Adoption is an emotional process with lots of changes for all involved. It’s this incredible mix of excitement and joy with a touch of uncertainty (okay, probably more than a touch) and sadness, too. For parents who open their hearts and homes to an adopted child, it can feel like a rollercoaster of ups and downs—twists and turns. And for the kids finding their way into a new family, it’s a whole mix of complex feelings. It’s important to understand that beyond adoption day, the work is really just getting started.

Your Journey Begins

Imagine this. You’re finally bringing your little one home, ready to start a life together as a family. But as the days (or months or years) pass, you notice things—little quirks, behaviors, and moments that make you wonder, “Is this normal? Is my child okay?”

Adoption aside, when it comes to “normal,” it’s typically impossible to live up to societal expectations. Even on a good day. Doing a side-by-side of children or families is never a good idea and is not recommended.

Like anything important in life, what you can and should do is approach it with patience, understanding, and an open heart. Every child is unique. Instead of comparing or worrying about fitting into a specific mold of acceptable, focus on nurturing a supportive space where your child feels loved, safe, and encouraged to be themselves.

Listen, observe, and look for guidance when needed. Mainly, cherish the journey of discovering who your child truly is. It’s about creating a home where they can thrive and grow, embracing their individuality without trying to live up to (often impossible) outside standards.

What Parents Might Encounter

Sometimes, it takes a while for the “us” to kick in. Your child might struggle with feeling close, showing affection, or even making eye contact. It can feel tough, right? Especially when your only agenda as a parent is to be a rock and a safe place for your child.

But these are very normal bonding hiccups. Kids will have questions about where they come from, who they are, and where they fit in. All of these questions are normal and to be expected.

Especially in families where cultures or backgrounds differ, it’s natural for a child to want to explore their identity.

As for behavioral highs and lows, you might notice this in the form of tantrums, testing limits, or “big emotions” that pop up. Children, regardless of age, often have a hard time expressing or explaining themselves. Especially when what they’re feeling doesn’t feel great. So yes, this is normal.

Adoption is change. And change is hard. Every child expresses themselves differently—sometimes in not-so-healthy ways. But when is it just a phase, and when should you worry?

Figuring Out Concerns

It’s a fine line, isn’t it? Sometimes, behaviors can ring your alarm bells. If your child’s actions consistently affect daily life or seem extreme—think intense aggression, withdrawal, or significant delays. You may want to consider seeking some guidance from a professional.

This doesn’t mean there is “something wrong with them.” And it doesn’t mean you’ve dropped the ball as a parent either. It means that if the issue is adoption, you are not alone. Adoption is a huge concept. It’s a lifelong experience.  

There are so many happy adoption stories. Because for the most part, adoption is a healthy option for parents looking to grow their family and for kids who need a family. You’ll often hear or see these in the news, shared posts, and memes: smiling faces and inspiring words.

What many don’t share, though, are the rough times. The not-so-good days. The, ‘how did we get here?’ moments. In a perfect world, every adoptive family would have an understanding and transparent adoption support group to turn to—more for the children than the parents—because really, that’s the end goal—to find help and support for a struggling adoptee.

It’s also important to realize that sometimes it’s not the adoption. Believe it or not, non-adoptees also face a myriad of challenges and issues. Whether it’s environmentally or internally generated, life goes easy on no one. Even more reason to not be afraid to reach out for help when an issue becomes larger than you’re able to handle on your own.

When It’s Just Part of the Journey

Here’s the thing: Kids, no matter how they come into your life, will have their moments. Adjusting to a new home, family, or even a different country—it’s a lot to take in. So, those mood swings, testing boundaries, seeking reassurance? It’s normal stuff.

Honestly, unless you’re some kind of special, you’ve probably racked up plenty of “moments” yourself over the years. Now just put yourself in an adoptee’s shoes. New home. New family. New country.

Imagine being that child trying to navigate one or all of these things while also navigating life.

The adoption journey is complicated.

Navigating Challenges Together

If certain behaviors linger and get in the way of your child’s daily life, talking with a professional might be a good idea. For example, delays in reaching milestones—whether it’s talking, walking, or expressing emotions—could use a closer look.

Although every child develops at a different pace, these milestone markers do serve as an opportunity to be proactive.

When your child’s reactions seem way too intense for the situation, there might be more going on under the surface.

So, while it’s okay if your child doesn’t meet every pre-determined target date when you expect, there may be something more to the story, it’s your job as a parent to advocate for your child.

Where to Find Support

Talking to folks who ‘get it’ can be a game-changer. There are groups, specialists, and counselors who understand the ins and outs of adoption. They’ve got tips, stories, and tools that can help you and your child navigate this journey.

While it’s also perfectly fine to talk with family and friends (yes, do this, too), be aware that unless they have an adoption background, they may not be your best first source for support on behalf of your child. Still, it’s highly recommended parents have their own listening ear as well.

You will find lots of links to support on the internet. Check with your agency or network. Reach out to other adoptive families you may know. Chances are they may be able to recommend a professional who can help.

In addition to finding a qualified professional, there are so many workshops, books, articles, blogs, podcasts, and people in the adoption community who’ve got your back.

Dive into those resources—it’s like having a supportive team cheering you on.

Ways to Show Some Love and Normalcy

Creating a cozy, trust-filled space is key. Regular routines, quality time together, and shared activities can really strengthen your bond. This looks different for everyone and every family, so don’t worry if what works for someone you know doesn’t work for you. The main thing is to keep on trying.

One very simple way to build trust and bonding is by talking. Encourage open chats with your child. When kids know they can share whatever’s on their minds, it’s like giving them a superpower.

Put judgment and your own insecurity aside and validate their feelings and experiences—it’s a powerful way to show support. No matter what’s going on.

The Journey Is Yours

Adoptive parenting can feel like a wild, beautiful (did I already say wild?) ride. There will be ups, downs, and unexpected loops (that old rollercoaster metaphor again—but it’s true).

It’s important for you to realize that your child is entitled to not be okay and it’s up to you to be their first line of support system. Helping your child to find their identity while also working to find your family’s unique identity in a sea of expectations for “normal” can feel scary and challenging.

But with love, understanding, and a handle-with-care mentality, both parents and kids can weave an incredible story together—one filled with growth, healing, laughter, and endless possibilities.