Misunderstanding Development

A child’s development is a long process, with many ups and downs that can feel impossible to predict, and adoption will most certainly affect that process. How much of your child’s behavior is typical, and how much of it is a result of your unique family circumstances? Here we will explore what average development looks like. We encourage you to learn more in each stage of your child’s development to help you normalize what are typical behavior and feelings and what may be complicated by their adoption story. Here is one site to reference for child development: https://www.childrensneuropsych.com/parents-guide/milestones/

 

Infancy

         In this period of life, the adoptive parents have the opportunity to build a foundational emotional attachment with their child. Learning your baby’s unique temperament and reactions to things that upset them can help you shape your parenting style to meet their needs. At age one, they will seek more independence as they learn to move about. This means you will see the beginnings of disobedience. Shape behavior by rewarding good actions rather than punishing bad ones.

 

Toddlerhood

         As language develops in ages two and three, children will begin to appreciate narratives, including that of their own life. Though they can learn and repeat the story of their adoption, they will not understand what it means to have a birth mother and an adoptive family. Using make-believe play may allow them to work through emotions they do not yet understand, as well as the concept of past and present. Greater pushes for independence combined with little knowledge of emotions can lead to tantrums when children are denied something. Though they may be stressful and embarrassing, tantrums are completely normal. Sensing their needs before they arise and having meaningful conversations about emotions can reduce their occurrence.

 

Preschool

Beginning in preschool, children spend more and more time away from home, and their worlds will rapidly expand. They will begin to compare themselves to their agemates on the basis of sex, race, family, and interests. Where the answers are too complex, it is normal for them to assume magical explanations, like baby-carrying storks. Be open and honest if your child comes to you with questions about these comparisons, similarities, and differences; being honest sooner will prevent confusion later.

 

School Age

         As children’s logic centers develop, they will spend more and more time puzzling through their place in the world. They may still struggle with the concept of adoption and what it means for your family and their future. They may even fear abandonment or wonder what they did wrong to be “given up” in the first place. This may result in angry or defensive behavior as a way of distancing themselves from potential hurt. You can help to positively shape their identity by reaffirming your love for them, as well as the love of their birth mother or family.

 

Adolescence

         This period is characterized by two forms of development: identity and independence. Now, more than ever, your child will be trying to find themselves outside of your family. They will want to reconcile their birth and adoptive families, a process that can be made much harder if they have little information about or connection to their birth parents. Self-image is also a vital factor of this time, and turbulent changes of adolescence can quickly lead to declines in mental health. Encourage them to explore and connect with their past, making sure they know they can ask questions without judgement from you.

 

It is always going to be hard to see your child struggle with their identity and relationship to you. They may need your help to work through their complex feelings at first, and later it may be enough just to tell them you are there for them as they grow on their own. Building a support system with other adoptive families, such as through your agency, can give both you and your child a head start on dealing with these feelings.

 

written by Ashley Conner

How to Promote Your Child’s Development of Self-Regulation

Self-regulation is comprised of a variety of abilities that allow someone to understand delayed gratification, focus and shift their attention between tasks, and control one’s emotions and behaviors.  Self-regulation allows a child to resist impulsive behaviors and outbursts, cheer themselves up when feeling down, and respond appropriately to different scenarios, consequently allowing them better control over their behavior and their life.  Developing this skill takes time and practice, and as you can probably guess, directly impacts social interactions and success at school and work.

In the world of international adoption, many children spend the early years of their lives without the consistent one-on-one support and mentoring that is so important to the development of complex reasoning and thinking… directly affecting their ability to self-regulate.  However, it is never too late to teach a child self-regulation strategies.  These abilities are practiced and developed through continuous social interactions across one’s lifespan.  This is great news for all parents, as this means that self-regulation can be taught and practiced through formal and informal interactions and environments at any age.

So what can you do to help your child develop these important life skills?

