Welcoming An Adopted Child: Strategies For Helping Everyone Adapt

Have you just heard that your long-held dream of adopting a child is about to come true? Have you wanted to adopt for some time, and though the process can be arduous and lengthy, it’s finally happened?

If so, you are no doubt thrilled.

But you may be somewhat apprehensive, too. After all, excitedly wanting something to happen doesn’t necessarily mean the prospect of it actually occurring isn’t a bit daunting.

In this post, we offer some suggestions for preparing yourself, your family and your home for the new adopted child.

You may have thought of some of these already, particularly if you’ve been working with an adoption agency for quite some time to prepare. Even if that’s the case, it’s helpful to take a refresher course in all the changes you and your home undergo when a new person joins the family.

1. Get their space ready.

Decide what bedroom your adopted child will take – will they share with a sibling, or have a place of their own? Be sure the space is welcoming and roomy enough to accommodate their things. How much this child arrives with depends on their age and the circumstances they were in prior to the adoption. But have their bed made up, and a dresser, night stand and other bedroom necessities in place for their arrival.

2. Make sure your support systems are in place.

Do you have a physician lined up, a nanny standing by, and all the other people necessary for your child to thrive? It takes a village to raise a child, as the saying goes, so be sure your village is ready for the new family member. If your adopted child is going to be heading to school, get them enrolled and have a conversation with the principal and teachers. If they need a language tutor, make sure that person is ready to start lessons as soon as you call. Having these people aware of the child’s impending arrival and ready to help makes settling in much easier for your child. 

3. Learn all you can about their background.

The adoption agency you work with will give you as many details as possible about your child’s familial history. But there is other important information to discover, as well. For example: have you adopted a child from another country or culture? If so, do some research into their origins so you understand where they come from. And demonstrate your appreciation for that culture, by perhaps serving food that is central to their country’s cuisine. Knowing as much as possible about their background and culture is key to making them feel that their individuality is valued by their new family. This will become even more important as your adopted child grows older, and becomes more curious about where they originally came from.

4. Consider taking time off to help them settle in.

Welcoming an adopted child is markedly different than bringing a baby home from the hospital, but you still need time to adjust. So does the child. If you (and your partner, if applicable) can take some time away from the office to stay home and help the child get used to everything, they will adapt to their new surroundings and bond with their new family more quickly.

5. Prepare the entire family for the impending changes.

Naturally you’ve discussed the adoption with your children, but when they get the news it will nonetheless come as a bit of a shock. Reality always feels different than “maybe.” It’s important, therefore, that you sit everyone down and have a frank, honest conversation about all the changes about to unfold. Ask everyone to be honest – about their hopes, their concerns, and even any fears they may be harboring. For example, one child may be wondering, “will I be a good big brother?” Don’t dismiss these fears as irrational or minor. Talk these concerns through in an open and patient way, and let your family express everything they are feeling. Candor is always the best route to take on a matter as important as this.

6. Fill up the pantry, fridge and freezer so cooking won’t be a distraction.

With a little luck, you may get several weeks’ notice before your child arrives. That should give you time to get meals organized and prepared so that, at least for the first month or so, you can pull dinner from the freezer, pop it in the oven to warm and only have to mix a green salad in time for meals. Any time-saving strategies like this you can implement are sure to be appreciated by everyone, so takeout food isn’t your only option while the family is adapting to a new schedule and a new rhythm.

Adopting a child is a magical time for everyone involved —  the new parents, the child and immediate and extended family members. What matters most, when your child first arrives, is that you are able to devote yourself to making them feel welcome. Remember, they may feel shy and a little confused at first; until the moment they met you, after all, you were a complete stranger to them. Give them latitude, emotionally, while they are getting used to this brand new environment. If you are warm and welcoming, the child will settle in just fine, and the entire family will flourish.