Optimize the experience for you and your internationally adopted child
So the time has finally come! You have undoubtedly read a ton of books, attended enough trainings to fill a lifetime, grilled adoptive families, and asked your adoption counselor a million questions. And yet . . . somehow . . . you still feel as if you are embarking on a completely unknown adventure as you finally approach the day when your child will actually be living under your roof. That’s because, well, you are! And, as an adoptive Solo Mom, you might feel as if you have questions that even the most experienced parents and professionals cannot fully answer for you.
Undoubtedly, your most fervent questions revolve around how to help your newly adopted child integrate into your home. So here are five tips for creating an optimal experience for both you and your child.
- Find ways to deal with the language issue. You will hear people talk about how adaptable children are and how quickly they will learn English. But please put yourself in your child’s place, with new surroundings, new people, new food, new culture—and no way to communicate.
- Take an introductory class, preferably a “Russian for Travelers” type class that will provide you with the basics. No need for language theory here, just practical day-to-day needs.
- Acquire flashcards, easily found on the internet for almost any language. These will be invaluable both for teaching the basics and for helping your child let you know about his needs and wants. If your child will be entering school, provide her teacher with appropriate flashcards as well to help with giving instructions.
- Expect strange questions and comments, maybe even some that will seem rude. “Are you his real mom?” “I didn’t know single people could adopt!” “I’ve heard that addictions are rampant in eastern Europe; was her mom a druggie?” “Do his brothers like him?” All in front of your children! You will develop your own responses to these usually well-intentioned questions; for now, something like, “How about if we have this conversation in private sometime?” should provide a clue to the asker. The main thing is to not take it personally or to act as if something is wrong. Your children need to know that all is well.
- Take it slow and easy. Your family and friends will be so eager to welcome your child into the wider community, and you will no doubt want to show your appreciation for their support and kindness throughout the adoption journey. But your child knows nothing of these things and is likely going to be overwhelmed during the first several days, weeks, and even months in his new home. Plan a very slow entry, maybe just a few individuals coming over during the first few weeks, then a small gathering, and so on.
- Accept, and ask for, support.
- Here’s a list of things you might find helpful during your first months home with your new child: meals, gift certificates to meal delivery services, grocery shopping and delivery, laundry services (either by a friend or a commercial wash-and-fold service), and house cleaning. Many of us find it hard to ask for help and even to accept help when someone offers it. Solo Moms, especially, can develop a mindset of being very independent. Get over it. Spend time now cultivating supportive relationships that will be indispensable over the long haul.
- Find other adoptive parents who can be your friends, guides, and mentors. Find adoption support groups—churches, agencies, and meetup groups are your best bet here. Online support groups are also invaluable for being a steady source of advice and support.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Beki Sciacca helps parents who are raising challenging children by training them in a relationship-based, trauma-effective parenting model. She has a master’s degree in Communication Science and Disorders and has become the Solo Mom of her two amazing grandchildren.
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