When the phrase “parenting tips” comes to mind, many think of rules, theories, and book-length advice guides. But in an adoptive family, parents who have studied all of these things (and, speaking from experience, most have done that!) may miss out on the one overarching principle that should be the backdrop for every parenting decision they make. And the principle is so simple it may surprise you . . . 

I interviewed an adoptee named Rachel (she requested that her last name be withheld), who is a successful, smart, and happy young woman. To fully appreciate her advice, you need to know a little bit about her current life and her background.

She’s now 28 and recently married her high school sweetheart, a Navy helicopter pilot. She has a B.B.A. in Marketing, and they currently reside in San Diego with their 2 adorable Chihuahuas. She is currently working in human resources and accounting.

Rachel grew up in a multi-cultural household. While her biological parents are Mexican-American and German, her adoptive father is from England and her mother is American. She has three older brothers, two of whom are also adopted and one who is a step-sibling. All of them hail from different ethnic backgrounds. She can’t ever recall a time not knowing that she was adopted, but she does say that her parents have always told her with a smile that her adopted brothers actually “picked her out!”

Since Rachel’s childhood household was a complex tapestry of backgrounds, relationships, and personalities all bound by this wonderful thing we call adoption, I asked her to list some parenting tips that would be distinct to adoptive families.

Honestly, I expected a specific list of do’s and don’ts, but she gave me just one “don’t” indicative of a singular philosophy which applies to every adoptive home any of us could possibly imagine. She had only this bit of wisdom to impart regarding her advice to adoptive parents:

“Never let them (the adopted child or children) feel like they aren’t your own.”

And with that heart-felt sentence, she beautifully summed up adoptive parenting excellence. Let your children know they’re special and celebrate who they are, but never let them feel that their uniqueness is outside of your core family unit. Follow that bit of advice, and it will carry your family the distance through the good times and the bad.

You’re together, and you’re a family. Love is your bond. Nothing else matters.

If you’re interesting in adopting a baby in the US and would like to speak with an adoption professional about how to get started, click here.