Last night as I was watching my favorite television show, Parenthood, I cringed as one of the dad’s on the show who has adopted a child was told “You are not my real dad!” If you don’t watch the show one of the couples is going through the adoption process. Their first attempt at an adoption was with a pregnant mother who decided to parent at the time of the birth. The couple has since adopted an older child, a son, and watching their struggles and attempts to bond with him are a pretty clear depiction of what most families go through especially when the adoptee is older. I wonder if one of the writer’s of this show has had a similar experience. This is not to say that all families go through the process like this but it is a good example of the differences and challenges of parenting an adopted child.
Attachment can be the most difficult especially when adopting or fostering an older child. Most children in this situation have not had a stable home and may feel that your home will be the same. They will seem distant and may say things such as what this dad heard not to hurt you but to test you. They may not bond to you right away because they may just see your home as another temporary place. As an adoptive or foster parent you will want to reassure him/her and give them plenty of time and opportunity to tell you how they feel.
Understanding Grief and Loss
Another aspect of parenting an adopted a child is understanding the grief and loss issues for all members of the adoption triad. Birth families will grieve the loss of the child and the adopted child will be sad over the loss of their parents no matter what the circumstances are of why that child is no longer with his/her family. It is important for the adoptive family to talk openly with their children about their biological family and to maybe even facilitate a relationship with them if appropriate. This may be very hard for some adoptive parents but it is important for the adoptee. It is also important for adoptive parents to honor their agreement about future contacts with their child’s biological family for both the birth parents and your child.
Talking to Children About Adoption
Adoptive parents should also talk openly with their child about the adoption process in general. If you are planning to adopt the child in your home then communicating with them about your intent to adopt and explaining to them that adoption is a life-long process will provide the children in your home with a much needed security. Foster parents may only be a temporary parent for a child but while they are in your home you want to make a positive and loving impact on that child while he/she is with you so communicate openly with them and give them a safe place to express their feelings.
There are many online resources and trainings for adoptive and foster parents on parenting an adopted child. Family to Family offers trainings for both adoptive families and foster parents on parenting and many other aspects of the adoption process. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or if you have an interest in adopting or fostering a child.