The adoption process is an ongoing journey that continues well beyond finalization. The adjustment period can be a vulnerable time for all family members, especially the adopted child. Some children may feel relief as the adoption is finalized while others may feel a great loss.
Prepare your current children
Keep the communication lines with your current children open throughout the process. Help them understand that the adopted child may act differently and that this can be related to trauma. Explain how and why your parenting style may change now that other children are in the home. Assure your children that, although this new child may require much of your time and attention, they are just as important to you as they always have been.
Prepare your home
Create a welcoming and private space that the adopted child can call their own. This will help with feelings of belonging. Stock the refrigerator with their favorite foods, and let them pick out new clothing or a few new toys to call their own.
Sometimes, children who have been adopted can exhibit destructive behaviors when learning to deal with their feelings of fear, loss and anger. If you have possessions that you would be devastated to lose, it’s best to put them in a safe place.
Create a safe environment for communication
Everyone involved in the adoption will likely have very complicated feelings about it.
To build trust and ease the transition, allow the adopted child to openly share their feelings. Understand your feelings may get hurt at times, and your child will probably not be grateful to you for adopting them. Understand all they have lost before coming into your family.
For other family members, as well, provide a safe environment that allows them to share openly. Acknowledge their feelings and find ways to move the family forward.
Share adoption information in a developmentally appropriate manner
Some children may be too young to understand all the details of why they had to leave their birth families. It’s important to share this information with them in a positive nonjudgmental way, over time, as they can understand the information more clearly. Honor this history as an important part of their identity.
Continue the Lifebook
Lifebooks are similar to scrapbooks. In an adoption, lifebooks can help children understand and connect with their history. Your child should have received their lifebook when they moved into your home for adoption. Keep the lifebook in a safe place while the child is young and go through it with them from time to time. You and the child may decide to add information about your family and home, or perhaps make a new lifebook for this purpose. As the child gets older, you may decide they can keep it in their room with their own belongings.
Establish family routines and traditions
A consistent routine can help create security and structure. Everything is new to the adopted child, and the more that is known and predictable, the less the child has to be anxious about. Schedule breakfast, schoolwork, dinner and bedtime each day, and stick to the routine as much as possible.
Family traditions provide a different type of security. Whether they’re annual, seasonal, daily or weekly, they can help create a family culture that includes everyone.
Make self-care a priority
Making time for yourself is important and necessary. This can include a respite plan or something as simple as exercise, date nights or lunch with supportive and understanding friends. Every family member could benefit from a break from time to time and one-on-one time with each other, as well.