Tips for Helping Children Process Their Adoption

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When you are considering adoption, in San Antonio or elsewhere, it can be difficult to navigate the transition when a child, or children, join your home. The fact that your child started life out with another family and that they may have experienced difficulties before they came to you can alter your parenting in many different ways. You may feel obligated to shower them with gifts, send them to the finest schools, or simply keep life as easy as possible for them. The truth, however, is that what will most help adopted children work through their feelings about adoption is your loving support. Following are a few of the practical steps you can take to provide meaningful, helpful support for your adopted child.

 

Give them time and attention.

Time and attention are vital for any child. For adopted children, however, it is especially critical if they and you are to forge a strong attachment. Devoting uninterrupted time to your child can allow them to feel the security of knowing they have reached their forever family. What this time looks like will vary from child to child. If you pursue infant domestic adoption, you will spend lots of time tending to your baby’s physical needs. If you adopt an older child, you may spend time enjoying their hobbies with them, reading books, or playing games.

Whatever form your time together takes, it is the attachment created that will serve you and your child well over the long term. If your child has questions about their adoption, wants to search for their birth parents, or faces adoption-related challenges, they will be more likely to confide in you if they have a strong bond with you. With the lines of communication open, you can more easily provide them with the answers and support they need.

 

Be open about your child’s adoption.

Even if you adopt an infant, your child will eventually have questions about their adoption. Their questions may be as simple as where they were born and as complex as why their parents placed them for adoption. Some questions may be difficult to answer, because you will feel the parental instinct to protect them from pain. However, regardless of how difficult their adoption stories are, children need to have a place where they can get their questions answered, and you need to be that place.

As a result, you can help your child by being open about their adoption. Doing so will strengthen your closeness as a family and allow them to satisfy their curiosity about their past. Following are a few things you can do to encourage this openness:

  • Mention adoption to your child even while they are young.
  • Accurately answer your child’s questions at their level.
  • Gather as much information as you can about their pasts.
  • Avoid speaking negatively about their birth parents.

 

Be prepared to help your child grieve.

Despite the joy and security that adoption brings, adopted children often also experience grief. This grief is a natural response to the losses they have suffered: The loss of their birth family, the loss brought on by any trauma they have experienced, etc. Even children adopted as infants may experience grief occasionally as they grow. As adoptive parents, helping your child to process their adoption means helping them to navigate their grief.

One of the best ways to help your child do so is to familiarize yourself with the grieving process of children, since it differs from that of adults. This type of preparation can help you to respond helpfully to your grieving child. In addition, you may find it useful to read books with your child about grief and adoption and to talk with them about how they are feeling. If you feel as if your child’s grief is severe, you may also need to pursue professional counseling through the post-adoption services provided by your adoption agency.

SEE ALSO: How to Create a Strong Attachment When Adopting an Older Child

 

Deal with your own issues.

Your own emotional and mental health will affect your ability to help your child. As a result, in order to successfully help your child to navigate their questions and feelings about their adoption, you yourself need to be able to honestly confront any issues you have about the topic.

For instance, many adoptive couples struggle with feeling as if they have the right to parent their adopted child. In order to confidently guide your child throughout childhood, you need to be able to internalize the fact that you are, legally and in reality, your child’s parent. Other issues you may struggle with include feeling uncomfortable when your child talks about their birth parents, says that they love their birth parents, or says hurtful things such as, “You are not my real mother.”

You may also need to face and deal with grief of your own. For instance, infertility can be a source of grief with which you must deal in order to be as mentally and emotionally healthy as possible for the sake of your adopted child.

 

Communicate unconditional acceptance.

Finally, demonstrating unconditional acceptance is a cornerstone of successful adoptive parenting. All children, regardless of whether they are biological or adopted, need this type of acceptance in order to grow up confident and strong. However, adopted children, especially when you are adopting older children, may need to receive this type of affirmation in more direct ways because of their pasts.

The best way to demonstrate this type of unconditional acceptance is to tell them, regularly, in specific ways. For instance, your child needs to hear that they are part of your family, and that you love them. They may also need to hear that they are not damaged or undesirable because of their pasts. Instead, you should strive to tell them, through word and action, that they are valuable, desirable, intelligent, and normal, regardless of their past or their current behavior.

By providing your adopted child with time and attention, providing an atmosphere of openness around their adoption, helping your child to grieve, dealing with your own issues, and communicating unconditional acceptance, you can help your adopted child to successfully process their adoption and thrive within your forever family.

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