Welcome, 2020! The arrival of the new year brings new things. There’s a new number to fill in on datelines, a new calendar to hang on the wall, and a new 12-month period for which to plan. Prospective adoptive parents are hoping 2020 will bring the arrival of a new family member through an adoptive placement. Since the adoptive placement of a child is never guaranteed, prospective adoptive parents are smart to make resolutions for 2020 which will serve them whether or not a placement occurs.
New Year’s resolutions are a tradition in which a person makes a firm decision, or resolves, to accomplish a goal, change a negative trait or behavior, or otherwise improve his life. Certain resolutions are common and continuing; these resolutions are made, and likely broken, over and over again. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, only 46% of those who made New Year’s resolutions were successful in reaching their goals. But, as the saying goes, it is better to try and fail than to have never tried at all.
Typical New Year’s resolutions are great for prospective adoptive parents. Meeting these goals, or at least making progress towards reaching them, will enhance the adoption journey and the subsequent parenting process. Prospective adoptive parents will be doubly blessed if they receive an adoptive placement and achieve success with resolution goals at the same time. If no placement is obtained, they will still have made some positive progress in their lives.
But what New Year’s resolutions are common and helpful whether one is on an adoption journey or not? Actually, any of the top ten resolutions identified by Brad Zmick of GoSkills will serve prospective adoptive parents. Let’s consider five of these resolutions and how each can be of benefit to those seeking to adopt.
1. Exercise More. If you don’t think exercising more is a top New Year’s resolution, then you haven’t been to your local gym in early January. For the general public, wanting to exercise more is born of a desire to improve their health, a laudable goal. For prospective adoptive parents, more exercise can improve health, but it has an added benefit–it serves as a stress reliever during the adoption journey.
Not knowing whether you will receive a match or if a pending match will be successful can cause great stress. The Mayo Clinic reports that virtually any form of exercise, such as yoga or swimming for example, can act as a stress reliever. Exercising pumps up endorphins, the brain’s “feel-good neurotransmitters.” Additionally, it distracts you from worries as to whether the birth mother will sign on the dotted line following the birth of her child. Exercise can also improve sleep, which is often disrupted by anxiety and stress.
Stress management through exercise can help prospective adoptive parents not only while they are seeking a placement, but it will also benefit them even after the baby has been placed with them. Transitioning to having a newborn in the household often upends the established routine, causing stress and lack of sleep. Exercise can improve the sleep of harried new parents when they are finally able to catch a few winks.
An adoptive parent’s ability to manage her own stress is important for the well-being of her baby. WebMD reports that stress can spread from parent to child. Infants pick up on emotional cues from others, particularly their parents. If a parent is stressed, the baby may feel stressed too. An adoptive parent who has a healthy response to stress is likely to have a baby with a healthy stress response. If an adoptive parent is stressed, she may be less responsive to her baby’s cues. Newborns are helpless and totally dependent on their parents for care, so a parent’s responsiveness to a baby’s needs is crucial. More exercise will reduce a parent’s stress and make her better equipped to model healthy stress responses to her baby and to respond to her baby’s needs.
2. Quit Smoking. Statistics show that smoking is the #1 preventable cause of death. No one questions that smoking is unhealthy for the smoker. Ceasing this unhealthy habit is a step in the right direction for a smoker to lead a more healthy life. But for prospective adoptive parents, the consequences of smoking are twofold—the effect it is having on them and the effect it has on a baby placed with them.
Before a baby arrives, whether being adopted or not, new parents diligently work to build the perfect nest for their child. They put together a wonderful nursery with necessary baby equipment, come up with a themed decoration (Winnie the Pooh? Disney?), and stock up on clothes and toys. They, and a home study provider if it is an adoption, look over their house to see what modifications are necessary to make the house safe for a child.
Does smoking move a prospective adoptive parent toward the goal of having a perfect nest for the baby he will adopt? The answer is a resounding, “No!” If the parent’s health is impaired by smoking, he will not be able to effectively parent his child. Impaired health may impact the parent’s ability to work and thus financially provide for the child. And isn’t money spent on cigarettes better designated for a college fund?
No smoker is an island. If the parent smokes, his child will be exposed to second-hand cigarette smoke. Breathing someone else’s smoke can be deadly too. As healthychildren.org’s website notes, secondhand smoke can be especially harmful to children’s health because their lungs are still developing. Babies exposed to secondhand smoke have a higher risk of SIDS and are prone to have more coughs and colds. Even if the parent just smokes outside, his child is still exposed to the chemicals in the smoke caught in hair and clothing.
A child’s future health also hangs in the balance. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to grow up to become smokers. Adoptive parents want to set a good, healthy example for their children by being nonsmokers. Thus, the time to quit smoking is before a baby is placed; don’t pollute the environment of a nest lovingly prepared for this new family member with cigarette smoke or chemicals from that smoke.
3. Save More/Spend Less. Since money is said to make the world go round, New Year’s resolutions relating to finances are common. Most such resolutions involve spending less money and saving more. Whether or not you are a parent or soon to be one, it’s a good idea to get a handle on your finances.
