November is National Adoption Month
For adoptive as well as biologic families, the saying “that first step is a doozie” is truer than you can imagine.
Unless you have parented before, the physical care of a child can seem a bit overwhelming. All those diapers, and your little one is always hungry. But somehow we all make it to sundown; and somehow even difficult nights come to a dawn. So draw a deep breath, look at how lovely your new child looks when she is asleep, be grateful, and be joyful.
Falling in Love
If you are bringing home a newborn, falling in love is the first priority. Career and housework can go to the back burner as you concentrate on nurturing. Creating a special place for rocking, feeding, and sleeping will add solid grounding to your adopted infant’s world.
Share your child with those who love him: take lots of photos, Skype to relatives, make short visits out to greet close friends or neighbors, or show him off at your place of worship. Although you want your baby to know that you are the center of his universe, you do not have to create a cocoon that excludes loved family and friends to create wonderful bonding.
Getting to Know You
If your new little one is a toddler or older child, sameness and routine will help to settle her within new family borders. While it is wonderful to encourage some favorite cuddly toy or blanket, try not to get your child too attached to things that provide artificial entertainment such as electronic toys and television.
Unacceptable entertainment can also take the shape of getting mom and dad to jump up every time their little darling whimpers. This becomes a game called yo-yo parenting.
Replace these attentions with your own rituals. My husband used to play his recorder while the rest of us danced around the laundry basket before bed. Don’t forget the classic bedtime rituals such as cuddles and saying goodnight to the moon.
To make our toddlers feel a part of our extended family, we bought each one a silver baby spoon and a baby cup. They are proud of the monograms that say, “I belong, I’m somebody.” We drew attention to ways they resemble their namesake grandparents.
Build a Vision for Your Child
Even in the first month, there is no harm in teaching your child what you want from him: calmness, good sleeping habits, and kindness. (No, you can’t pull Fluffy’s tail!)
An adopted older child will be uncertain about his schedule, so build it for him before he creates a pattern of frequent night awakenings.
We teach patience and endurance when we teach our children to wait “just a bit.” Lay the foundation for good sleeping habits by putting your child down to sleep the same time every night. When they are tired, children may fuss awhile: let them do that rather than intervene at the start of the night.
If you ask a lot of your child, you will get a lot, so do not hesitate to be a demanding parent. You are building their backbone and independence from the start. Help your child to see you as caring, thoughtful, and gentle so that they have a model to follow.
In the end, consistency during your adopted child’s first month in your home is most important. Insist on a good nap. Try to eat all your home meals together. Just be together.
By Dr. Anne Walker – Dr. Walker, who has three international adoptees of her own, is a part of a growing practice of pediatricians focusing on international adoption.
You may also be interested in: Growing a Family Through Adoption