4 Tips to Prepare Emotionally to Parent an Adopted Child

heart sunset, heart hands, heart for adoption, God's love, heart for orphans

Photo by Jen Kuykendall. http://chinupphotography.smugmug.com/

Delana H. Stewart


Using Lesli Johnson’s list of 10 things adoptees want you to know, here are a few things I learned and shared in my book Nine Year Pregnancy:

Adoptees want their adoptive parents to prepare emotionally and psychologically
before they bring them home to become a family.

I wanted to know how and when to address discipline issues. No stranger to the need for firm but loving discipline from bringing up three boys, I still felt nervous about this issue regarding adopting an older child. Claire graciously responded the very next day:

“The sooner you start the better! A lot of adopted families are scared to discipline at first but that makes it hard for you and the child later. At first the child receives a lot of gifts, candy, cookies and ice cream. The adoptive parents feel sorry for them for being without a family; then all of a sudden the parents decide to stop some behaviors of the child. The child becomes confused, ‘Why should I stop now? I have acted like this from the time they met me.’ 

 I have seen the adopted family buy the child something at every store they entered. So the child thinks ‘Wow! I always get to buy whatever I want;’ then this comes to a stop, and the child thinks ‘but why and what did I do wrong this time?’

In addition to disciplinary advice, Claire told us to establish a routine from the beginning. She said that it was always easier to make exceptions down the road, but to start out with what we expected to be the norm.

The adoptee’s experience is REAL.

Here’s an excerpt from our first night together. Her experience of loss did not end with losing her birth mother, but she experienced grief, loss, and fear all over again when leaving the orphanage.

Did she not want to be here at all? . . . . James and I both tried to hold her and console her. She made a break for the door and quickly figured out how to unlock it. She tried to make a run for it. . . . While James pulled her away from the door. . .she kept her eyes glued on me as I locked the bolt.

Pulling away from James, she grabbed her doll and crawled under the king-sized bed and sobbed. The crying eventually stopped and sleeping child, asleep on flooroccasional, tearful, short breaths replaced it. As soon as it had become evident that she had fallen asleep, we gently pulled her out and placed her in the king-sized bed. Within five minutes, she grabbed her pillow and doll and lay down on the floor between the bed and bathroom. We covered her up and let her be.

James and I then prepared for bed, but could not get to sleep. After an emotional first day, all I could do was lean my head on James’ shoulder and cry. “Are we doing the right thing?” I asked.

The adoptee needs help to make sense of his or her “story.”

After the first year with us, our daughter began daily asking me to tell her the story of how she came to be in our family. Before that, her story had more to do with wanting to connect with her birth mother. Here’s an excerpt from Nine Year Pregnancy—

Jade decided she wanted to write a letter to her tummy mommy. I told her that I did not have an address for her, but that we could write the letters in a journal and save them for her. Every day that week, Jade dictated a letter for me to write in the journal for her tummy mommy. Most of the time it contained the same message: “Mommy, why did you leave me? I love you. I have a mom and a dad and three brothers and a dog. I am happy. I miss you. Love, Jade.”

Some months passed with no desire from her to write letters to her birth mom. Other times, she had a need to do so daily. Some said I should not accommodate this desire. Others said that it was an integral part of her grieving and growing process. I tried not to make an issue of it either way, but made myself available to listen and aid her when she needed to express those thoughts.

Adoption is a lifelong process.

Adoption is a commitment for a lifetime. It is a calling that is not for everyone; yet, it can be the most beautiful and most challenging thing you will ever experience. More than that, adoption gave us a beautiful, first-hand experience of God’s love for us. Even while we opposed God and ran from God, He loved us. He cherished us. And, as His children, we know He will never leave us nor abandon us (Hebrews 13:5). First he loved us; then we loved Him.

A nine year pregnancy was our season of waiting on God, seeking Him, trusting that He would—in His time—answer our prayer. This season showed us God’s faithfulness and guided us in believing God’s nature.


doorway, gate, doors, ancient doors, castle wallWant to journal your adoption story? click here to order.

See Also: 5 Pros and Cons to Homeschooling the Older Adopted Child

Of Sheep and Shepherds (Are you struggling parenting your newly adopted child?)

Year for Year  (The time it takes for an adopted to child to adjust to new parenting, new smells/tastes, new language/culture.)

Into the Mind of a Child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)

Another Friend’s Baby Shower (Is it Okay to be Angry?)

Review of the book–Thriving as an Adoptive Family

Read more about Nine Year Pregnancy: Waiting on God–Our Journey of Adoption

Order now an autographed copy from the author — or from your favorite online bookstore.

Adoption Videos on YouTube

Click here to view Delana’s YouTube Channel–http://www.youtube.com/user/9yrpregnancy Or, click the following for individual videos: Perseverance, Patience, Waiting, and Adoption http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wtCRjxjocpI Reading the Preface to Nine Year Pregnancy http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R8MBjWC8Z_8 Singing “God Will make this trial a blessing” …


A great article on another blog is: 5 Questions to Ask Before Adopting

Adoption, Blog, Mommy, Parenting

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16 thoughts on “4 Tips to Prepare Emotionally to Parent an Adopted Child

  1. Pingback: Preparing Yourself for Adoption « Delana's World

  2. I adopted a boy from Russia a few years back and I remember thinking, “what are we suppose to do to make him feel welcomed and part of our family?” Those first couple of weeks were definitely a learning experience. We were very thankful that our kids were so excepting of a new family member. Roma truly has been a blessing to our family and I am so thankful that God called me to adopt!! Thanks for sharing this!

    • Thanks, Debbie, for sharing! If you know of others going through the adoption journey right now, let them know to keep an eye out in the next couple of weeks for an announcement on my blog about my new book that will be published soon. It is a prompted journal that prospective adoptive parents will want to have.

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  5. “It is a calling that is not for everyone; yet, it can be the most beautiful and most challenging thing you will ever experience.” – This line stuck out the most to me and I really enjoyed reading this post. This is such a fantastic site and I have enjoyed reading your blog. I am majoring in child, adolescent and family mental health and we are currently delving into the world of adoption. Your blog really reminds me of a fantastic memoir by author Catana Tully entitled, “Split at the Root” (http://splitattheroot.com/) derived from the author’s own personal experience of being adopted into a family of a different race and culture. This book not only highlights important issues for those who have or plan to adopt a child of a different race and/or culture but it also offers a compelling story about a young woman who spends most of her life searching for answers about her past, her identity, and where she belongs. It is a great story, well written and of general interest. Issues regarding birth mothers and adoptive mothers are central to the trajectory of the story. I recommend it to anyone who is looking to adopt or perhaps to those of you who are already on this journey

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