by Lorilyn Roberts
Author of Children of Dreams
Now that my oldest daughter is 23 and my youngest is sixteen, here are some words of advice:
1. Be proactive when it comes to the health, safety and welfare of your adopted child. You know your child’s background and history better than doctors, social workers, teachers, friends, or other adoptive families. Speak up when you think something needs to be addressed. Don’t assume others know better or more than you.
For starters, de-worm your adopted child upon arrival from a developing country.
2. Be open with your adopted child about his past. Tell him everything you know. Tuck away special items to remind him of his heritage later—pictures, letters, emails, mementos, a favorite toy, or article of clothing. Let your child decide what he wants to do with these things when he is older and respect his wishes.
3. Be open about adoption with others who are interested. This does not mean you need to divulge the intimate details of your child’s adoption, but it is your opportunity to share the marvelous way God has given us to make families, giving hope to the 150 million plus orphans in the world. When onlookers see the love shared in your family, they will be less inclined to believe the horror stories that have been perpetuated by Hollywood and negative, prejudicial people.
4. Help your adoptive child to be emotionally, physically, and mentally strong. Young children most likely will catch up on motor and language skills, but be willing to provide speech or physical therapy if needed. Older kids may take more time, but as parents, our job is to do everything we can to help our children reach their potential. Given the right environment, children generally will flourish, and you will be a glowing mother as you see your new son or daughter blossom.
This includes finding their “gift.” Since adopted children come with a different biological code, parents need to make an extra effort to discover their talents.
5. Respect your adoptive child’s family, country, culture, and memories. Even if you do not like your child’s birth family or heritage, you would not be an adoptive parent if it wasn’t for a birthmother’s gift of life. Be sensitive and respectful. Let grace begin with you, remembering that your adopted daughter is a gift from God. Love her as much as you can, and then love her some more. Don’t just tell your daughter you love her, show it. And when you screw up, admit it and say, “I am sorry.”
1. Don’t let others discourage you from adopting. If God has put it on your heart or you have thoughtfully made a decision to build your family through adoption, do your research and pursue your dream with passion. Those who are persistent and don’t give up are the ones who eventually hold their “bundle of joy.”
2. Don’t make excuses for the poor behavior of your adopted child. Address what rears its head and work through it. Seek wise counsel, particularly experts skilled in adoption issues. You don’t want your son or daughter to grow up with a “victim” mentality. Love covers many shortcomings, and what was lacking in the beginning can be used for good later—in the form of compassion for others. While an older adopted child will have more scars and come with a history, to overcome his past, he will need to embrace it. Only through acceptance can a child overcome the pain and move on. As a parent, you can help your son or daughter to begin that process of healing. If your child uses adoption as an excuse for poor grades, low self-esteem, behavior maladjustment, distrust, or a host of other issues that are sometimes found in adopted children, contact a professional. Without intervention, adopted children from deprived circumstances may carry their scars into adulthood, subconsciously gravitating toward familiar dysfunctional behaviors learned from the past. You can stop this destructive cycle by recognizing the need and seeking professional help.
3. Don’t force your adopted child’s heritage on her. Let her choose how she wants to live her life. If your daughter was adopted internationally when she was young, she won’t have memories of her birth country. Her norms will be the traditions and culture in which she has been raised. Even if your daughter has dark skin or slanted eyes, she is now an American, Canadian or Scandinavian. Don’t be discouraged if your adopted daughter has no interest in her roots. Remember, kids want to fit in—with friends and lifestyles. They don’t want to be different. Let them be themselves.
4. Don’t be afraid to parent. People can be quick to blame the misbehavior of adopted kids on being adopted. More than likely, after a period of time, your adopted son will be going through the normal developmental stages of growing up just like all his non-adopted friends. Your adopted son will need the same boundaries and security that all kids need. Be consistent and let him know your expectations and values. Take time. Don’t be too busy.
5. Don’t forget to enjoy the journey of parenting. Take lots of pictures. The time goes by too quickly; one day you will turn around and the little baby you brought home in your arms will now be a beautiful young lady. Cherish the memories. There will never be enough.
Lorilyn is an adoptive mother (as well as an adult adoptee) of two daughters from Nepal and Vietnam. She wrote their adoption stories in Children of Dreams.