Parenting is hard.

Adoptive parenting is a different kind of hard.

It’s not necessarily harder, but it is different than parenting children who were not adopted. If you’re like me, you question the motivation behind every move that your child makes and every question they ask. Is this a typical nine-year-old thing? I wonder (every single day), or is this an adoption thing?

My questions and concerns come fast and furiously—even five years after adopting my daughter. But here’s what I’ve learned: I am not alone. And I don’t need to ask for parenting advice from strangers on the internet.

Though certainly there is value in “hearing” other voices on adoption online, everyone’s experience is different and there are lots of details and nuances that can get lost in translation.

Once upon a time, I thought that valuing other voices in adoption meant joining every adoption-related online support group or forum I could find. Do you want to know a secret? I’ve quit most of them. I found them too hard to manage and, frankly, too depressing. Now, if I have a question or concern related to adoption, here’s where I turn:

My own intuition.

Though I am hardly an expert on adoption, I am an expert on my daughter. I know her story better than anyone else in the world (except, of course, for her). I know her history, her experiences, her personality, her values. I’ve always been distrustful of my own instincts, prone to research and reason instead of going with my gut. But, if there is one thing I’ve learned in the past five years, it’s this: my gut is smart. I’m learning to trust myself and go with what works for my family, even if it conflicts with “conventional” parenting wisdom.

My tribe

I am surrounded by a support system that is incredibly invested in my daughter and my family. Although I feel incredibly blessed to have them, they did not magically appear. These friends and family members supported me from the very beginning of my adoption journey—in some cases because I specifically asked them for help. I call them my tribe, and I cannot imagine parenting without them. These are people that I can call, day or night, who will drop what they are doing if I need them. They are people who have worked hard to understand the impact that adoption has on my family. And they are very smart. Smart enough to listen and give good advice on just about any parenting or adoption topic.

The experts

Teachers. Therapists. Social workers. Religious leaders. All of these people are experts in their fields and can be a great support to adoptive families. If my question or concern falls under their area of expertise, I ask them. Sometimes, I bother them a lot. I put research-based books and articles under this category too. Two of the books that have helped me the most along my adoptive parenting journey are The Whole Brain Child and Parenting the Hurt Child.There are many helpful resources online at Empowered to Connect, but I highly recommend going to one of their conferences. The conference allows you to learn valuable information as well as network with many other adoptive parents and adoption professionals. When in doubt, it’s always appropriate to seek out an expert opinion.

So there you have it: the top three places I turn when I have an adoption question. How about you? Where have you found support along your adoption journey?