Tools and Resources for Adoptive Families
and the Professionals Who Help Them

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What We Wish We Had Known
Forgive yourself in advance for doing things "wrong"

Edited by S. M. Macrae

The Journey to Your Child...How to get the strength or wisdom to know when to listen and when to smile, nod, and forget advice

Building a Toolbox, Making Connections
Adopting a child means work done on your part before you bring your child home. You need plain parenting tools in your parenting toolbox but you need special adoption tools too! Attachment, building connections with your new child mean you have to know how to care for the child – and care for yourself too.
• Learn basic childcare appropriate for the age of the child you will be bringing home, and maybe one or two levels below. Adopted children often come to us developmentally delayed. If you can, spend time as a volunteer carer for kids of family and friends and kids in care such as child centers or hospitals.
• Before the adoption, begin connecting yourself with other families (both adoptive and not) with children around the same age as your child.
• After you are home, create opportunities where you and your child can interact with families of both adopted and non-adopted children. Those friendships will be very important to you, and observing “typical” child behavior will help you determine if your child's behavior falls outside the typical.
• If you are adopting transnationally, learn a little of your new child’s language, so that you can soothe and direct the child when he or she is placed with you. Simple directions about food and toileting help – as does a phrase explaining that yes you are your child’s parent.

You haven’t parented THIS child before; this child has never been YOUR child before.
• Remember that you have never parented THIS new child before, and this child has never been YOUR child before. It will take time to figure out what is "right" for you as a team.
• Make sure to fill your family (and/or travel companions) in on your preparation, and how you want to introduce your child to life in your family.
• If you have a partner, work to ensure you are on the same page for adoption parenting your new child.
• If you are first time ever parents, plan on the adjustment from no kids to kids to take longer than you expect and at times to be really hard. This may help avoid major parent conflict later on when the parenting gets tough.

Support – soup, lasagne, muffins ... all frozen into serving sized packages
• For international adoptions, especially with major time changes make sure you have help for the first few days after coming home. A crisis call to a friend after coming home might get you a shower and take a nap, but far better is to plan for support for three to five days. Ask for help with laundry, to run an errand, for them just ‘to be there for you’.
• If your friends help without being asked accept these loving acts from your friends as just that, a loving act in support of your family.

Before the adoption, learn everything you can about fostering attachment with your new child, but don't overwhelm and frighten yourself with everything else that might go wrong. You can deal with other problems when and IF they arise.
• Learn about the effects of deprivation and lack of consistent carers on a child’s ability to attach. Attend agency talks – and read as much as you can about attachment in adoption.
• Understand you may have to change your lifestyle to accommodate a child who needs YOU to help create trust in the world. Think about co-sleeping and think about carrying your child to help bonding. Prepare for this – get fit now!

The challenge of child-proofing the house before the baby comes home
• Pet-proof your home if you own animals – remember a child may be scared of pets and may also try to hurt them. Create a pet-free zone to keep animals and children safe. Your animals can get used to this as you wait for your child. It may take time to evict your dog from the bedroom!
• Child-proof your home – locks on cupboards with chemicals, covers for pools. Try crawling at floor level to gauge danger!

When Your Child Comes Home
Choose your battles. Attachment comes first. Trust your instincts.

Questions to ask of carers
• Be adoption savvy, and when adopting your child ask questions of previous carers about routines, feeding schedules, food likes and dislikes, sleeping arrangements.
• Ask if your child slept alone, and how noisy the care was by day and night. You can try to replicate the best bits in the days first home.
• If possible, bring something with the child that smells of the previous care centre – unless you specifically know might be a hurtful memory.
• If you can, have your child’s previous carers ‘bless’ the adoption. If it’s known that your child was attached to or cared for by a specific person, ask if they could signal to the child it is OK to let go of them, and go with you.

Don’t listen to your mother who keeps insisting you’re spoiling your new child.
• Baby your new child. Treat them as an infant. Feed them. Give them a night-time bottle and rock them. Spoil them. Even pre-schoolers and tweenies might want a bottle and one on one attention – but keep it private for the older children!
• Forget the rules for at least the first six months and then maybe even longer.
• Don't listen to your mother who keeps insisting you're spoiling them.

Forget the stroller
• Your new child needs you. Carry him or her as much as possible. Forget the stroller.
• Give plenty of skin to skin body contact. Allow nuzzling with you
in bed if the child wants that.
• Cuddle them when they cry. Hold them and rock them. Share your bed with them – kids often are scared by being alone.

• Expect your new child to regress and be developmentally behind.
• Expect whines and temper tantrums. Being adopted is a huge transition; children are expected to give up every thing they have known.
• Don’t expect language development right away. Your child already knew a language (from the womb and after) and now you want them to learn another one. Give them time! Children absorb – typically your child will understand you long before they speak!