First things first. Teach your child about different emotions and how to identify and label them.  This might entail pictures of different faces, voicing your feelings out loud as they come up, and helping your child to verbally label theirs.  Facilitate discussions with your child about these emotions, for example, “Did you throw that toy because you were frustrated?” and help them formulate appropriate responses, “What else could you do if you’re feeling frustrated?”  This provides a gateway to brainstorming appropriate ways to react in future scenarios.  Try asking pointed questions to allow your child to arrive at an appropriate response, such as, “Could you ask for help?” or “What if you tried to play with this toy instead?”

Strategy Tool Box. When self-regulating, it’s important for children to have a “tool box” with different strategies for calming themselves down.  These strategies take time to test out and practice, as different strategies will work for different children, but here are a few calm-down techniques to teach to your child:

  • Take a mental/physical break: walk away from the situation, find a quiet place to sit and breathe, read a book, listen to music, walk a lap around the room
  • Take a spiritual break: pray, use deep breathing exercises, practice a yoga pose
  • Engage in a sensory experience: draw, cuddle under a weighted blanket, play with playdough
  • Engage in positive self-talk: repeat a short, affirming phrase or mantra
  • Seek social support: talk to an adult or friend, ask for help

 

Self Talk. A major contributor to good self-regulation is a child’s use of self-talk.  Through self-talk, children repeat various lessons and sayings from adults to themselves when making decisions and reacting to different situations.  To support your child’s use of self-talk, break down different scenarios to them, talking them through how you analyze and think about a situation, and provide them with short and simple rules and coping skills that they can repeat to themselves when needed, such as, “When I get mad, take a deep breath” or “I can have dessert after my homework is done”.

Simple Play. Children learn many life lessons through simple play.  Even older children and adolescents benefit from one-on-one play with an adult.  This is a great time to model appropriate interactions and reactions with your child, and to exhibit different coping skills.  For example, during pretend-play, your child might pretend that a doll or loved one passes away.  This is an excellent time to verbally walk through appropriate processing and response to grief with a statement such as, “Oh no, I’m so sad that my puppy died, I’m really going to miss him, I think I need a hug”.  With older children, similar lessons can be learned through more age-appropriate scenarios, such as playing and losing at a game or role-playing different scenarios, “Oh man, I really thought I was going to win!  But that’s okay, I can’t win every time.  Hopefully I win next time!” and “How could you respond if you try really hard at a game but lose?”

Model. Children learn from what they see and experience.  Make sure to regulate your own emotions when disciplining and interacting with your child.  It is okay to vocalize “I’m really upset right now, I need to walk away and count to ten to calm down before we talk”.  Do your best to stay calm and maintain a firm and even tone when disciplining or redirecting a child.  This helps with modeling, as well as maintaining a safe and positive environment that your child feels comfortable making mistakes and learning in.

Adjust Expectations. When disciplining and speaking to your child, it is always important to respect and listen to them.  Pay close attention to their attempts at communicating and validate their emotions and concerns, regardless of how they express them.  It can be easy to forget the developmental level that your child is thinking and reacting at, but adjust your expectations as necessary to meet their current level, rather than the level you want them to be functioning at.

Clear Limits and Expectations. Children need regular reminders of rules and expectations and benefit from immediate, specific, and direct responses when their behaviors are out of line.  Rather than only focusing on what your child should not do, follow-up with redirecting the child to appropriate activities that meet their needs and offer simple choices for them to choose from.  This teaches your child what acceptable options they have and gives them some control over their life.  For example, “We don’t scream in the house because it hurts our ears, but if you want to use your voice we can sing a song, or you can play and scream outside”.

Shower with Praise. Keep in mind that learning these important skills is a challenging task and takes years to develop and fine-tune.  It is easy for children and adolescents to grow weary, so be sure to shower your child in praise and celebration as they successfully navigate tasks and situations appropriately.  Offer mental breaks and opportunities for your child to choose the activity when you see them getting frustrated or tired, alternating challenging tasks with fun activities.

