- Family and Parenting
Adoption: 5 Important Things to Consider
I am a proud adoptive mother of three fantastic girls. Without a doubt, adoption has been the single best decision in my life. Adoption gave me the family that my partner and I so desperately longed for and it has been a wonderful, exhausting and unimaginably fulfilling journey this far. And although the decision to adopt is one I obviously do not regret, I wish I had had the opportunity to have a very frank discussion with an adoptive parent who would have been willing to bring up the difficult questions and issues I would need to consider before entering into the adoption process. So with that in mind I have compiled a list of what I consider to be five important things to consider when exploring the adoption option.
* Our daughters were adopted as a sibling unit at the ages of six, four and four. This article will speak to considerations for adopting non-infant children.
1. Can you love a child that is not genetically your own?
The decision to adopt a child, in my opinion, is the biggest, most profound decision you will ever make. Adoption is a lifelong commitment and, unlike marriage, divorce is not an option. Before considering adoption you have to be brutally honest with yourself and ask yourself the hard questions. Will it matter that your child may not look like you or anyone in your family? Will it matter that they may share no character traits? Are you prepared to go that extra mile (or miles) to bridge the bonding gap that sharing DNA can create? If you are not adopting a baby or an infant and are choosing to go with an older child, these issues become even more pronounced. Look deep inside yourself and explore why you want to adopt. You may not see you eyes or your partner's smile when you look at your adopted child, but you will eventually see your love reflected back at you.
2. With adoption, the love might not be instant, and you may not get along
This is an unspoken potential pitfall in any adoption, but a very real risk especially in older child adoptions. Sometimes personalities don’t gel, and without a genetic link you may feel a strong dislike and lack of connection for this new member of your family. In the first six months of most adoptions the growing pains are enormous. Many newly adopted children do anything and everything to test the boundaries of their new family. It’s their way of seeing whether you’re in it for the long haul. The good news is that love grows in time. Stick it out, get to know each other, find common ground and commit fully.
3. Are you prepared for Armageddon?
Adding a new member to your family whether it is a new born birth child or an adopted nine year old is a major life change. It will turn your life upside down. Expect at least six months of utter and complete turmoil. If there is any way possible for you and your partner to take these six months off together with your newly adopted child or children do it. You are creating a new family and most likely these children are unpacking some pretty serious baggage. And don't less this trying time terrify you into thinking that adoption was a terrible mistake. Why not compare it to what it would be like to bring a newborn baby home form the hospital? The first few months of parenting any child, birth or adopted is incredibly difficult, adoption just may be difficult in different ways. The question is are you prepared for kind of difficulty that adoptive children can bring?
4. Can you be open to your child loving you and their birth family?
Long gone are the days of adoption being considered a dirty little secret. It is no longer taboo and research has proven a certain level of openness regarding origin is the healthiest option for adopted children. As a result of these findings more and more adoptions are becoming open to varying degrees. Maybe it’s something as low key as a yearly letter and a picture or perhaps something more involved like visits with an extended family member like a grandparent or aunt. As the adoptive parent this can place huge demands on you. This means that birth Mom or Grandma never fully leave the conversation. Speaking from personal experience I can tell you that this can be an emotional hot button for everyone in the family, but embracing an adopted child means embracing their past. They will feel conflicted enough about having feelings for their birth family and you, as their parent you need to give them permission to love both. It sounds easy enough, but trust me it’s not.
5. Are you ready to let go of your old dreams?
If you’ve wanted a family then it is pretty likely that you’ve dreamed about what that experience would be like. Whether it was coaching little league, idyllic family vacations on the beach or seeing your child in a school play, you may have to surrender those dreams and trade them in for new dreams based on the child you adopt. Older children will come to you with dreams and ideas of their own that may not fit in with what you had planned. What if they have two left feet and you had visions of them as a dancing sugar plum? What if they hate sports and you have season tickets? Let go. Sooner or later all parents learn that their children are their own people and not reflections of them. When you adopt an older child you just have to come to that realization a little sooner. Why not help them make some of their own dreams a reality and dream up some new family ones together?