Like many of you, most of my initial questions were process-centered. What we quickly learned was that our most important questions needed to be family-centered. Meaning, we needed to do the hard work of learning about the trauma our child had experienced, its impacts both now and in the future, what that would mean for us to parent a child from a hard place, and what it would mean for our entire family to become and live “trauma informed.”
So, while the process questions ARE absolutely important, here are the top five questions I believe every Prospective Adoptive Parent (PAP) should really be asking and answering as soon as possible in their adoption journey, but often aren’t…
- Expectations: What are my expectations for parenting a child I have adopted? How will they be the same or different from my biological children and why do I believe that? Do these expectations line up with what experienced adoptive parents and trauma informed experts say? Where do I need to adjust my expectations? What are my expectations of myself? What will we do if we arrive in country and we find a very different child than the one we expected? This. Is a big one…Disruption happens way too often and is something every internationally adopting family has got to really process through and consider very early on.
- Education: What will I do to educate myself on parenting a child from a hard place? What do I need to learn about evaluating my own attachment style and how my own family of origin influences the type of parent I am? What is my plan for learning more about attachment, bonding, trauma, child development, self-care, language development (if applicable), sensory processing needs, and family transitions…just a few of the key topics that every PAP needs to be educated about. Click here for a list of some of the best resources out there.
- Encouragement: What resources and supports are available to me, my spouse, my other children and my new child as we go through this process of becoming a family, and helping our child heal from the losses and trauma they’ve experienced? You’ll need to research your local options for trauma informed attachment therapists, therapists and medical experts related to any specific medical needs, local adoption support groups or other networks of families that you can connect with on a regular basis. (If you’re in Central NJ like us, check out Miriam’s Heart!)
- Evaluation: Who are the wise and trusted, objective people in our lives that we can consult with regarding our decision to adopt? How will we evaluate our capacity to manage the possible medical and developmental needs of the child we are considering being matched with? Who will we allow to speak truth into our lives so we can become more self-aware, connected parents and spouses? Do I know how to properly evaluate and assess the warning signs of parental and marriage burnout that are so common in adoptive families? And if so, have I done incorporated resources to respond to this into my Education and Encouragement piece?
- Empowerment: Adoptive families come from a variety of faith and religious backgrounds, and that is okay. Speaking from my own experience however, I can tell you that the challenges, and blessings, that come from adoption are not possible to handle within myself. Even surrounded by all of the “right answers” for the four areas above, you will need a power outside of yourself. A power that is responsible for the creation of every individual and which ordains the details and events of every life. Adoption is born from loss. We are not plan A for our children. By God’s grace we strive to be the best possible Plan B. He redeems and restores what is broken. He heals, and he carries us all in our pain. He strengthens our weary hands and feet, for unconditional love does not come easily. We are ordinary, flawed, weak people. We stepped way outside our comfort zone and we continue to learn and grow being changed daily by the mercy of God to better show His love and salvation to those around us. We need him desperately, and we thank Him for every provision He has given in this journey. Perhaps as you walk into this journey you will find yourself with a renewed sense of your own need for God, for faith in something greater than yourself. Seek Him and He will meet you. He is faithful to answer, to provide and to guide.