Importance of Environment. The environment can have huge impacts on a child’s behavior and development.  Many emotional outbursts stem from your child feeling a lack of control but there are many things you can do to avoid this:

Investigate triggers and make accommodations. If your child has more difficulty regulating their emotions and behaviors in certain environments, cue into what could be causing this and make environmental accommodations.

  • Is there a TV or radio in the background that is distracting or overwhelming your child? Turn it off or find a quiet place for your child to go to.
  • Are bright lights or UV lights over-stimulating? Many children with sensory processing disorders and sensory sensitivities react negatively to artificial lighting and benefit from natural lighting provided by windows or soft-white lightbulbs.
  • Does your child have a harder time regulating their behaviors when exposed to loud noises or busy hustle and bustle? Consider noise-cancelling headphones, or a weighted blanket or object to ground and comfort them when exposed to these stressful triggers.

Provide a structured and predictable schedule and routine.  Walk your child through this routine often and give them warnings ahead of time to remind them of what comes next, “After we eat breakfast, we need to brush our teeth then go to school” and “After this TV show is over it’s time to work on your homework”.  For some children, it’s best to have a printed or picture schedule that they can refer to throughout the day or week.

 

Helping your child learn to self-regulate will ultimately benefit you, your child, and their overall well-being, happiness and success throughout their life.  Remember that the more your child practices regulating themselves, the easier it is for them to interact appropriately in various scenarios.   To ensure their ultimate success, offer numerous opportunities for your child to think through and talk about their emotions and interactions, and provide boundless, loving support.  With time and patience, you can pave the way for your child’s future successes.

 

For further information on self-regulation and parenting tips, check out the following resources:

https://positivepsychology.com/self-regulation/

https://raisingchildren.net.au/toddlers/behaviour/understanding-behaviour/self-regulation

https://www.foothillsacademy.org/community-services/parent-education/parent-articles/self-regulation-difficulties

 

 

Identifying Signs of Post-Adoption Depression

Much like the “fourth trimester” of pregnancy (also known as Post-Partum Depression), Post- Adoption Depression can sneak up on families during what seems like the happiest time in a couple’s life. Post- Adoption Depression can happen after a family welcomes an adopted child into their home, especially when reality does not meet expectation. Attachment and bonding do not always happen instantly, with biological children or children that have been adopted. New parents can be laden with negative feelings, like some of those listed below, and can often feel very alone during this time. It is estimated that approximately 65% of adoptive mothers experience symptoms related to Post- Adoption Depression Syndrome (PADS). Listed below are some signs that you or a loved one might be battling PADS and some suggestions for what you can do!

Signs of PADS:

  • Losing interest or enjoyment in activities you once loved
  • Difficulty concentrating or making decisions
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Difficulty sleeping or increased need for sleep
  • Significant weight changes
  • Excessive guilt
  • Feeling powerless, worthless, or hopeless
  • Irritability, frustration, or anger
  • Feeling inadequate or undeserving
  • Retreating from friends, family or others sources of support
  • Suicidal thoughts or ideation

Fighting PADS:

  • Take time for you!
    • You cannot take care of someone else if you are not taking care of you. Take care of yourself however you see fit- enjoy a healthy meal, spend time with friends, get fresh air, or participate in any other self-care that leaves you feeling a little more like yourself.
  • Remember you are not alone
    • Find other adoptive couples who have experienced what you are going through. Many of our families complete an activity with an “alumni family” as part of their educational instruction, so you already know at least one person who can help!
  • Give yourself time to bond with your child
    • Attachment and bonding are not always instant in adoption. Be patient with yourself and with your child and allow that process to happen at its own pace.
  • Ask for help
    • Never be afraid to speak up and ask for help for you and your family. Call your social worker, your best friend, your preacher, your Nightlight contact, or a licensed professional to help you today. You don’t have to be in a crisis or at a breaking point to ask for help.

