Take a look at the predictable challenges that come when you welcome a new child into your life...
Friend #1 saw a picture online and thought she looked cute. A bond was felt immediately when she met her for the first time. Her two kids liked her, and that was that. They went to the store and bought a few supplies, and brought her home. There was very little information regarding her background, just knew she was 6 weeks old, but that was OK to Friend #1. Love, support, and commitment would carry the day.
Friend #2 did her research. She looked into what would be a good match for her family. Gathering information on attachment types and personalities, she talked to her loved ones about if this was the right time for the family. She talked to friends who had been through the process. After a few “meet and greets” with different “prospects” they selected the one that they thought would be the best match.
Fast forward three months: Friend #1’s new addition to the family is constantly chewing on valuables throughout the home, has grown four times her size, and doesn’t respond to simple commands.Training and long, daily walks have proven moderately successful.
Comparatively, Friend #2 spends her evenings with her favorite girl nestled comfortably in her lap. Docile, friendly, and wanting to please are constant reminders the patience and planning were worth it. They found a good match!
I hope you’ve realized at this point that the above examples are canine adoptions; if only child adoptions were as simple! There is so much more to that process, but we can learn something from the experiences of those who had the best of intentions but were then faced with realities that they had not planned for.
One of the best aspects of us humans is our desire to care for another, particularly a child. If you are considering adoption I applaud you for the intention! Here’s a few pointers that I hope help you along the way and make the process less daunting. Patience and insight will go a long way towards your adoption process.
1. Figure out the fantasy so you can be clear about the reality:
Think about how you picture your life to be like with your adopted child. For example:
* How old is he or she?
* How does the child behave?
* How do others respond to your child?
* How does the rest of your family react?
* What would it be like to experience the joy of being a parent to this new child?
* What will it change about your relationship with your self, partner and family when you add this new person to your lives?
Share these fantasies with your partner (and other children) so you can be sure you’re clear of any expectations you’re carrying.
Now comes the hard part: realize this fantasy has no basis in fact.
Fantasies are only harmful when they are believed to be true. Now think about all your hopes and anxieties about adopting a child, which by the way are normal to have. Discuss with your loved one all the terrible things that could potentially happen. Think about all the potential ways you could fail as a parent. What could happen to your marriage, partnership, happy home?
Think about all the terrible things that could potentially happen in this uncertain world. Now comes the reassuring part: realize none of these worries have predictive outcome on the future. These fantasies are also false and based on your own interpretation of the future, not what may actually occur.
Knowing the fantasies around parenting will help you identify the true reasons of why you want to adopt, and whether or not this is the right time for you. Embrace all of the emotions that occur when on the adoption journey, and all your desires for wanting a child in your life. Hopefully you can be transparent about your desires for parenting. There are no “right” or “wrong” feelings about wanting to adopt, but starting with honest communication about why it would be both great and scary is the perfect place to start.
2. Personalize the process:
Let’s face it: the adoption process can be really terrible; at least emotionally. It’s great that we have rules and regulations surrounding adoption, so I’m not suggesting we adopt a process similar to pet selection. Children need protection with regards to adoption and so do prospective parents.
Too often well intentioned people are caught off guard with the financial strain of adopting. The psychological stress is also daunting when a possible adoption falls through or family or friends aren’t as supportive as we would like them to be.
Several websites exist that can educate you about how adoption works, including www.adoptionservices.org and www.adoptionpaths.com just to name a couple. Talk to friends who have adopted children. What did they wish they knew? What were the most challenging aspects of the process? It’s important to surround yourself with the compassion of loved ones. Connect with those who will provide you the emotional support you deserve in the adoption process.
3. Understand that the unknown is unavoidable:
Education, understanding, and planning for a new addition to the family will greatly help you in the adoption process, but it will not eliminate surprises. A young pregnant woman changes her mind, the child considered for adoption has a unknown learning disability or a potential adoption falls through at the last minute.
Adoption for many is a completely new experience that is never quite as straightforward as it is imagined to be. Even the most prepared among us can’t anticipate the potential pitfalls. Embrace the unknown as an inevitable (but not easy) part of the process. Again, the support of loved ones around you can help ease the fear and anxiety of the unknown.
There’s no replacement for figuring out the fantasy, personalizing the process, and understanding that the unknown is unavoidable when it comes to adoption. Thankfully, according to the U.S. Census Bureau there are more than 1.5 million adopted children currently in the United States. That means successful adoptions has taken place several years prior to your even thinking about it. Adopting an attitude that respects the desire to parent with a willingness to understand and educate yourself about the adoption process is key to a successful adoption. I wish you well in your journey.