Every parent can attest that raising a child can be one of the most rewarding jobs, but also one of the hardest things we’ll ever do in our lifetime. Raising a human being, being responsible for another life, caring for them completely, fulfilling all their needs, keeping them out of harm’s way, making sure they grow up to be a respectful and kind contribution to today’s society, hoping they are well-rounded and functional adults: these things all rest on the shoulders of the parents who love and raise them. Yes, these struggles, worries, and concerns, basically plague the minds of all parents, including adoptive parents.
The Adoption Process
I often compare the adoption process to a hiking trip across the country. There is plenty of excitement and anticipation, but it’s also unpredictable and quite daunting. There are many steps and requirements involved with adopting a child, such as medical clearances, background checks, approvals, references, and endless piles of paperwork.
When you can finally glimpse the light at the end of the tunnel, and you feel as though you’ve jumped through every possible hoop, you somehow expect the rest to be celebratory. You made it to the finish line; you arrived at your destination. However, while the end of the adoption process is exciting, it is not always the rainbows-and-butterflies experience one has built up in their mind. But your adoptee has also gone through a long journey to get into the safety and security of your home. They’ve likely experienced trauma that you may never fully understand.
So, for some adoptive families, the actual process isn’t as perfect and fairytale-friendly as they may have dreamed. Some adoptive parents feel a sense of guilt as they start to fall in love with their new child, an emotion they weren’t really prepared for. Reaching out to other adoptive families can be helpful for both you as a parent and your new child; it helps you overcome some of your worries by knowing they have been successfully addressed by others. Adoption communities offer great support and resources to help you through the adoption process. Don’t let the internal struggles throughout this process bring you down. Sometimes, in order to have the best things in life, you have to work twice as hard.
Acknowledging Your Child’s Birth Family
I am a strong advocate for and believer in the fact that having all the pieces to your puzzle can make your journey through life much easier. Experts have shown that it’s only natural for a child to be curious about where they came from, their birth parents, their roots, and their heritage. This is especially true of children with different cultural and racial backgrounds. Sharing that information with them at an age-appropriate time can be crucial and eliminate many of your worries–and theirs. Giving them access to this information can help them fully embrace themselves and make them more comfortable asking questions or sharing their feelings on the subject.
As open-minded as you think you are, sometimes understanding the fact that your child was born to other people can inspire feelings of jealousy, insecurity, inadequacy, and even anger. These feelings can be struggles for both adoptive parents as well as the adopted child. It’s hard to share your child with other people, and sometimes fear can settle in your mind. Sometimes, you can’t help but envision the possible scene where your frustrated teenage child yells, “You aren’t even my real parent,” a heart-wrenching statement that plagues the mind of some adoptive parents. Despite the emotions this may trigger, you should try and understand the fact of the matter: your child deserves to be able to embrace all of who they are. Demonstrating your understanding, interest, and respect for their birth story as well as their birth family can actually be a way for you to connect and bond with them. Letting them connect to their birth culture can also bring them much closer to you as their parent.
Forming A Parent-Child Bond
Bonding doesn’t always happen instantly. It is common for many adoptive parents to worry about whether they will be able to bond with their new family member, but don’t worry: it’s natural for a bond to take time to form. It is a process that is unique to every situation. Spending time with your child, getting to know them better, appreciating their journey and grief, reassuring them that they can and will have their needs met, and learning to trust in one another are all ways that will help cultivate a bond.
Patience is key. Don’t rush the process and don’t let anxiety convince you that it is hopeless. Just because there isn’t an immediate bond does not mean one will not form.
Possible Behavioral and Attachment Issues
Not all adoptions are the same. In fact, every adoption story is unique in one way or another. One thing that you can learn and understand about your adoptive child is that at one unfortunate point or another, they have experienced some form of trauma. Whether they faced neglect in the womb, the initial loss of birth parents, difficulties in foster care, mistreatment in group homes or institutions, et cetera, in one way or another, this child has been burdened with trauma. Knowing this as an adult–educating as well as preparing yourself–can be your best line of defense against the worries that can arise as you approach adoption. Diving headfirst into research on special needs, behavioral difficulties, attachment disorders, and other helpful resources available to you can prove you ready in the event your family personally deals with some of these problems. It will increase your confidence and help you navigate through these struggles should they arise in your home. Remember, every child deserves to feel understood, loved, protected, and cared for. Building your knowledge and confidence can be the key to helping you embrace your child’s struggles head-on and without fear.
Being Good Enough
The universal sense of guilt or inadequacy exists for all parents, often labeled as the terms, “mom guilt” or “dad guilt.” It’s essentially a worry that you aren’t living up to the expectation of what parent you once dreamed you would be. In your mind prior to birth or adoption, you saw yourself being the perfect parent, and then once children entered your life, you realized you would not meet your previous standards every day. Maybe you had to work a longer shift and didn’t make it home in time for family dinner; maybe your patience was tested over and over and you didn’t handle it with the gentle tone you would’ve liked to showcase; maybe the housework got away from you and interacting closely with your child took a bit of a back seat. There are many reasons “parental guilt” can sneak up on you.
As an adoptive parent, I feel that this rings even more true. For some reason, adoptive parents hold themselves to a higher standard. The bar is raised simply because you took on another’s child with the promise that you would love, care for, provide for, and keep that child safe, as well as give them the life that they deserve. You vowed to be the best parent for them and understood how important it was for them to feel cherished. Many of your worries likely stem from a fear that you’re not doing enough–that you’re not perfect.
At the end of the day, be gentle with yourself. You do not have to prove to anyone that you deserve to be the parent of your child.
Parenting comes with challenges, messes, anxiety, and a mind full of worries more often than not. Whether you are a birth parent or an adoptive parent, you are a parent, which guarantees at least a base level of stress. Though there might be a few additional worries adoptive parents have to deal with, there is nothing that your love for your child will not help you face. Connecting and sharing similar experiences with other families in the adoption community can be so beneficial to help you recognize and feel you are not alone. You can find resources to help guide you on Adoption.org, Adoption.com, Adopting.org, and other like-minded websites.
Janelle Oliveira grew up and spent all of her adult life in the state of Massachusetts. For just shy of 31 years, she has been a kind-hearted, outgoing, silly, motherly, caring, wholesome individual. She has a strong passion for writing and since the age of 11 has dreamed of seeing her words in print. She published her first children’s book in 2019 after adopting her son in 2018. She dedicated her children’s book “Mommy’s heart” which focuses on adoption, to her five-year-old son as well as all the other littles in the world touched by the adoption process. She has high hopes to further her career as a writer and is in the process of publishing two other children’s stories. Her passion for adoption and writing has led her to all of you. Becoming a storyteller for Adoption.com has brought her so much joy. Entertaining others as well as helping as many people she can is something she feels strongly about. Having been through the adoption process herself, having devoted time working as a foster parent with the department of children and families, having a strong desire to touch lives, and having a lifelong passion for getting her writing out there makes her feel confident she will be able to bring you the content you are looking for. Hopefully, she keeps you yearning for more!