Most importantly, if you or someone you know is dealing with Post-Adoption Depression, I’d like to leave you with this:

“If you are suffering with bonding issues or Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome, there is something you need to hear: There is nothing wrong with you. Bonding issues or PADS have no bearing on your worth as a parent. You are capable of this. There is nothing to be ashamed about. There is hope. You are not alone. This is not the time to duck and run. This is the time to dig deep, make a plan, assess and re-assess, pour your time into this, and fight for your child. You’ve got this, and there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Keep pushing forward, knowing you’re not alone.” – Melissa Giarrosso

 

 

No matter what problems you’re dealing with, whether or not you’re thinking about suicide, if you need someone to lean on for emotional support, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

Other Resources:

https://www.adoptionstogether.org/blog/2013/01/07/why-arent-i-happy-recognizing-post-adoption-depression-syndrome/

https://adoption.com/overcoming-post-adoption-depression-syndrome

 

Book Review for Birth Moms

 

Once the holidays settled, I was able to dive into an amazing story of a young mom’s journey of adoption- Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light. I would like to start off by saying this book is also a quick read and you will not be able to set the book down until it is finished. You will cheer on this mom in her low points and even more in her high points. This book is written by Hope O Baker who continues to advocate for birth parents on this journey through conferences, social media, and other outlets. In this book you will follow Hope through her pregnancy, placement, family struggles, mental health, and more.

 

Hope tells us how it was difficult knowing which family to choose to parent her baby when she was looking through adoption profile books. She stated, “.., but it didn’t click,” until seeing the profile book of the family she ultimately chose to adopt her baby. It is often that expectant parents look through a number of books and no connection is felt. When Hope brings light to this part of her journey it brought reassurance that this is a good read for not only expectant moms, but also prospective parents to understand. She shows us the ups and downs of her feelings through this process. She gives us an opening to the anxious feelings that come with selecting a family for her son.

Another main focus that Hope speaks to us about is the struggles with her mom throughout her journey of adoption. In the book you follow along with the arguments and uncertainties of their relationship. This can be seen in many stories of expectant parents. There may be a family member that does not understand an expectant parent’s wishes or the expectant parent is left wondering how to tell their family about their plan of adoption. When reading along through Hope’s story it is evident that the people who the expectant parent(s) chooses to be a part of their journey could benefit from Finding Hope. I do not want to give everything away, but there is a happy ending!

 

Hope lets the readers in on her struggles with substance abuse and mental health. Hope was doing great in her career by making strides and friends at her job, but inside she was struggling with depression, alcohol, and drugs. We hear about a moment in her story where she knew she needed to find better coping strategies or she would not be able to get out of what she was experiencing. Through the journey of her drug and alcohol abuse, she is frank and honest with the readers. We see the realness in how it can take over as a coping mechanism.

 

Finding Hope: A Birthmother’s Journey into the Light is an empowering story and should be read by expectant parents, loved ones of expectant parents, and parents waiting to adopt. Hope is open and honest about her joys and falls of her journey from finding out she was pregnant to where she is now. Hope states “I’m still broken, but I see those cracks as opportunities.”

Couples Weary of Domestic Adoption Find Success in Embryo Adoption

 

Domestic adoption has been an incredible choice for many families, but for others it simply does not work out in the end. They become weary of domestic adoption because of long waiting times for the child of their dreams.  That was the experience of Dana and Tim Ericksson, who had two birth mothers change their minds during their domestic adoption journey. The couple went on to successfully give birth through embryo adoption.

After trying to conceive a baby for eight years, Dana and Tim never thought they would see a positive pregnancy test.

Thanks to embryo adoption — an option that allows the adoptive mother to experience pregnancy and give birth to her adopted child through the transfer of donated frozen embryos — Dana became pregnant.

“We had been married 15 years and we had been trying for eight years and never once been pregnant,” Dana said. “I never thought it would happen for us. It was surreal to be able to experience it.

