Adopting a child is a brave, selfless act that can change a child’s life. Being a parent is never a walk in the park, whether you’re a biological parent or an adoptive parent. But as an adoptive parent, there are a higher amount of sensitive and cautious areas that you have to understand. The better you understand how to treat an adopted child, the fewer hardships that child will have throughout their life. Here are crucial mistakes that you should work hard to avoid:
Not Catering to Their Interests
After your child comes home, you want to have long and numerous conversations about what interests them and how you can help them explore their passions. Getting them involved in a hobby or sports is a great way to help keep them busy and stimulated. For instance, several studies that have been conducted about sports show that it’s effective in teaching children lifelong skills, such as socialization, teamwork, and discipline. So, if your child is interested in playing soccer, go ahead and get them a pair of youth soccer cleats and help them explore that drive.
Not Allowing Them to Search
At some point in time, your children might want to unveil their biological roots. Fighting them against that will only deepen their curiosity. As previously mentioned, being open and honest from the onset is necessary. If they want to search for their biological family, allow them to do so—assuming they are at the right age and mature enough to handle unveiling the truth. Support them on their mission, and keep in mind that this isn’t about you. Your child isn’t looking to replace you as a parent, but to gain a deeper understanding of where they come from.
Forgetting to Acknowledge Their Past
If you adopt older children, it’s critical that you understand everything that you need to know about their past—from their experiences in a foster home to their upbringing with their biological parents. You may think that adopting a three year old is the same as adopting an infant, but a toddler is heavily influenced by their environment. After all, babies become self-aware between the ages of 15-24 months. If you take in a toddler who has experienced abuse or neglect, it’s important to understand that extra steps need to be taken to combat those horrible experiences, such as therapy.
Hiding the Adoption
One of the biggest mistakes many adoptive parents make is not being honest about the adoption. They believe that not telling their child will help shield them from a horrible truth, or that their child will think they love them less than they would a biological parent. This is rarely the case, and if you wait too long to tell them, or if they find out on their own one day, it could break the trust you’ve built as a parent, and could seriously damage your child’s self-image.
Be open, honest, and loving about their status as an adopted child. Telling them at a young age is certainly easier than when they are older, and may harbor anger as a result towards the news. Tell them early on, and answer any questions they may have about the adoption process, or about their biological parents.
Not Empathizing With the Sense of Loss
Many adoptees feel a sense of loss in themselves, and will become curious about their past or personal experiences. Of course, every situation is different, and age certainly plays a role. However, it’s important understand that every child experiences loss in a different way. Some identify with their missing biological parents much stronger, while some feel serious abandonment issues, even in loving environments. Talk openly about those feelings, and understand that they’re natural emotions to carry.
Author John Simmons, who adopted two daughters, wrote in an article: “Sarah has told me since she came home that she thinks she loves her first mother, but sometimes she hates her. She always asks me of that’s okay. We have been through it so many times. Her feelings are feelings; not right or wrong. She has a right to those feelings.”