Whether your adoption is international, domestic, or LGBT adoption, raising a child in a loving and supportive environment is beautiful. However, we’d be lying if we said it is always smooth sailing. Infant adoption can be filled with complex challenges which need to be navigated through specialized parenting methods. Let’s take a brief look at how this can be achieved.
Differences from Biological Parenting
When a baby is raised by its biological parents, the child in question has a complete personal history; they know where they come from, and have the ‘who’, ‘when’, and ‘what’ answers available to them when they become old enough to ask. This is not always the case in adoptive parenting. Not knowing the full story of where they come from, or who they’re similar to, or even having questions about their culture can be difficult for adoptive children to come to terms with.
One of the largest mountains adoptive parent(s) will need to overcome is trauma. You might think that trauma isn’t present in infant adoption, but this isn’t always the case. When a child is adopted, they are uprooted from their heritage, genes, and biological parents. Even if the brain cannot yet remember or understand this, the body knows. As the child grows, they may start to grieve this loss, and feel very intense feelings such abandonment and loss. Add in cases where substance abuse or alcoholism has been present when the child was in the womb, and the challenge grows.
One of the largest worries for adoptive parents is bonding with their child. It is a common misconception that a biological mother bonds with her baby the moment it is born. While this often isn’t the case, it simply isn’t talked about due to its taboo nature. It can take biological parents days or weeks to bond with the baby. In the case of adoptive parents, it can take weeks, months, or sometimes even years for a strong bond between child and parent to form.
There are so many different types of parenting techniques that adoptive families find helpful. There are a variety of resources online as well as physical books that will align with your personal beliefs surrounding parenthood. In general, some great techniques include:
Make Attachment and Connection a Focus: Your adoptive child may often express intense emotions, but unlike traditional parenting, you should avoid sending your child for time out. Instead, be there with them. Attune to their feelings, and show them that you’re not going anywhere, and you’re going to get through these feelings together.
Celebrate Real Feelings: No one is perfect, and no family is perfect. Accepting this, and creating an environment where it is okay not to be perfect can help a family to thrive. In the case of LGBT adoptions or interracial adoptions, for example, don’t pretend that prejudice doesn’t happen, or that your family makeup is the norm. Children are observant, and notice far more than they may express, and may draw negative conclusions about themselves or their family if emotions are not expressed and communicated.
Be Observant: Try to ‘know’ your child. While being able to predict 100% of your child's moves is impossible, being aware of triggers, emotional reactions to stimuli, or the way in which they problem solve can help you navigate difficult times. For example, your child may struggle staying overnight away from home. Therefore, before a holiday you might spend a few weeks preparing the child, exploring what the hotel looks like and the activities you’ll be undertaking.
Parenting is a Challenge
There will always be challenges when raising a child, both adopted or biological. What matters is how you overcome them.