Having a biological parent change their mind is not the only concern, though. For many, the cost of a domestic adoption can be a huge deterrent. Domestic adoption can reach upwards of $30,000 or more. That price simply puts domestic adoption out of reach for many couples without taking on significant loans or personal debt. The health of a child can be a concern, as couples won’t have an opportunity to control the prenatal environment and may be unsure about what conditions their child experienced before they were born. Domestic adoptions can also take years, making the timing of growing a family unpredictable.

Many couples who are pursuing a domestic adoption have not yet learned about the option of embryo adoption. It might be that they have heard of it, but are afraid of entering the world of assisted reproduction again. Most of the couples who choose embryo adoption have experienced failed IVF. They finally find success by adopting embryos. The cost of embryo adoption is about ½ the cost of domestic adoption and takes it about 8-12 months to be matched with a placing family with remaining embryos.

Curious? Learn more about frozen embryo adoption, visit Snowflakes.org.

 

Creating Your Profile Book: 5 Steps to Putting Your Best Foot Forward

 

 

As a family adoption advisor and pregnancy counselor, I get the unique opportunity of working with both adopting families and expectant mothers. It gives me great joy to be a bridge between families and moms, and also gives me a chance to help the two understand each other’s perspectives just a bit more. These two worlds are brought together during the profile viewing and matching processes.

This part of the process can be nerve-wracking for families and expectant mothers alike! As someone that has had the opportunity to review many families’ profile books, and also sit with expectant mothers as they view them, I have come up with five tips to help families create a successful book and put their best foot forward.

Remember that authenticity is key. While the visual appeal of your profile book is very important, remember that the goal of your profile book is to show the expectant mother what life for her baby would be like as part of your family. While it is great to include professionally done family photos you may have or selfies of your lovely faces, it is important to have photos of you being yourselves and enjoying regular family life. Include candid photos, photos of visiting the park, walking the dog, or baking in the kitchen; include put-together photos, casual photos, fun photos, and photos of normal, average life alike. This type of variety shows the down-to-earth humanness of your family, and will make your book feel relatable. Authenticity opens up the door to connection!

Embrace Vulnerability. Putting your life on display for a stranger who is making a big decision to see may feel daunting and overwhelming, but I encourage you to be vulnerable as you create your book. There are a number of reasons why expectant mothers will select family profiles, but many times whether or not the expectant mother feels a connection to the family plays a significant role in this process. There are many wonderful, loving families waiting to adopt, but your story is uniquely yours – share it! Expectant mothers will view many profiles and see photos of many different families, but your story is what sets you apart and makes you unique.

Create a Design that Catches the Eye. While the content of your book is most important, the design and layout of your book can at times be almost equally important. Your profile book shows the expectant mother who your family is, and we want to see you put your best foot forward. If design is not your forte, don’t stress! There are companies, such as Kindred + Co. and Little Ampersand Co., who create custom or semi-custom profile books from start to finish. These companies create lovely, appealing books that are designed with expectant mother’s perspectives in mind. If going this route is not for you, viewing example profile books or browsing Pinterest for inspiration is a great way to create your own book with a little bit of design help from those that have done this before.

Know that your story matters.  Share who you are! Your childhood, love story, interests, faith background, passions, hearts for adoption, thoughts about each other, and day to day life are part of who you are and who you’ll be as parents. This provides more opportunity for connection, and gives expectant mothers an even greater glimpse into who you are. There are many factors and details that may lead an expectant mother to her decision when it comes to choosing a family, but often times it comes down to these details.

Have Fun! While creating your profile book may feel overwhelming or stressful, try to have fun with it and embrace this unique opportunity to creatively share who you are as a family. No family is perfect, and creating profile books is not a contest amongst families; being your authentic selves will go far. You are absolutely not alone; our team is excited to assist you as you prepare to create your profile book and will help you throughout this process. No matter how you choose to create your book, your book and your story will connect with the right expectant mother. Though creating your profile may feel daunting at first, I pray that you are able to have fun and embrace this opportunity of sharing your story!

