Soon we will be bringing home our newest family member, coming to us through international adoption. I wanted to give some tips for our friends and family as they meet her for the first time.
1. For a newly adopted child, transitioning into a new family, country and culture is extremely overwhelming. Just imagine if someone took you against your will, most likely, away from everything you had ever known on a large airplane to a new country you had never seen. The people there looked different from you, spoke a different language and ate different food. It would be very difficult. Our daughter likely not be totally happy about this transition, so please remember that when meeting her if she seems upset and unable to deal with her emotions. She will settle in, but it will take a good while before she is used to all this newness.
2. Adoption is loss for a child. There is no other way around it. Our daughter will go through a grieving process when she comes to us. She may withdraw and not sleep well, or she may act out and be angry. This will not happen immediately, but it will happen within the first month or so of her being home. Please be patient with her and with us as we deal with her. It is not easy for a child who is adopted, they tend to push away those parents who are trying so desperately to help them come to a better life. Speaking from experience, it is hard as a parent to have a newly adopted child reject you. We know we have a hard road ahead of us with getting our daughter to transition to her new life and come to love us. Adoption is very much like an arranged marriage, both parties have to learn how to love one another. It is a very different experience than birthing a child.
3. The first 6-12 months of time that a newly adopted child is home is the most critical for bonding between parents and child. For that reason, we ask that when you meet our daughter you not try to hold her or feed her or do any basic care of her. She needs to bond with us and the way she learns to do that is just as an infant does, we must do everything for her. So, if you are visiting and she asks for food, direct her to us. I know this will be the most difficult for our family members, grandmothers Ahm!, but if we are to bond well, we must be the only ones to care for her for the first 6 months at least. I know it will be tempting to try to bond with her, but her bonding with extended family is secondary. Older children have a more difficult time bonding with new parents so it is absolutely critical that we do our best to bond with her quickly. However, in that bonding process she will be as much work to care for as an infant, so if you would like to visit us and bring us food, or take our other children out for a while, we would greatly welcome that! Don’t assume that because she is an older child, she is easy to care for, likely we will be sleep deprived and exhausted just as we would be with an infant.
4. We will try our best not to take her out much for the first 6 weeks, just as you do a newborn. She will be overwhelmed with her new environment and she needs time to rest and adjust to this new place. If you come visit and we are not so welcoming and don’t ask you to stay, it’s because she is overwhelmed and needs time to rest, please don’t take it personally.
5. Our daughter will be different from most children you know. She will not speak, she understands Chinese but does not yet speak, although she does use cards to communicate. That will be hard for all of us to deal with, but especially those of you who have not interacted with a non-verbal child. Just speak to her in English as you would an other child, but don’t expect her to answer you. Children quickly pick up new languages, so she will understand much more than you think she would. It will be much like speaking to an infant.
6. She will look different from you. She is tiny for her age and also carries herself as a child with disabilities might. Don’t let that put you off. She needs love and attention and enjoys people, especially adults.
7. What do we need as a family the most? Your prayers and love. This will be a difficult transition for us all. I describe bringing home a newly adopted child to an existing family much like adding a new piece to a mobile. That mobile is balanced perfectly before you add the new piece, but then it becomes unbalanced and it takes time for it to balance itself again. That is what our family will be like. It will take time for us to mesh as a family again after she comes home. So, if you see us out and about and we don’t look happy, we are just balancing ourselves. Adoption is not always easy, and we will have difficult times, but in the end it is all worth it, and our family will mesh together and be all the better for the transition. It’s not unlike brining a new baby home.
Thank you for all your support of our family. We are so excited to introduce you to our new daughter and are excited about what God is doing in our family. However, we want to be realistic about what it will be like so that everyone understands how to best support us.