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Top 5 Ways YOU Must Change When You Adopt

crIt’s the beginning of a new year and families consider things that are important. Some thoughts turn to adoption, whether local or international. As an adoptive Family, we say: Beautiful— go for it!

As an adoptive family, we also say: Go into it with your eyes open and ready to make major adjustments.


The old thought of “We have space in the house” or “We have plenty of love to offer” may not be enough.

Today’s blog is not about the adoptee, it’s about you, the adoptive parent and how YOU must crchange if this is going to work.

Whatever you imagine it to cost you in terms of time, money, energy, effort or love, multiply that times two. Or times ten. Then you have a vague idea of what’s going to be happening in the very near future.

Is it worth it? Our family would say yes. Many families would say no. Your mileage may vary, depending on how closely you can follow instructions and other vague variables. To try to “wing it” or “do the best you can” or “follow your gut” will probably not work.

crThis is a whole different ballgame and here are some ways your life will change. Unfortunately, if you google “adoption” and “life changes”, multiple dog adoption sites appear. Adopting a child, if not an older child (meaning non-baby) is just not that popular. And those on the outside looking in will never get it.

You are a single. Or a couple. Or a family.

You’re adding a child or two to the mix. Great. End of story.

Au contraire.

PTSD? FAS? Bonding? Grief on their part even after leaving a horrific setting, just because that’s crwhat they’ve always known?

There are stories of six-month-old babies refusing to eat and six-year-old children trying to burn down the house. An eight-year-old may sexually attack your other kids and an eleven-year-old turns up pregnant.

I’ve seen and heard it all.

Our first child was so normal and worry-free that other adoptive parents said we were lying as far as good reports. But we massively changed our lives in order to arrive at worry-free.

Here are a five ways your life should change that really helped us. Your mileage may vary:

cr1-Get on a schedule. Kids, especially those from uncertain backgrounds and lifestyles, need constants: same time to rise every day, same time for meals every day, our first child had to know exactly what we would be eating for all three meals that day— just to make sure— we would have food? Familiarity might breed contempt for the rest of us, but for an adopted child, familiarity breeds confidence.

2-Explain everything. Everything. Talk out loud when you do something: “I am now putting the milk back into the refrigerator because keeping it cold keeps it fresh. The milk will go bad if we leave it out.” “The social worker is coming for a visit. She’s like a friend who watches that you are safe. No, she will not be taking you away from the home. You’re part of our family now.” “We put toilet paper in the toilet after using it….” You may feel like you’re losing your mind.

2.5-Explain events and activities BEFORE they occur. “We are getting into the car and we will crclose the door gently. To slam the door might mean that we break the car door or window.” (Happened to us once….) “When we open the car door, we make sure our door does not hit the car next to us.” (Also happened once.) “When we take a bath or shower and we find the metal stopper to be bothersome, that it gets in the way of our toes, we do not remove it from the tub and throw it in the trash….” (Ditto.) You get the idea.

3-You will learn where to get help. Scary behaviors need intervention. Suicidal thoughts, trying to harm you or others in the family (please remove all weapons or potential weapons from the home), PTSD, general anxiety, not wanting to grow up, oppositional disorder, promiscuity, stealing or vandalism. Do a bed check in the middle of the night. Follow-up to see where they are  crafter school. Assume nothing. Get help for everything. Understand that your own friends will probably not be able to understand at all and believe you to be too strict, or that you lack compassion (um, have they ever adopted?). You cannot underestimate the feelings of rage for a child who discovers that they’ve been missing out on a whole wonderful family life— not everyone is able to settle in and “enjoy” from day one.

4-Be on the lookout for secretive behavior. The child had parents or caregivers or street contacts who were anything but reliable. They trust no one. No one. And that includes you. They may hoard food, clothes, sugar, toilet paper— just in case. They may have a small backpack set aside with basics should they ever need to make a run for it. They may keep in touch with former contacts in their home country (thank you, internet) or develop friendships here of which you would not approve. Friends are major and will define them in many ways. Make sure that the friends are reliable, honest, faithful and will not be walking out the door and abandoning them as so many other have already done before.

5-You will need to devote the next 5, 10, 20 years to this child who will be very emotionally cryoung for their age. Time is what makes the difference and not just in the long-run. You must be willing to put your own life on hold— consider homeschooling, accompanying them to every activity (and staying there, not just dropping off), spending leisure time together. It’s non-stop because you’re rewiring an entire new life.

Is it worth it? Yes. Our family has four very well-adjusted, usually-loving(!) young adults who were adopted as pre-teens for the most part. In many ways, it was traumatic and difficult and scary… for all involved, not just them! Factor in the teen years, as well…. It took lots of prayer and patience.

crI can name many, many whose outcomes were not as good. Is it their fault? Yes and no. In numerous cases, compassion overruled commonsense and they simply bit off too much, more than they could handle. I commend them for giving it their best shot.

As with anything in life— education, weight loss, career goals— not giving it your all will result in less than stellar outcomes. Adoption will require your all.

In the case of bio kids, some turn out well despite obvious parenting flaws. Same with adoption, just with different percentages. Giving the fulness of your time to the children and being prepared with proper training (read, read, read!) will keep the odds on your family’s side.


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Top 5 Ways YOU Must Change When You Adopt


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