 

Facing the Unknowns in Adoption

 

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that life is unpredictable. Unpredictability and unknowns often leaves us uneasy and uncomfortable. This causes us to find ourselves trying our best to control situations because control leads to more security and less anxiety. It’s our human nature to desire a clear picture of how things are going to happen, but the truth is, adoption is an unpredictable process and no two cases or situations are the same.

 

As a social worker in the domestic adoption field, here is some advice I would give to potential adoptive families:

 

  1. Prepare for every situation.

When working with prospective adoptive families, sometimes I hear them say things like, “I don’t even want to think about the possibility of the expectant mother changing her mind because it’s too hard to think about.” Instead of this mind set, I want to encourage any potential adoptive families to prepare for the outcome of the expectant mother choosing to parent, because it does happen, and that should be celebrated and not dreaded. Before birth. expectant mothers can make an adoption plan, but this plan cannot become concrete until she signs relinquishments. It is important to understand the struggle and hardships the expectant mother is going through while she makes this decision and love her through the process despite what the outcome may be.

 

  1. Be flexible and understanding.

When you are going through the adoption process, your social worker is not going to be able to tell you exactly how things are going to happen, because even they do not know how things will unfold. Adoption is a fluid process and although we can do our best to educate and prepare for the birth and hospital time, there is no way to clearly know how that time will look. For example, before birth, an expectant mother might make a tentative hospital plan stating she does not want to spend time with the baby, but post-delivery, she may decide she wants the baby in her hospital room.  Don’t be alarmed by this kind of change, but be understanding of the mother’s wishes and desires. Changes like this does not necessarily mean the mother is choosing to parent, but she may realize time with the baby is the best thing for her emotional and mental health. It is helpful to remember that she is the child’s legal mother until relinquishments are signed, and it is our job to best support her in any way possible.

 

  1. Realize that when you are struggling, she is as well.

Adoption is scary for potential adoptive parents, but it is scary for the biological parents as well. While you are thinking about your lack of control in the situation, the expectant mother often feels the same way. Many women pursuing an adoption plan are in crisis situations, feeling out of control of their life as they never thought this would be a chapter in their story. This can be terrifying and they often fear that the adoptive family will not like them, will not love their child as their own, and the post adoption plan and contact they are being promised will not come to fruition. As a potential adoptive parent, make it your goal to get to know the expectant mother and ease some of these fears for her. Often, this will also make you more at peace with the situation as you get to know and love her during the process.

 

With all this being said, here is one thing that you can rest assured in- everything will work out and will fall into place the way God intended it to. Despite the fears and unknowns in adoption, take peace in the fact that God has already written your story, and He knows the exact plans for you and your family. The staff of Nightlight Christian Adoptions is excited and honored to walk through your adoption journey with you and support you in any way that we can.

 

5 Frequently Asked Questions About Open Adoption

 

The concept of “open adoption” has become much more accepted in the last 30 years. Today, roughly 90% of adoptions are open, according to the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute. Many families, however, still have questions and concerns about what that relationship actually looks like and what it means for them and their child. Below are a few of the most commonly asked questions when it comes to domestic adoption:

  1. What exactly is open adoption?

Open adoption is where there is some kind of direct contact between the birth family and the child and his or her adoptive family. This could include letters and pictures sent via email, text messages, phone calls, virtual meetings, or in-person visits. The amount of openness in an open adoption varies depending on the arrangement agreed upon by the birth and adoptive families at placement and the level of contact the birth family is comfortable with.

  1. Is open adoption confusing for a child?

I think this is one of the most common fears experienced by adoptive families prior to starting the adoption process– and understandably! Adoption can be a complex experience with a number of unknowns. However, studies show that when an open adoption is talked about honestly and openly, not only is it not confusing for a child but it is beneficial. When a child’s adoption story and their birth parents are discussed and/or introduced early in the child’s life, the child has a more secure and trustworthy view of themselves and their parents.

