Life after adoption — Settling in & tips

Most children settle well into their new family. Here are some things that may help smooth the settling-in phase for your family.

Create new family traditions or rituals

Routines around meal times, bedtimes and family activities can all help create a sense of familiarity and what to expect for your adopted child and your family. Consistency helps build a sense of safety and security for a child adjusting to a new family.

You may also want to set up significant traditions related to the adoption. Celebrating the anniversary of when your child came to live with you, for example.

Create a family story book

Putting a book together in words and pictures of the coming together of your new family can be a bonding experience. The book can include stories about your own childhood. It can include your life while you were waiting to adopt and how your family has grown and been enriched by your new family member. A family story book can help to build a sense of family identity.

Connect with other adoptive parents

It can help to connect with other parents who are going through similar circumstances as you.

Learn more about your child's birth culture

You may have adopted internationally or have adopted a child from a different ethnic or racial background. It may help your family if you take the time now to learn more about your adopted child's culture. Including adopting aspects of your child's culture into your family - including attending activities, reaching out to community organizations - can help your child feel like a valued member of your family.

Prepare to face the world

As part of day to day life, your family interacts with many people including your extended family, friends and neighbours. You will start picking up kids from school, doing grocery shopping together, spending time on a playground... It may be helpful to prepare how you plan to respond to questions that may come from family, friends or acquaintances regarding your adopted child.

As your child grows

Tips

  • Talk openly about adoption using appropriate positive language. For example, talk about a birth mom or dad, not about a real parent. When talking about the reasons for being placed for adoption, try to avoid saying "they gave you up" and talk about "a plan" the birth parents had for you.
  • Tell your child his or her adoption story using words that give him or her a positive sense of identity. Underscore how much your child is loved and wanted by the family who adopted him or her.
  • Encourage your child to ask questions. Always be willing to answer her as honestly as possible. Be open so that your child feels comfortable raising any questions she may have about their adoption, birth parents or personal history.
  • Accept your child's feelings of sadness or loss that may emerge. This comes from a sense of what he lost through adoption. Sadness can be a natural part of the process. Even a child adopted as a baby may express feelings of loss in later childhood.
  • Allow your child to talk about her birth parents or wonder about the family she never knew.
  • You may want to practice how to talk to your child about adoption by speaking with other adoptive parents in a support group. You can share ideas and get feedback.
  • If you are in doubt about how to handle your child's feelings about being adopted you should seek the advice of a counsellor or therapist, who specializes in adoption issues.
  • Don't speak negatively about your child's birth parents. Your adopted child may see this as a reflection of their own value or worth.
  • If your child is of a different race or culture than the rest of your family, support your child in learning more about their own race, culture, birth country, language, and history as she grows. You can attend cultural events from your child's community of origin and try to build links with others from your child's background.
  • Learn more about a child's development from birth to six years.
  • There are books that can help give you the words to talk about adoption in a sensitive and appropriate way.
    • Beyond good intentions: a mother reflects on raising internationally adopted children / Register, Cheri -- St. Paul, MI: Yeong & Yeong Book Company, 2005.
      A book of essays about the joys and risks of raising internationally adopted children. Examines pitfalls that well-meaning parents can encounter.
    • Parenting the hurt child: helping adoptive families heal and grow / Keck, Gregory C. -- Colorado Springs: Pinon Press, 2002.
      Explains how to manage a hurting child with loving wisdom and resolve. Explores options to help families help their children and strategies to help make their journey more productive and enjoyable.
    • Parenting your adopted older child: how to overcome the unique challenges and raise a happy and healthy child / Mccreight, Brenda -- Oakland, CA: New Harbinger Publications, Inc. 2002.
    • For children - All about adoption: how families are made & how kids feel about it / Nemiroff, Marc -- Washington, DC: Magination Press, 2004.
      Using simple language, this book describes the stages of the adoption process and discusses complex feelings commonly felt by adopted children. Appropriate for ages 5 to 10 years.

The teenage years and beyond

The teenage years are a complex time of change for all children. Being adopted can present another layer of complexity to this commonly turbulent time. Even if they were adopted as infants, the teenage years can be a difficult time of questioning for adopted children. They explore issues of identity and try to make sense of who they are and where they belong.

It is important to talk to your teenager about adoption. Be there to answer their questions and listen to your child's thoughts and feelings.

Adopted teenagers may start thinking more about their birth parents and their background than they did when they were younger. They may start exploring ideas of finding their birth parents and filling in the blanks about their personal history. This can be stressful for adoptive parents.

But adopted teenagers benefit from having parents who are comfortable talking about these concerns. Your child may need your support now more than ever in navigating their feelings and concerns.

What you can do:

  • Share with your teenager what you know about how and why he or she was adopted.
  • Provide your teenager with information you have about her or his family history.
  • Assist your teenager in finding information about their birth parents and family if this is their wish.
  • Try to connect your teenager with other adopted teens or young adults or support groups.
  • Learn more about the growth and development of a teenager.

Searching for birth parents

Many adults want to try and may contact with their birth parents. The teenage years are an appropriate time for adoptive parents to be open to and exploring the idea with their child. Adoptive parents can help support teenagers and young adults through what can be a very emotional process.

Adoption Disclosure

Since June 2009, adopted individuals 18 years old or older can apply for identifying information from birth and adoption records in Ontario. Birth parents can also seek identifying information about the children they gave up for adoption once the adopted child is at least 19 years old. This information is called post-adoption birth information.

An adoptive parent and an adopted person who is 18 years old or older or who has the adoptive parent's consent can also apply for non-identifying information.

The decision for an adopted young adult to seek information about birth parents or to try and make contact with them can be an emotional and long journey. Your adopted child will continue to need your love and support through this process as much as when you first welcomed your son or daughter into your home.

Learn more