There will always be a hole in their heart for their birth mom. It’s true and there is no way you can escape it. Some of my children love me immensely (sadly some don’t). Yet they all long for that connection that was established in the womb over those 9 months. Some of my kids lived with their birth parents for a short time too. FYI – all we adopted at 6 months or younger, including a newborn so the age they were adopted does not matter. This lovely one explains that well.
- It is hard work. Yes, parenting in and of itself is hard work. Adding a child to your family that has different genetic traits, whether it is left handed to type A personality, then your family takes a lot of getting used to. So when people say we are saints, (we are not!) I take that as a compliment that they see how hard we are working to integrate this kiddo into our family tapestry. Or to raise them to become successful, functioning adults. It is not for the faint of heart.
- Do your research on all things adoption. There are certain things that come with these kiddos brains whether you private or foster adopt. Don’t make the same mistake I did in thinking love and prayer will take care of it. Are these things needed? OH YES! It’s just that so is a whole lot of knowledge. Knowledge about their birth history, knowledge about their birth family and their genetic makeup, knowledge about resources, knowledge about attachment. You get the idea.
- Have a strong support system. One of the myths of adoption is that all things will run smoothly from the time you pickup up your sweet one. Well that is not true of parenting a bio kiddo and that is certainly not true of parenting an adopted one. Have people in your support group with whom you can be honest. Preferably family members who will not judge but trust you and will be willing to equip themselves too with the knowledge needed to be a positive part of this adoption. Also families that too have adopted kiddos. This I cannot stress enough. No one knows what it is like in the trenches well until they too have gotten their knees dirty! And can be honest about it. And it is good for your adopted kiddo to not be the only one in your friend circle. And one strong mentor who you trust and will loving be honest and supportive. Did I make it clear enough that honesty is invaluable? Bye rose colored glasses.
- Not all adoptions make it. This is the one thing I have said that has gotten the most raised eyebrows. It’s true. Failed adoptions are a well hidden secret and there are families laying wrecked on the side of adoption highway. The most important thing to note here – is the likelihood of this happening will definitely decrease if you take under advisement the other 4 steps. However, not completely. The adopted kiddo has a say and their behavior will let you know that LOUD AND CLEAR. No one, and I mean No One, who adopts wants this to happen or has taken the easy way out if it does. Our love for our kiddos fills and wrenches our hearts.
There you go! I said it. Please take this as loving and kind and realistic! I know all too well and firsthand, that hearing this when caught up in the blissful smell of baby powder and cooing is hard not to think “maybe you but not me”. Trust me, I am not by any means trying to “steal your joy” as this has been one of the most rewarding journeys of my life. I am only trying to make the path a bit smoother for yours.