Navigating Bumps in the Road
As an adoptive parent, you have gone through hours of training, a Home Study, and placement visits. But you could never have known then exactly how adoption would impact your family, because living it day to day cannot be taught.
Post-adoption care is crucial throughout your adoption journey and can be accessed in many ways. And the earlier you reach out for support, education, and other services, the more likely you will be prepared for challenges in the future.
Here are some common thoughts from adoptive parents and ideas for post-adoption care:
We never sought post-adoption counseling or attended any groups because we wanted to move on, not dwell on the past, and be a normal family.
Normal is a setting on a clothes dryer, not a term meant to reference any family. Adoption has lifelong impacts for your child and your family, and ignoring the issue implies shame and encourages adopted children to internalize thoughts and feelings that often come out “sideways” in the future.
Modeling how to ask for help is an important lesson for a child who struggles with coping skills. Don’t hesitate to contact your local branch for information on support groups. Contact your agency for a list of adoptive families who have volunteered to support other adoptive families. Some groups provide respite, meaning the children have a group or activity while the parents meet separately. Many branches also offer family, cultural, or educational events that build connections with others in the adoption community.
I thought I would feel more bonded with him by now.
You may be more bonded than you realize, but if you have any concerns, contact your adoption specialist or an adoption-competent counselor about creative ways to strengthen your relationship. You may be surprised at the little things that can show your child you can be trusted to meet his needs. If you need a directory of local graduates, contact your agency or adoption-competency programs. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a counselor’s experience.
Also, contact your agency for a list of adoptive families who have volunteered to be available for support. They have the most intimate experience with the mixed emotions and offer a unique level of validation, sympathy, and compassion that is priceless when you feel like no one else “gets it.” Make an effort to meet or talk on the phone regularly. E-mail and texting do not capture the nuances of a supportive relationship.
I thought that after the finalization and a period of adjustment, adoption wouldn’t be an issue anymore. OR She stopped displaying this behavior years ago. I don’t understand why she’s doing this now.
Because adoption finalization itself is often a trigger for feelings of loss, it is beneficial to discuss that possibility prior to and after the adoption. Triggers can come in many forms, but some may be easier to track and prepare for in the future, such as holidays and anniversaries of loss, e.g., a removal date, a placement date, the death of a loved one or a treasured pet, or a traumatic event.
Proactive preparation can minimize the effects of the trigger. Keep a separate calendar of phases when your child regresses. If you identify the trigger, talk about it openly with your child. And next year, talk about it again, ahead of time, and then repeat each year. This approach opens the opportunity to grieve in a safe environment and can increase appropriate feeling expression.
Also, refresh your memory of adoption and developmental stages. Think of adoption as an extra layer over your child’s identity puzzle. As she grows and matures, she is trying to put new pieces together, and the adoption layer is skewing them sometimes.
Like most parents, you’re making the best decisions you can, with the information you have and with the best intentions. Remember, your adoption journey was never designed to be traveled alone. Post-adoption care is an opportunity to enhance your family’s strengths and can help navigate bumps in the road.