The plane landed on a sunny afternoon.
A small gathering of family and friends hovered just outside the TSA checkpoint holding posters and balloons. They welcomed us with hugs and smiles.
But to a 12-year-old sleep-deprived and slightly motion-sick girl who had been traveling for 24-hours straight? To a girl who came from a culture where people were more reserved? To Masha, they were strangers. To her, even our small airport party was a bit overwhelming.
Much as we want to provide a “normal” life for our adopted kids, we have to face the fact that it’s just plain different.
Regardless of the age they are adopted, our kids come from hard places. They have experienced loss. Their brains mark difficult events, and find ways to survive, to cope…and as they age, those things creep in and affect the way they process information, new situations, and new people in ways that most of us are simply not equipped to understand.
But we have to try.
And at a minimum, we have to learn to manage our own expectations for our adopted kids and our family.
Understand (or at least try)
We have to understand that while we are excited and happy for them to be joining our family, it’s scary for them. And when they are scared, it’s far harder for them to react to lots of new things and new people the way we might expect.
Don’t expect them to be thankful or grateful or appreciative. Don’t expect them to be excited about an open house where they get to meet 50 or 100 of your closest friends all at once and they are the center of attention.
In other words…put yourself in their shoes. And then scale way back. Take it easy. Set a routine and be really consistent with it. Help them understand plans for the day and the week so they know what to expect.
Seriously. You can’t do this alone. Be honest with yourself about that.
While on a certain level, parenting is parenting, parenting adopted kids is DIFFERENT. Get connected to a support group, a small group, or at least find one or two other adoptive families who have similar circumstances and priorities.
No family is perfect, and no one does everything *right*, but chances are that someone else has dealt with the things you’re dealing with. Or that you’re going to deal with.
Find them. Meet them. Befriend them.
Learn from them….and in return, they’ll learn from you, too!
The Internet is your friend.
- Read blogs, leave comments, and engage with other commenters who say things that “click” with you.
- Read books (my favorites are The Connected Child and Beyond Consequences, Logic, and Control).
- Attend seminars, group meetings, anything you can to stay connected and learn more about how to provide a safe, healing environment for your child.
Share your blessings
Once you feel like you’ve got your footing a little bit, consider sharing your experiences to help other families. Connect with families in the early stages of adoption, mentor a family just starting their journey, encourage a waiting family, support a family just home with a new family member.
I encourage you to add to the conversation here. Ask questions, share answers…