Last week, we shared 5 Amazing Things Adoptive Parents Can Do for Their Kids — tips every adoptive parent can consider to help their children grow up with a positive sense of identity and a healthy relationship with adoption.
In part two of this series, we’re sharing even more advice for adoptive families (or potential adoptive families) who want some adoption-specific parenting pointers. Here are five more amazing things adoptive parents can do for their children:
1. Create a community.
A family is a family, no matter how it’s made — and in almost every way, your family is just like any other. But at the same time, it’s not uncommon for children to sometimes feel different from their peers because of their adoption stories. They might be the only one of their friends who doesn’t look like their parents, and they might be the only child in their class whose family tree project includes a branch for birth family.
No one understands adoptees — or their parents — quite the way other adoptees and adoptive parents do. Seeking out other adoptive families and forming relationships with them can be a powerful way to normalize your child’s adoption story. If you don’t already know other adoptive families in your area, try searching for a nearby adoption meet-up group that can provide a sense of community for you and your child.
2. Approach adoption anniversaries with care.
There is so much to celebrate in adoption. But there is some debate when it comes to certain celebrations — specifically of “Gotcha Day,” or the anniversary of a child’s adoption date.
Meeting your child for the first time, bringing him or her home and finalizing your adoption will all be exciting milestones for your family, and it’s natural to want to commemorate those dates. But it’s also important to remember that adoption is complicated. “Gotcha Day” celebrations can sometimes oversimplify these complexities by overlooking adoptees’ and birth parents’ feelings of loss. Some argue that even the term “Gotcha Day” has problematic implications, making it sound as if a child is something to simply be “gotten.”
Instead, some families choose to celebrate “Adoption Day” or “Family Day,” focusing on the day they all became a family. Others use their child’s adoption day as an opportunity to talk about and honor birth family. Ultimately, whether and how you celebrate your child’s adoption will likely depend on the circumstances of your child’s adoption and how he or she feels about it. The important thing is to acknowledge your child’s feelings and be sensitive to those as you approach these important anniversaries.
3. Stand up to ignorance.
It’s an unfortunate reality for adoptive families: sometimes, people are going to say ignorant or insensitive things.
As a parent, you should always be your child’s greatest advocate. Make a proactive effort to educate friends and family members on issues like positive adoption language. Don’t be afraid to (politely) correct someone when they misspeak about adoption or your child. Prepare responses for when strangers ask nosy questions or make misguided comments. And talk to your child about how to do the same.
All of these steps will help to shape your child’s feelings about adoption. Make it clear through your interactions with others that you are proud of your child and your family, that adoption is a special and positive thing, and that your child should never feel ashamed or embarrassed of where he or she comes from.
4. Support your child in their adoption search.
All adopted children have a natural and healthy curiosity about where they came from, and if you do not have an open or semi-open adoption with your child’s birth family, there is a good possibility that your child may someday want to start a search for biological relatives.
For some adoptive parents, the idea of this search and reunion can be scary and overwhelming. You might have no idea what to expect, and you naturally want to protect your child from the possibility of pain or disappointment. Maybe, if you’re completely honest, you also feel a little sad or even jealous that your child wants to search for his or her birth family — and that’s okay.
However, while it might be hard for you to accept, it’s important to recognize that this is not your choice to make. If your child is really serious about finding their birth family, they likely will, with or without your involvement.
The best thing you can do in this situation as an adoptive parent is to support your child wholeheartedly. Help them in their search. Offer up any information you have. If and when they ever meet up with biological relatives, consider asking if you can go with them. You are your child’s parent and always will be — whether they choose to search for birth family or not — which means you are the best person to love, protect and support your child through this process.
There are so many more things adoptive parents can do for their kids, but this might be the most important. Listen to adoptee voices — and most importantly, your child’s. As one adoptee put it, “If you are a parent through adoption, listen to YOUR CHILD, because ultimately, with all the voices you will hear about adoption, theirs is the most important. Let your child be your guide.”
Did you miss the first post in this series? Check out “5 Amazing Things Adoptive Parents Can Do for Their Kids,” and learn more about raising an adopted child here.