First and foremost, adoptive parents are parents. We have the same challenges (please don’t take your pants off in the grocery store!) and worries (the doctor said he shouldn’t be drinking out of a bottle anymore; why won’t he use a sippy cup) as any other parent out there. But, we also have additional challenges and worries that rise above those of biological families (how do I make sure he has a strong racial identity, how will he feel on “family tree” day at school, etc).
If you’re in the process of adopting or have adopted, you are the kind of person who can handle these things because you are the kind of person who takes care of business. You’ve never met a a brick wall thick enough to stop you from finding a way through or around it. I know you–you are determined and resourceful, which is good because you need to be those things, and more.
Here are 5 (more) abilities you’ll need on your journey as an adoptive parent:
Empathy. If nothing else, you’re going to need the ability to be aware of and share the feelings of other people, especially your child and his birth family. The phrase “put yourself in her/his shoes” should be running on repeat in your head at all times. Empathy will help you treat your child’s birth family with love and respect and will help you relate to your son or daughter and share in his or her grief. It is essential to let your child know that it’s OK to feel sad and that you feel it, too. Gaining an understanding of what they are going through is crucial.
Humility. When you adopt, everything becomes about your child. There is no room for selfishness or self-centeredness in adoption. Adoptive parents do what is best for their children and not for themselves; their feelings take a backseat. This might not always be the most comfortable thing, but that doesn’t matter. Doing the best thing for the children–whether that be working hard to have relationships with birth families or being the minority so a child can be in the majority–is the most important thing.
Strength. As an adoptive parent, you will probably hear things from time to time that might make a weaker person feel bad. You may feel like an outsider at times, when every other family is biological or people are talking about their children looking just like them or someone says something ignorant about adoption. You may be criticized for adopting outside of your race or for adopting at all. Having a thick skin, so to speak, will keep you from getting too easily bruised. Because, really, who cares what other people think? By all means, educate people and stand up for yourself and your child when necessary, but letting negativity roll off your back gives YOU the power.
Optimism. Life is short and full of so many good things–your adoptive family is definitely one of them. There is, however, some negativity associated with adoption in various circles. We’ve all heard the adoption horror stories and read the scary articles. We must educate ourselves about the real issues that our children will face as they grow, but remember that our children are their own people and not studies or statistics. While attitude may not really be everything, it’s definitely high on the list of what defines us. Happy people are simply people who make the choice to be happy. Optimism has many advantages, from lowering stress to helping you meet goals, achieve your dreams, live longer–and be a better parent.
A Sense of Humor. Sometimes the best thing to do is to laugh about it. Laughter is one of the most fun and effective ways to bond with your child and as a family. It’s also a great release when things get too tense or serious… or when your kid takes his pants off in the grocery store. Again.