It was in the late 1850s when adoption became more than just an informal practice and the United States government created legal procedures to adopt a child. As per the latest statistics, in the U.S. alone, over 135,000 children are adopted every year through foster homes, adopting agencies, relatives, and other private agencies. Over the last 150+ years, the entire practice of adoption has evolved and changed with respect to who can and who should go for child adoption. Adopted children are prone to facing emotional, intellectual, and social problems in their lives.
When a child becomes aware that he/she is adopted, multiple issues may arise for the parents and the child. The feeling of grief and loneliness can intensify, especially in cases when the child has little or no idea of his or her birth parents. Parents must be psychologically prepared to deal with such a situation.
Here are a few ways to make this phase easier for the entire family.
1. Be the figure your child can look up to
It is a fact that adoptive parents have little or no control over the environment the child has been exposed to before adoption. But after the child is adopted, parents must try and offer a safe and protective atmosphere to the child. It is important to become a figure the child can look up to. Most abandoned children who spend a considerable amount of time in foster homes and are then adopted suffer from identity crisis. Questions like “Why was I adopted and where do I fit in?” trouble them and they seek reassuring answers over and over again from their adoptive parents. It is important for parents to assure them that they are loved and are a part of the family.
It is vital for your child to believe that as parents, you’re able to comprehend his or her verbal and unstated cues and understand his or her state of mind. A constant feeling of being protected, cared for, and accepted will eventually help them become a part of the family.
2. Be respectful of the child’s birth parents
Nurturing adopted children isn’t easy as they come with their own psychological baggage of being abandoned. Even if the reason for placing a child was for him or her to have a better life, adopted children are often curious to know more about his or her birth parents.
Regardless of the circumstances, the child has every right to know as much as possible about his birth parents. It is very important to be sensitive to the child when sharing such crucial information. Sentences such as, “Your parents weren’t good people,” “They didn’t want you,” or “They had bad habits” may cause severe adverse effects on the child’s psyche. Psychologists recommend reassuring answers like: “They wanted you to have a good life,” or “They wanted you to be safe, and we are so happy to have you as our child.”
Talking about the child’s birth parents with a respectful attitude prevents the feelings of guilt or shame in the child’s mind.
3. Give the child space–don’t overwhelm
It is important for adoptive parents to be sensitive to the mental condition of the child after breaking the news.Experts suggest not trying too hard to make them feel special. It’s important to offer mental support to the child, as this can be a tumultuous time for him. Avoid hosting lavish parties, flooding their room with toys, and doing things that can overwhelm the child. Just being there for your child and responding immediately when needed will gradually help him or her accept the new, happy reality over the past, over which he or she bears no control.
While not every child reacts in the same way to this news, some children might get upset, angry, and develop temper issues. The best way to deal with such children is to give them the space and the liberty to express themselves and encourage them to talk about their feelings. Empathizing and showing them that you care makes it easy for them to accept the reality and move on.
4. Inculcate a feeling of safety, connection, and belonging
Parenting is a unique experience, whether it is for one’s own biological offspring or an adopted child. Since every child is unique, there can’t be the same method of bringing up children. But, all children need the security of being in a loving environment and connected with parents. In the case of adopted children, separation is in their nature.Separation from their parents, roots, culture, and genes makes them more susceptible to the feeling of loss, grief, and they long for a sense of belonging. It is imperative for adoptive parents to instill feelings of security and belonging in the child through unconditional love and care.
Psychologists believe that bonding doesn’t begin only at birth, but is a continuous process and the role of parents, whether birth parents or adoptive, plays a vital role in making the child feel emotionally connected with his family.
5. Take professional help when needed
In some cases, it becomes important to involve a professional to deal with the crucial phase of telling the child that he has been adopted. Sometimes, a child may have a tough time and dealing with the fact may require more than just your care and love. Seeking the help of a psychologist may help the parents and the child deal with the phase in a healthy manner. Experts suggest parents seek professional help if they find that the child is having difficulty in adjusting and coming to terms with the reality.
Professionals can help the child sail through the phase and face reality without bearing a negative impact on their psyche.
Adoption is not a cursed word. Attuned parents are able to help children and even adolescents pass through this truth and integrate it as an experience along the way in life. It helps the adopted child to develop prudence for such things as he or she gradually moves ahead in life, takes it in stride, and responds instead of reacting to such situations.