  1. Is open adoption the same as co-parenting?

Not at all. Once an adoption is finalized, the child is legally a part of your family, as if you delivered them at the hospital. You, ultimately, have say over how they are raised and their beliefs about their adoption and their birth parents. An open adoption just means that a relationship gets to be built between you, the child, and the birth family. Secondly, this birth family has chosen you to be the child’s parent for a reason. As your relationship with them develops, so does their trust and respect for you and what you decide is best for your child.

  1. What if my child grows up with an open adoption and decides they like their birth parents better?

Just as your relationship with the birth parents grows more secure over time, as does your child’s understanding of their birth parents’ role in their life. You are their parent. In an open adoption, the child grows to develop a more well-rounded perspective of who they are and where they came from. Through open communication, the child will grow to love their birth parents and establish a relationship with them as they age but it will not take away from the amount of love they have for you.

  1. What if there is a difficult situation in my open adoption and I don’t know how to handle it?

An open adoption will require difficult conversations at times, as does every important relationship. There is no guarantee that your open adoption will always be easy, but it will be worth it. Nightlight and other agencies are in place to help navigate the difficulties that can accompany adoption, including conversations about open adoption. If your family is ever confronted with a situation in your open adoption that you would like assistance navigating, we are here to help and support you.

written by Paige Lindquist

How to Support Your Family Member’s or Friend’s Adoption

Adoption can be a very emotional and financially challenging process where adoptive parents can experience high levels of stress and anxiety.  Whether a family is adopting domestically, internationally or through our Snowflakes program, prospective adoptive parents need the support of their family and friends rallying around them, as they go through the emotional roller coaster of adoption.

If you have not adopted yourself, it will be difficult for you to understand the emotions a family is going through during and after their adoption process. Below are some suggestions to help support your loved one or friend, which will help ease their difficult journey.

Listen! Adoptive parents need their support network more than ever. One very simple way to support prospective adoptive families is to lend an ear and shoulder to cry on.  Adoptive parents may need just to vent and express their anxieties and frustrations and know someone is listening. They don’t need your opinions, questions and critique, just listen and talk less!

Offer to help with simple things such as babysitting, respite care, cooking a meal or cleaning their house. While this may sound mundane, it allows adoptive parents time to rest, relax and recoup and lessens the stress of daily chores.  Time away from the children allows families to rejuvenate and think more clearly, particularly if these services are offered after the child enters the home.

Don’t criticize and ask questions.  Most adoptive parents have done their research before deciding to adopt a child and understand the risks and delays that come with adoption.  Because you may have not gone down this road you will not understand the process or emotions associated with the experience. Be supportive by not criticizing or asking questions, such as “How much longer until the child comes home?”  If the adoptive parent wants to share this information they will, asking questions that sound critical and judgmental will only exacerbate their doubts and negative emotions.

Offer to help with fundraising.  Adoption can be very expensive.  Assisting with holding fundraising events not only helps the family financially, but also emotionally, showing you care about the process and the family and want them to succeed.

Accept their decision to adopt and lovingly accept the adopted child.  It is so very important that adoptive parents know they are being supported, showing you support their decision and later the child, means more than you can imagine!

Don’t question why they chose to adopt.  Families choose adoption for many reasons, some due to infertility, some because they feel a calling to adopt.  Whatever the reason, it is a very personal choice and many times it is due to an emotional topic and maybe one the adoptive parent still struggles with.  It is better to accept and embrace their decision, rather than to question why.

Throw an adoption shower! Many have likened the adoption process to a “paper pregnancy” with the end result being a new child, a new family member, is entering their home.  An adoption shower helps celebrate the new life and family member and will help the family prepare for the arrival of the child.

Ask the adoptive parent, what can I do to support you? This simple question will mean so much and allows the adoptive parent to direct your efforts to what they may need the most.