How to play with an under 12 month old – forget playing dolls!
• Understand that a baby is – a baby! First time parents get amazed that the baby wants to sleep for so much time in the day.
• Keep play simple and establish routine
• Bring home an indoor sandbox and sensory toys, like wooden blocks
that are fun to hold.
• Watch birds out the window.
• Meditate or day dream while holding her. Sing to her. Smile and tap or stroke her while you sing.
• Experiment with food - let her play with it on her high chair tray. Do patty cake, with hands, then with feet (it's a secret synapse grower because of the cross over.)
• Count her fingers, and play “this little piggy”.
• Get down on the floor on your back and lift up your leg or and say "Up" and put it down and say ‘down!’ Kids like this.
• Take a bath. Together is good! Afterwards, play with Baby Bee apricot baby oil, or some other all natural oil (you can get almond or very fine olive oil and put some mint or lavender in it for a few days).
• Give her a massage if she likes it.
• Find a toddler's play ground that's pretty clean, and let her feel the sensation of the baby swing, and play with sand or rocks; just watch for the tendency to eat either.
• Keep a big smile on your face whenever you see her, and be conscious about the "zing" factor. Babies need face time. It helps them learn emotions
• Share sweet stuff. Breast milk is super-sweet, so share a sweet food with your child, and better it’s a game! Tooth brush later.
• Consider adoptive breastfeeding. Our children are emotional sleeping beauties. They have put a large amount of development on hold until they found a person they could trust to do it with them.

Playtime–the older child
• Don't overwhelm your child with lots of toys. Too many toys mean that your poor child doesn't know which one to play with.
• If you adopted transnationally, it’s likely your child won’t have ‘known’ toys.
• Go for playtime materials that will help your child develop physically and via their senses.
• Avoid television – it’s interactive in a very cold way and can be addictive and cause bad behaviour
• Some orphanages and carers may also have used TV to babysit your child, and TV in your home will bring that memory back.
• Your child needs you not a TV screen

Tantrums-“Is it an adoption issue?" is a good question. If it is, then ask “What I am going to do differently?”
• Learn your child, and begin to anticipate their needs.
• When you see s/he is ready to go into a temper tantrum, distract them. Don't let them get to the point of being too tired, hungry or needing to go potty. These are often at the root of a small child ‘losing it’
• Your child needs you. That is the most important thing to remember. Even when they are kicking, screaming and rejecting you. In fact, particularly when!

Food - don’t make it a fight!
• Don’t make food an issue. Food is about the child, not what you want the child to eat.
• Newly home kids often crave what their bodies lack – some kids eat meat meat meat, and grow!
• Other kids like to have the flavours of their past – transnationally adopted kids often want the comfort foods of their birthcountry.
• Have fun learning how to cook ( or get) these foods so that we all have the food as a family

Sleep – don’t expect them to sleep where you want them to
• Don’t expect toddlers to sleep in a crib, toddler beds often work better
• Where kids really want to sleep is with you. They're not use to being by themselves and they're scared.
• Use attending to a sleepless child as an opportunity to meet their needs and build their trust
• Don’t expect sleep issues to be solved a fortnight after being home
• Don’t hesitate to seek professional advice if your child has nightmares or night terrors

Care outside your home?
• If your child is of preschool or school age, consider keeping them home a while. School may resound of an institution or be a place where kids don’t have to commit emotionally.
• For some kids, though, respite time at school allows processing of the emotion of a new family. Daycare may be imperative to your family lifestyle, but consider waiting a little
• Some families have found that allowing a child time to bond before you go back to work is huge.
• If daycare is inevitable, make sure that you embrace your child’s carers as significant others in your life and that of your child. That may mean a contact with the staff –and a compact with your child

The balancing act of more than one child
• Learn how to balance your new child and their needs with the needs of children already in your home.
• Each child doesn’t needs exactly the same slice of you.
• Older children already home can be helped understand that needs are met on a needful basis!
• Give time to all your children regularly, routinely and as need presents.

Taking care of yourself - overwhelmed and exhausted and sleep-deprived?
• Find friends – real space and virtual – who understand that adoption often brings a need to ‘mourn our old life’ without it meaning we wish we hadn’t adopted
• Find friends who will listen to concerns and worries about the children without trying to ‘fix’ them with ordinary parenting remedies.
• Take care of yourself. Get as much sleep as you can. Eat well. Exercise.
• Becoming a first time parent is a huge change in your life. You will be tired and then there is jet lag to also contend with if you traveled overseas. Take this into account and relax. You can't afford to get sick.
• When you are tired and don't feel well, you have less patience and less happiness to bestow to your new little one who needs all the love, happiness and patience that you can offer.
• Know about the possibility of post adoption depression and don’t be afraid to call for help from friends and your physician if you feel overwhelmed post adoption.
• GET HELP if feeling depressed rather than withdraw from your new child who needs you to direct the bond that needs to be formed between you.
• For the first months home, don't have a busy schedule or lots of visitors. Your child needs to learn it’s you who will meet their needs.
• Do have family time, and bring into your home on a regular basis people that are going to be important to your child as they grow. Family time is important.
• Celebrate your parenting with friends who make you feel understood

Credits are due to

Jennifer Amon; Bernice In Canada; Sandra Barnhart; Amy Campbell; Charlotte Holtam; Leann King; Patricia Meindl; Kathy Lentz; Ellen Ratcliffe; Greta Ratliff; Michele Zeller, all members of the Yahoo!group Adoption Parenting.

To find the Adoption Parenting E-List, click below.

Click to subscribe to adoptionparenting

ADOPTION PARENTING: This e-group provides a network of information, resources and insightful adoption parenting advice from professionals and from "parent experts". It's topic driven and the topics change every two weeks. Topics are archived and it has been a tremendous resource. You need to be parenting adopted children or foster children to be approved for membership or be an adoptee with children. EMK Press sponsors this group.


Please contact Carrie Kitze for information on obtaining reprints of this article for pre and post adoption kits and seminars.

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