If you’re thinking of adopting a child, you need all the advice you can get. The prospect is long and arduous but also one of the most rewarding journeys you can take in life.
There’s no substitute for working with the experts to make your dreams come true. Here are nine tips for adoptive parents with their first child to follow along the journey.
1. Patience Is Paramount
Adopting a child does and should take considerable time. After all, you agree to become responsible for someone else’s physical and mental health needs for a lifetime. Emotions run high, and the psychological scars can be severe if things don’t work out the way you envision.
How long it takes to adopt hinges upon the route you take to parenthood. If you choose to adopt internationally, it can take several years before you find a suitable match. You’ll need to make several overseas trips in many cases at your expense. The process requires an understanding employer and a considerable income stream.
However, if you adopt a foster child, you might be able to complete the process in under a year. Additionally, the child will often reside with you throughout the process, so while you will have to wait for the official name change, you’ll get to enjoy the family connection.
2. Learn Everything You Can
Once upon a time, you would have had to travel to a library and hope for the best to find free information about adoption. Today, thanks to the glory of the world wide web, you have a world of data at your fingertips. Unfortunately, not all of it is accurate — take your time and do your research, please.
Start by visiting sites like The National Council for Adoption and The Center for Parent Information and Resources. As you discover what you’ll need to do each step of the way, you’ll amass a library of links. Use a separate Google account dedicated to your adoption process to keep everything neatly bookmarked in one place.
3. Amass a Team of Experts
From home-study personnel to adoption coordinators, it takes a village to adopt a child. Start gathering your team of experts as early as possible so that you know where to turn to answer your most pressing questions.
For example, it helps to have legal guidance as you navigate the process — if you don’t have an attorney on retainer, you’ll need to find one. Adoption is costly, especially if you opt for the international route, and it pays to have a qualified financial advisor to help you make the most challenging money decisions.
4. Plan for Financial Upsets
Raising a child is a costly adventure. According to a recent Department of Agriculture report, it takes approximately $233,610 to raise a child to age 18, and that figure does not include college expenses.
The time to get your financial house in order is well before you adopt. Start a side hustle that brings in a reliable residual income stream so that you always have something coming in to carry you through tough times. Go through your portfolio and diversify your investments. Find out how to put your assets to best use — can you rent out that camper you no longer use as an Airbnb?
5. Keep the Preparations Simple
It’s natural to want to have everything perfect for your new child before they arrive. However, before you go too crazy decorating their bedroom, remember, you’re dealing with a unique human being who has individualized tastes. It’s one thing to do a space shuttle theme for an infant, but an older child might prefer to choose their decor.
Furthermore, remember that emotions will run high around adoption time, including in your child. As much as you want to throw a giant welcome home party, consider whether all that stimulation will benefit your little one as they adjust.
6. Research Your Child’s Background
You owe it to your child to research their background. Please be careful when doing so — you don’t want your search to create unspoken prejudices about how you believe they will act and behave. Everyone responds differently. However, behaviors caused by past traumas can influence parental attitudes, and you want to be aware of what you might expect.
It’s also a wise idea to seek therapy services during this time. Your agency may require several sessions, but it benefits families tremendously to seek independent help if they do not or the required program proves inadequate.
7. Remember Your Child’s Unique Needs
Your child is a unique individual. However, unless you adopt them from infancy, you don’t know their backstory. Take the time to get to know your child and their needs.
Remember to exercise patience. Perhaps your new child gets frustrated with reading, especially if a language barrier or disability causes an extra hurdle. Spending time reading with them aloud and investigating tutoring services works better than scolding.
8. Lean on Your Support System
Remember, you are human, too. The adoption process isn’t easy on you, and you need a safe place to vent.
Lean on your support system as much as possible. Let people like your parents and in-laws know how they can best support you and show appreciation for their efforts.
9. Cut Yourself Some Slack
Every parent wants to be perfect for their child. Guess what? Such a feat is impossible, so cut yourself some slack.
The most crucial thing to remember is to stay attentive and calm when interacting with your child to help them form a secure attachment. Younger children typically respond well to nonverbal cues of affection and warmth, like imitating their facial expressions. Relaxed and open body language translates across languages.
Your number one priority is to ensure your child feels loved and safe. If you do that, you are doing a fantastic job, so give yourself a break.
Follow These 9 Tips for Adoptive Parents
Adopting a child is one of life’s most exciting and rewarding experiences. Use these nine tips for adoptive parents to make the process less stressful.