How to Parent an Adopted Child
Your family has grown and now that the adoption process is over, it’s time to discuss the intricacies of parenting an adopted child. There are several things to consider. While you should try to remain consistent in your parenting strategies, you may have to make some amendments when it comes to being the best parent you can be.
The age of your adopted child matters, especially when it comes to older child adoptions. If your child is older and was previously in care, they may be used to different parenting styles and possibly a lack of consistency. It is important to enforce age-appropriate rules for your child to follow while allowing for an adjustment period. The adjustment period, in turn, can present as acting out and/or testing the limits. This is completely normal. The best way to handle this situation is to remain consistent in reinforcing good behaviors and redirecting bad ones.
In the United States, 40% of adoptions are transracial, meaning that one or both parents identify as a different race or culture than their adopted child. Race plays a huge part in building a child’s identity. If you and your child are of different races and/or differ significantly in looks, it is important to address it. You may need to do research on your child’s race. Some parents choose to integrate aspects of their child’s culture into their lives. This includes moving to areas where there is more diversity to ensure that the child is around others of the same race.
Parenting an adopted child of a different race is a nuanced process, which is often made difficult by a lack of knowledge or refusal to address the topic. There are several support groups for transracial adoption that will help you along the way. Adoption Choices is an excellent resource for additional information. Many parents also find that joining Facebook groups is a great way to compare and learn from the experiences of others.
When Should You Tell Your Child They Were Adopted
You will find there are a variety of opinions on whether or not to tell a child they were adopted. Experts agree that it is imperative to tell a child that they are adopted — the earlier the better. Introducing the concept of adoption to your child when they are young gives them a firm grasp on the fact that it is not a negative thing. Treating it like a secret often signifies shame. Waiting can make them feel as if you’ve betrayed them, and they may lose trust in you.
You can make this a positive and bonding experience for you and your child. Consider sharing their adoption story through creating a scrapbook or a bedtime tale. The books can become treasured memories for your family. These methods also open a line of communication for your child, allowing them to express their thoughts on the subject. Journaling is another excellent outlet for children to express themselves clearly and thoughtfully. You may find that having your child keep a journal makes them more open and expressive in their thoughts and feelings about their adoption.
Loss is a natural emotion that children may have difficulty understanding or processing. Telling your child that they were adopted may cause them to feel as if they have lost a part of their identity and family. While there is no way to avoid it, anticipating it can help both you and your child cope with the loss and work through it together. Normalizing the conversation around adoption is the best way to make sure that your child knows it is an open topic.
Parenting Both Adopted and Biological Children
If your family is a blend of both biological and adopted children, then you may have to amend your parenting strategies. While it is important to be fair to all the children in the household, an adopted child may have different needs than a biological child. Equality may be a strange word to hear when it comes to parenting, but it fits. Treating each child fairly, but not equally, could lead to some needs not being met.
Equality aims to make sure that each child gets their needs met in whatever way they need to be. For example, if you have two children struggling with their homework, fairness would be giving each child one hour of extra help. Equality would be making sure each child completes their homework, despite how much extra help they may need. Parenting should be equal in that it focuses on meeting the needs of the children.
No one ever said parenting was easy. Parenting an adopted child adds a layer of complexity to an already difficult, yet rewarding, job. You must do what is best for your child and yourself, as your situation and circumstances are unique. There is no one-size-fits-all guide to parenting adopted children. This is why it’s imperative that you do your research to create the most beneficial environment for your child.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Helping Your Child Transition From Foster Care to Adoption. https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/f_transition.pdf. Accessed 3 December 2018.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Adoption Usa. A Chartbook Based On The 2007 National Survey Of Adoptive Parents. Race, Ethnicity, And Gender. https://aspe.hhs.gov/report/adoption-usa-chartbook-based-2007-national-survey-adoptive-parents/race-ethnicity-and-gender. Accessed 3 December 2018.
U.S. National Institutes of Health. The Transracial Adoption Paradox.” https://docs.google.com/document/d/1FbakzpQBIcCvEpHGqkj0rDeKoAIQh3DM-6c9io0CMVA/edit#. Accessed 3 December 2018.