The process of adopting a child is an experience unlike any other. You spend countless hours on home visits, paperwork, classes, and waiting – so much waiting. Some families wait years, while others wait months, but all adoptive parents know is there’s oh-so-much waiting. You complete all the legal requirements, ensure a safe home, and fill out enough paperwork to make your eyes glaze over.Then one day, it’s over. A child is placed in your home, post-adoption visits are done, and you realize are legally adoptive parents. The journey of parenting this new child can begin. All your hard work and waiting have paid off and you begin the process of settling in.
In this article, we’re going to talk about the hard parts of adoption, including the aspects that you may not have been prepared for, and ways to work through those, such as through Christian family counseling.
Most likely your adoption process included some counseling. Classes, group events, and maybe even 1:1 counseling helped you along the process.You answered tons of questions about why you wanted to adopt, what you thought your life would look like after adoption, your family of origin, social activities, friendships and extended family, and so much more.
By the time the process was over your caseworker knew everything about your bank account to your sex life, your job satisfaction to what your bathroom looks like, and everything in between.
The goal of the pre-adoption process is to make sure a child is going into a safe and loving home. It’s also designed to make sure parents know what they’re getting into. You took parenting classes, first aid/CPR classes, read books, and watched videos.
You’ve done all you could do to prepare. Perhaps you even sought out additional Christian family counseling beyond what your adoption agency offered. The phrase “I’m as ready as I’m going to be,” comes out of a lot of mouths right around placement time.
Post-adoption Confusion, Emotions, and Overwhelm
After placement comes follow-up visits, legal proceedings, and trying to figure out how on earth to parent. If an older child or teen was adopted, you all begin to adapt to each other differently than with an infant.
You start to figure out what this child of yours likes, what they’re afraid of, how long it takes them to shower and adjust to another person in the home. This is a time of excitement and uncertainty. It may feel a little bit surreal at times. Finally, after all the waiting, prayers, paperwork, and stress- your child is home.
“Now what to do we do???” is what many parents wonder at this point. The process leading up to adoption is full of “to-do” list items. Once it’s all over, people sometimes feel stuck and confused. After all, the post-adoption site visits and paperwork are complete, then what?
All we see are photos on the agency website and brochure of happy families formed through adoption. What we don’t see are the tears, bonding struggles, confusion, or sometimes being downright overwhelmed.
The community support felt from the adoption agency, extended family, and church group often wanes after the adoption is complete. This makes processing all these confusing and difficult thoughts that much harder.
In all the waiting, you’ve had visions of what your new family would be like. Perhaps you had already seen pictures of your child before placement so you even had a visual of what it would look like. You’re excited about having this new child in your home.
It’s the culmination of sleepless nights, daydreams, hard work, and so much love. So why do you feel so sad? Why do you feel overwhelmed? Why is it so hard to fall into the rhythm of a happy family?
Did you know that the majority of adoptive families struggle with these questions? Perhaps you’ve heard of postpartum depression, a type of depression parents may experience after the birth of a baby.
While not an official diagnosis, post-adoption depression is incredibly common as well, as are adjustment struggles, family dynamic issues, and more. Most adoptive families expect to have minor adjustment struggles or difficulty after the adoption is final. Parents may be surprised by how difficult the adjustment is, the emotions that surface, or that depression can be possible.
Common Adoption Struggles
A lack of support
Many adoptive parents find that support wanes. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community to ask for help. Just as a new mama is covered with meals and help with housework after a baby is born, you deserve the same thing! Reach out to your church, small group, or friends and tell them what you need. People are often wanting to help, but just not sure how!
Developing a new relationship is hard. Developing a relationship with the pressure of a parent/child may be difficult to form as well.
Parenting is hard. No doubt about it. Parenting a child who has already been parented by someone else, or was raised in an orphanage, has a whole set of additional difficulties. It might not come easy to you, in fact, it probably won’t. This is an area where lots of families need help, it’s ok.
Older children and teen adoptees often have behavioral struggles. These can have a huge impact on the adoptive family and bring a lot of stress. Behavioral outbursts, defiance, questioning of authority, and more are common.
This is a huge change in your marriage. Navigating life with this new person in it after all the stress and strain of the adoption process is hard. This is also an area where the overwhelming majority of couples struggle, but may not have been warned about during the adoption process. Your marriage is going to impacted. How you respond to the impact will make the difference.
Depression and/or anxiety
Post-adoption depression is common, so is anxiety. You’ve been through a dramatic process and your emotions have been through a lot. You may be sleep deprived caring for a new baby or emotionally on edge from a child that you’re not bonding with, or isn’t listening to you. These feelings may be temporary, but if they persist or become consuming, get help.
The financial burden of adoption doesn’t always come into full view right away. After the process is over and you’re financially responsible for a new person, finances may be tighter than you anticipated.
If a child was adopted through a closed adoption, you may have little or no health information on them. Unexpected health issues may arise and catch families off guard.
In most open adoptions, an agreement for the adoptee-birthparent relationship should have been made. This may need to be adjusted or re-visited over time.
Cultural or racial differences
For families adopting internationally or inter-racially, struggles may arise you never expected. These have a big range of impact and are often surprising to families.
Downright rude people
Let’s face it. Sometimes people are just plain rude. They seem to come out in even greater numbers towards adoptive families. Talk with other families about common rude questions/comments they’ve received and think about ways you might respond.
Ways for Adoptive Parents to Find Support
Dozens of support group organizations exist nationwide. These groups meet in-person regularly. You will likely be able to find a group that’s even targeted towards your specific adoption situation.
Respite careWhen adopting a special needs or disabled child, respite care programs may have been a part of the pre-adoption process. If not, these programs exist for adoptive families of all types- special needs and/or disabilities, or not.
These programs provide care for the child for a specific amount of time which is decided by both parties. Overnight care is also available. Respite providers are given extensive training to provide high-quality care for adoptees. They give parents the chance to go to appointments, have a date night, or take an overnight trip while knowing their child is well cared for.
These programs are often available for foster care families as well. Sometimes they are free and provided by a non-profit; other times they require a fee. Adoptive parents often feel more comfortable with respite care than with hiring a babysitter, especially for children with unique needs.
Additional financial guidance from a professional can be a huge support to families. They can help you tweak a budget, adjust your needs, and be a sounding board for financial decisions.
Christian Family Counseling for Adoptive Parents
Post-adoption Christian family counseling is a huge blessing and resource for marriages and families. Sometimes adoption agencies even require it for the first year. If you’ve run into any of the struggles listed above, or any other struggles, please reach out to us.
The Christian family counselors at our office are here to help you bond with your new child, work through struggles, and move into your new season of life with support. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for Christian family counseling to get your family the support you need.
“Mother and Her Babies”, Courtesy of Progressive Insurance, hUnsplash.com, CC0 License; “Family at Sunset”, Courtesy of Jude Beck, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Happy”, Courtesy of Progressive Insurance, Unsplash.com, CC0 License; “Carried by Mom”, Courtesy of Xavier Mouton Photographie, Unsplash.com, CC0 License