From Beth:I don't think I've met a parent in the process of adoption with children at home already who doesn't ask this question, in some form or other:
How will this affect my children? Will they be harmed? What if they are hurt through this decision to adopt?We need to ask these questions. Going into adoption with our eyes opened and the rose colored glasses off is important for sure.
It was a question Stephen and I asked when we first realized God was calling us to adopt. I told the Lord this was fine and good and all, but I couldn't do something that would place our three girls in danger. I told Him that I needed to be sure we really were hearing right.
So many unknowns.
So many scary stories and warnings from well-meaning friends.
So, as with all things in this life, it comes down to this:
What Is God Saying?
As we prayed, Stephen felt the Lord respond to our concerns. God told us that yes, it would be hard on our daughters. It would cost them something.
But He assured us that it would be the kind of hard that would build them up, not tear them down or bring damage to them.
And that was all we needed to hear.
We realized that actually it wasn't our goal to try to create a home where nothing bad or hard ever happened. We weren't looking for a life where our girls had no challenges to overcome.
In reality, we came to embrace the fact that adoption would bring challenges into our home. And indeed, that has been the case--far more than we anticipated actually.
How true is it that challenges and hard times are often the very best way to know Jesus in deeper ways?! And that right there is really what our parenting is all about. That is the bottom line.
So we embrace what is hard, knowing it is all happening in the context of love and in the safety of God's plan for our children, both the ones born to us and the ones grafted in.
Here are a few of my thoughts:
- Prepare children ahead of time by talking about the life your adopted or foster children are experiencing. As much as it is possible for you, begin to create a common history even before the adoption. We were all amazed to find out there was a live webcam in Vyborg, Russia, so we could see the people walking down the street, see what they were wearing and how cold it was. Make use of the internet to find out about the history and culture of the place your child lives. If it is possible, write letters and send gifts as a family. We have some of the sweetest notes from our children to their new siblings and those interchanges did much to connect us as a family. Although this is not possible or wise for everyone, when it is appropriate travel as a family to receive your new child. The common experience you will have as a family in your adopted child's environment will expand understanding and compassion. The week we shared as a family in Russia before each adoption gave us our first family stories, not in our home, but in our adopted children's homes!
- Anticipate what is ahead POSITIVELY. We might be tempted to tell our children how hard it is going to be, how they will be jealous and how difficult their new sibling might be. Rather, stress the positive as you prepare for the challenges ahead. Don't ignore the fact that life is about to change, but help your children see their role from a place of strength. For instance you might say, "Sometimes you might feel like you want mommy's attention when I am feeding the new baby (or helping teach your sister English, etc...) You are going to be such a good helper. Isn't it good that God has made you to be the big sister?! You'll get to teach her so many things. Do you think you could teach her how to get dressed by herself like you do? (or help her learn English words?)" Emphasizing the role of the sibling, as the one who can help and give with an open heart will help your children see that things are going to be required of them, but that they can give with love rather than see this season as a time where things are taken from them.
- Let your children know, not once but over and over and even years after your new child comes home, that there is no topic off limits. They may need to be able to say "I wish we had never adopted," or "I don't like the way it is." Give them the freedom to let you know when they are not doing well with all the "hard" stuff. Make time to let them talk to you, without fear of judgement or correction. This freedom will take you all through many a tough time!
- See the challenges as an opportune time. Help your child recognize for her/himself that when we are weak it is actually right there that we get to know God and the strength of His love for us in a new, deeper way. Be sure to pray together through the hard times and painful issues. The enemy would love to use this as an opportune time to speak his lies, but God has better plans for your children!!
Read about adoption from the perspective of children born into the adoptive family on our blog by clicking on the Children's Stories tab.
Do you know an older child who has a story to tell? We are interested in hearing from teen and adult children, both those born into the family and those adopted. (Not every story will be accepted.)
Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org