Newness and expectancy is what makes beginnings so exciting, but so often in life we enter into the next stage with a certain naïveté. When we were young, we may have been excited about the first day of Kindergarten, but we had never been to school before. We entered into marriage never having been wed before, and likewise, we enter the adoption journey never having been adoptive parents before. When all the excitement dies down and we’re beyond the beginning, we can find stark differences in our expectations and daily reality.
Sometimes, people are afraid to admit how hard adoption really is. This is especially true if friends or family tried to persuade us not to adopt. So, we put on a smiling face and act like we have it all together. We may feel like we’ve bitten off more than we can chew, but our pride makes it hard for us to admit we need help. We may feel like “we’re dying inside, but at least no one will see us as a failure.”
Stuffing things down and hiding how much we are hurting only stifles our growth and makes things harder on us and our families in the long run. It is in those moments when we feel the most broken, we need to humble ourselves and reach out for help where true growth can begin. Too often adoptive parents are afraid to ask for help out of fear of being labeled “bad parents”. Sometimes, even when ready to ask for help, it can be difficult to decide who to call for help. Whether you’ve been home a month or many years, if you are struggling, there are resources available.
Don’t look at your adoption social workers as judges. They are not going to pick apart everything you are doing. Begin by contacting your adoption agency social workers – they are here to help!. If they can’t provide the resources you need, they should be able to point you in the right direction and make referrals to people they trust.
Your Child’s Pediatrician
Children placed for adoption need timely comprehensive health evaluations to fully address all of their health and developmental needs. Finding a pediatrician who is knowledge about the unique medical and social conditions of children adopted from other countries is key. Before you travel to your child’s birth country, seek out a pediatrician who is skilled at managing infectious disease and who understands the psychological impact of institutionalization and sensory deprivation. Pediatricians play a pivotal role in working with your family to identify and address your child’s needs, but they can also provide emotional support for families during the adoption process. Your pediatrician likely has resources for mental health, behavioral and emotional counsellors who specialize in pediatrics. Take advantage of their knowledge.
The school counselor is another person you can add to your support network. School counselors encourage teachers, parents, and children to set realistic goals and celebrate children’s accomplishments. Because of their unique position they can help you and your child’s teachers work together to develop appropriate accommodations for your child. They can also help you identify resources in the community for your children’s needs and refer you to appropriate specialists such as speech therapists and physical therapists whenever needed.
During the post-adoption adjustment, your family will be going through many changes. Everyone is going to have to adjust to this new way of life and adapt accordingly. It’s normal for all the pieces to not fall neatly in place. What we want to do is help you nudge those pieces into their proper place.
As professionals, we guarantee you that yours isn’t the first case we’ve seen. Many adoptive families have difficulty adapting. Sometimes issues crop up months and years post-adoption. We want you to know that you are not alone.