Showing your support and love to a friend or family member during an adoption process shows you care and support them and may mean the world to a family needing support more than ever, both during their adoption journey and after the adopted child enters their family.  Sometimes doing the simple things for an adoptive family shows your loving commitment and support to the family and their decision to adopt.

 

written by Sonja Brown

21 Ways to Honor a Birthmom’s Love and Sacrifice

 

When a birth mother makes an adoption plan, she is often sacrificing her own desires and feelings for the good of her child, whom she loves deeply. This deep love translates into inviting another family into her child’s story and entrusting that child into their care and protection. It can be difficult for some adoptive parents to know how to fully honor this sacrificial love. In an effort to gather some creative ideas, I thought it would be most appropriate to reach out to adoptive families that are navigating this already.

Here are some of the responses I received when I posed the question, “What are some ways you’ve honored your child’s birth mother?”

  • We had flowers delivered to her on Mother’s Day.
  • We include her in our morning prayers each day.
  • We send her a card and pictures on her birthday as a little reminder that we are here for her and thinking about her on her day as well.
  • There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her.
  • The love we have for her to make that decision is hard to even put into words and we hope she knows that no matter what life brings, our daughter will always know the love her birth mother had for her to give her the best life possible.
  • We have photos of our daughter’s first mom and first siblings in her room. We talk about them every day.
  • We honor her when people ask questions. “Our daughter has two mommies who both love her.” We try to use adoptee and first mom positive language. No-“giving up”, No- “she is so lucky”, rather, “she is so loved” instead.
  • For our daughter’s first birthday, her first mom and I made a Shutterfly book together to honor her story. We read it whenever our daughter wants and read it along with the book her first mom made at the time of placement.
  • We send Mother’s Day and Christmas packages including artwork our daughter makes.
  • We FaceTime about once a quarter. We FaceTime for birthdays and Christmas morning.
  • Our daughter had some skin issues and we were in close contact with birth mom to give insight on siblings’ histories with similar issues. It made her apart of helping find solutions to help her daughter.
  • Our daughter made a handprint craft and we sent it and a care package to her for Mother’s Day.
  • Birth Mom and siblings were included in our daughter’s first birthday and we honored her there. We gave her loads of photos and a banner we had made with monthly photos of our daughter’s growth.
  • We keep routine in our visits so she always has something to look forward to.
  • We remember her birthday and her son’s birthday and always send them gifts.
  • We send her texts on holidays wishing her well and thanking her.
  • Probably the biggest thing I’ve done to honor her is to talk about her to others. Naturally people are curious about our daughter’s birth mom and the “situation” from which she came. Usually they can’t help themselves and make assumptions that she “gave away” her child and then the judgement starts. I make sure to say well that’s not how I see it. In fact, she made an enormous sacrifice for our daughter because she loved her so much and wanted to give her a better life than she could at that time. I usually end with, she is brave and strong.

As evident in many of the responses I received, honoring a birth mother can be done through thoughts, words, and actions. Being intentional about the language used when talking about your child’s birth mother to others can reduce stigma and encourage others to think about adoption and the choices made by birth parents in a more positive light. Talking openly with your children about their birth parents can help them develop a fuller sense of not only where they came from, but also provide space for them to ask questions and process difficult emotions. Finding ways to connect with birth parents, whether through in-person visits, phone calls, or sending special gifts, not only helps communicate to them a recognition of their sacrifices, but also invites them into continued participation in the lives of their children.

Here are a few other ideas you could consider:

  • Purchase a tree or flower in her honor and plant it together on a special day (i.e. child’s birthday, Birth Mother’s Day, etc.)
  • Release a balloon with a special prayer or note written by you and/or your child to your child’s birth mother (especially if you do not have direct contact)
  • Invite her to participate in special events as your child grows
  • Provide opportunities for your child to create homemade cards or crafts to send to birth mothers on special days throughout the year

written by Kara Long from ideas shared by NCA Adoptive Families