For prospective adoptive parents anticipating the addition of a baby to the household, finances are critical to address. Babies are completely financially dependent on their parents, and it costs quite a bit to raise them. For such little beings, they can add large amounts to a family’s expenditures. Couples should prepare for these inevitable child-rearing expenses by resolving in advance to add more to their savings and spend less of their income.
The amount required to financially provide for a newborn is mind-boggling. Forty percent of mothers surveyed by BabyCenter responded that it cost “a lot more” to provide for their baby during the first year of his life than they had expected. Those surveyed reported they spent approximately $10,000 between baby’s birth and first birthday. An even higher figure was cited by a 2010 USDA report which found the average middle-income family will spend around $12,000 on child-related expenses during the first year of life.
What can those resolving to save more and spend less do to achieve their goals? One way to make sure you save more money is to sign up for an automatic savings plan. This strategy takes away the possibility that you will forget to make a deposit in a savings account on a regular basis and removes the temptation to delay or simply forgo making such deposits.
Spending less will require lifestyle adjustments. Eating out is expensive. Reducing the number of meals eaten out at restaurants cuts spending. For those expecting the placement of a baby, cutting back in this area is good training. Once a baby is in the picture, there will be continuous parental responsibilities and less opportunity for dining out. It can be even more expensive when new parents are able to dine out because hiring a sitter may be required. Brown bagging lunch is another way to reduce money spent on food eaten out.
4. Spend More Time With Family. In our fast-paced society, people are always on the go. They don’t feel like they have enough time for themselves, much less others. Thus, when the New Year rolls around, many will recognize the need to resolve to spend more time with their family. As the saying goes, no one on his deathbed will wish he had spent more time at work.
For prospective adoptive parents, spending more time with family is especially important. When the new member of their family is added, that member will need quality family time to thrive. In fact, all members of the family will benefit from spending time with each other. Why not prepare for the baby’s arrival by building up the family ties which currently exist?
Studies have consistently shown that families who spend time together have happier and healthier children who do better in school. Family time strengthens the family bond and promotes better communication between family members. When families participate in meaningful activities together, behavioral problems in children decrease.
It is not just the children who benefit from spending time with family; parents benefit as well. Social support from family members helps to reduce overall stress. Parents of newborns are undeniably feeling stress from sleep-deprivation, changes to their normal routine, and additional financial obligations. Knowing family members are there for them emotionally and otherwise can lessen the stress they are feeling.
How can prospective adoptive parents spend more time with their family members? It will not simply happen. Family time has to be scheduled. Family members must be proactive in planning time to be together whether it is Sunday dinner with grandma, an annual family reunion, or a weekly family game night. Failing to plan is planning to fail.
5. Read More. What’s the last book you read? For some folks, this might be a difficult question to answer because it has been so long since they read one. However, if you ask what was the last video game they played or TV show they watched, the response time is likely to be much quicker. Reading more is another typical New Year’s resolution for those in modern society.
While awaiting the placement of a baby, prospective adoptive parents should resolve to dust off their books and brush up on their reading skills. Why? Because as soon as a baby is placed in their arms, they should begin reading to their little bundle of joy. Research establishes that it is never too early to enjoy books with a wee one.
The benefits of reading to a baby are well established. A baby is soothed by the sound of a parent’s voice reading to them; it is an enjoyable one-on-one activity for both baby and parent. And a baby won’t stay a baby forever. Looking ahead, the more words a baby is exposed to, the better prepared he is to start reading on his own. A nightly bedtime story can add lots of words to a parent’s daily count of words spoken to his baby.
In addition, children model the behaviors in which they see their parents engage. If mom reads a book, the child is going to want to read a book. If a parent makes reading to their child a regular routine, the child will grasp that reading can be for fun and not simply a task to accomplish for school.
Reading to your child will also benefit his academic progress. As reported on Parents.com, a study found that babies whose parents spoke to them a lot scored higher on standardized tests when they reached the age of three than parents who were not as verbal. Moreover, children read to as newborns had a larger vocabulary and more advanced mathematical skills than other kids their age.
Reading while awaiting placement can help prospective adoptive parents prepare for the addition to the family they are awaiting. Any number of helpful books are available on parenting in general and parenting an adoptive child specifically. Why not take advantage of the available time to read these resources in advance? There will be less time for reading once 2:00 a.m. feedings and diaper changes are added to the daily schedule.
So, 2020 is here with lots of possibilities and opportunities. For some, the most desired possibility is the adoptive placement of a baby. While awaiting this momentous event, prospective adoptive parents can get ready by making common resolutions which will serve them in the long run as they grow their family. Exercising more, quitting smoking, saving more/spending less, spending more time with family, and reading more will benefit not only the future parent herself, but it will also be advantageous for a new family member’s well-being and growth. Even if a placement is not made, these resolutions make for positive life changes. Resolve to make one of these New Year’s resolutions now!