First, let me preface this with; adoption is hard and adoption is SO worth it. Adoption is such a precious thing and with this unique experience comes lots of challenges and triumphs. There is SO much to unpack when it comes to the intricacies of adoption. These are JUST a few of the topics that are important for adoptive families. If you are considering adoption or have adopted and just need a little encouragement, make sure to keep reading! Here are some of our thoughts for parenting an adopted child:
(This post may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links with no additional cost to you! As an Amazon affiliate, I earn from qualifying purchases. This income helps this stay-at-home mama provide for her family!)
1. Learn about their back story
This is SO important for two reasons!
Your child’s back story has produced who they are. Their story prior to your family will define their struggles and victories. This will play into who they are as a person. Cherish their story. The good and the bad. Encourage them in it and celebrate what they have overcome. While the act of adoption is a treasure, it is born out of a very broken place. No child wants to suffer the trauma of being separated from their mother; whether they were an hour old or 15 years old. The brokenness of this world walks hand in hand with the beauty of God’s redemption in the act of adoption.
As a family, consider whether or not you can handle the behaviors that stem from their past. For a family with young children, taking in a child with sexual abuse in their past may not be a wise thing to do. If your family has no children, you could be the perfect fit for the child that has walked through such a difficult journey.
2. Creating a safe environment for your family
Creating a safe place for your new family is important. It is important for the original family members to feel safe as well as the new family members. Having a home that is peaceful, intentional, safe, and nurturing enhances cognitive, emotional, and physical development. You can read more about that in a study done by NCBI. Here is a list of key ways to create a safe home environment for your family.
Consistency is so important for children in general and especially for children that have struggled through a disruptive childhood. Having consistent schedules and behaviors from mom and dad allows the child to experience the safety of predictability.
Many kids experience trauma and abuse of some kind as well as the fact that they are also still children trying to learn life skills. This painful past can impact their current developmental skills as well as their ability to trust. Patience is key in allowing your child to learn and open up at a pace that is beneficial and healing to them.
Finding out what your child needs is so important. When they first enter your home you will know as much about their personal needs and preferences as they do yours. They may need different things than your family has needed in the past. For example, I have two 6-year-old daughters. One of them needs speech therapy right now. That’s okay! We will adapt to meet any need so that she is well equipped as she becomes an adult.
One thing that I can guarantee you is that life with children is unexpected. When you add the trauma that often comes with adoption, it becomes greatly unexpected. Having the skill of flexibility will help as you enter into a journey where the days are full of unexpected behaviors and responses to normal life situations.
For instance, for one of my children’s 5th birthday, they begged and begged for a piggy bank for months. One of the other siblings had a fun ceramic one and they were the same age. I went ahead and purchased the stuff to make a super fun piggy bank and spent a few hours making it in their favorite color. They opened it during their birthday party and you could see how excited they were! They promptly turned around and broke the whole thing. Literally about 30 seconds after opening it. You can never anticipate the reaction of a child as sometimes they don’t understand their own actions. It’s ok, just roll with the punches and be flexible!
Physical touch is huge. They say that you need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, and 12 hugs a day for growth. That’s a lot of hugs! Keeping in mind that your child may not have experienced living physical touch prior to your home, having positive moments of physical touch can be life-altering! Make sure you are hugging your other kids as well- it’s a good idea to make sure there is lots of healthy physical touch bonding time. Especially for younger children.
Reassurance for your other kids:
This is equally as important for a safe home environment as making sure your newest addition is feeling safe and secure. Your other children need the assurance that everything is going to be okay and that mom and dad love them just as much. Much like the birth of a younger sibling, making sure the other kids feel loved allows the newest one to have healthy and secure relationships with their new siblings. Allow yourself to be a safe place for your kids to confide in, be reassured, and be loved well. This gives your child confidence in every aspect of life.
Take care of yourself:
To be honest I think the “me time” movement is a little overkill. BUT, to have a fully functioning home with a healthy marriage and a healthy relationship with your children, you need to be whole and healed yourself. Mama’s are vital to how a home honors the Lord. Take the time to rest in the Lord, to read books, laugh with your hubby, and grow as you do life with your kids. Full disclosure: I am learning how to rest in this myself!
Identifying and dealing with trauma
Trauma is real and significant in adopted children. Studies show that attachment to a parent is critical to the development of a child and a child being separated from their mother causes traumatic emotional responses. Given that adoption is born from the separation of a parent, you can expect trauma responses from your children.
How to navigate trauma once identified:
As my husband and I have walked this adoptive parenting journey we have identified different triggers that one of our children experiences. In our situation, it can look like lack of bladder control after family trips (fear of abandonment) or aggressive behavior around holidays and celebrations (memory triggers prior to our family) Here are a few ways we are learning to navigate these difficult seasons:
Healing In Jesus’ name!
He does the healing. Praying healing over your child is as powerful as it gets. Immerse yourself in prayer and scripture. Somedays, you realize you have as much healing and growing to do as they do.
He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.1 Peter 2:24
This is JUST a season
As our child has gotten older our hard seasons have gotten shorter and our good seasons have gotten longer. When we first got our daughter we had months of bad days with a few good days sprinkled in between. Now, years later, we are pretty consistent with about 2 weeks of hard days and 6 weeks of good days. We are always thankful as that timeline continues to change and improve.
Having fellow believers come alongside you is important. I am constantly being reminded that we are in a battle for our kid’s souls. Find friends that will pray for you on the hard days and will praise Him with you on the good days.
Finding friends that have also adopted is crucial. I am always encouraged and relieved when I find friends that have experienced the battle just as much as I have. Not only do we have that sorrow and great joy in common, but they understand your heart when you don’t have the words to define it.
I was never much of a counseling gal and then we hit this season of life that I had no idea how to handle. We were young, had a whole passel of little kids, and had an adoption sprung on us. We had no idea how to handle these parenting situations that stemmed from trauma that were so different than our biological kids parenting situations that had only known stability. Counseling with our daughter has been a Godsend. He has sent us women that absolutely love the Lord and have come alongside us to point our daughter back to Him. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice on how to help this brokenness heal.
There are SO many amazing books to help you along in this journey. These books have been life-changing in my parenting and in our adoptive journey.
Making a home for your child:
Children thrive in peaceful environments. One of the ways to create that safety is through organization and allowing them to take part in creating their own home. Letting them choose how their room looks or hanging up a picture they made on the fridge gives them the security of knowing that they contributed to the family home just as much as everyone else has. When our daughter came we redid our kid’s rooms and each of our kids got to choose a color that belonged to them. My girls chose pink and purple. We went to the store and bought one daughter purple sheets and one daughter pink sheets. This gave them the comfort of knowing it was their own possession, their own choice, and in their own home.
For ideas on how we organized our home feel free to check out:
For more parenting tips and tricks:
Be sure to visit us at Grace This Place!