For couples wanted to start a family or add to their existing family, adoption is definitely something to consider. Many celebrities such as Brad and Angelina Jolie have adopted children from different countries around the globe.
We had the pleasure of speaking with child therapist, author and adoptive parent Ce Eshelman about some of the benefits and challenges of adoption. Ce’s story is empowering and sheds light on the joys and blessings that parenting brings.
1. Why should couples consider adoption?
People adopt for many reasons, and adoption isn’t for everyone. It is, however, for singles and couples who feel they want to bring a child into their lives who needs everything they have to heal a hurt and hurting heart. Adopting a child gives parents a super-sized mission and purpose. It takes a lot to parent children. It takes more to heal deep emotional wounds while parenting children.
If you have passion, a secure emotional base, resources, and love like a mountain, sign up to adopt a child. Hurry, there are 400,000+ children waiting for you in foster care right now.
2. What is the biggest myth surrounding adoption?
I wouldn’t say there is one “biggest” myth. There are some pretty good ones afloat. Maybe one myth that can be a personal hurdle for people considering adoption is the notion that you have to be perfect to adopt a child. Not so. You can learn how to be a healing force in the life of a child who has lost biological parents and maybe even been harmed by those who promised to love them. Perfection is definitely not required. It does take more than love to heal, but ordinary people with ordinary lives are the best hope for the job.
3. How can couples benefit from adoption?
Let me answer that with another question: How can bringing a child into your life not be a benefit? Children bring energy, delight, purpose, hard work, joy, play, passion, and more meaning to a couple. If you are looking for that, adoption is a bonus investment.
4. What barriers might couples face while considering adoption?
Family members may not quite understand your passion for adoption. Why? Why? Why?, you will be asked. Get your narrative well established because you are going to tell that story over and over to well-meaning family and friends. It’s okay though; your coherent narrative will serve and sustain you during the tough parenting times.
5. What is the best age to adopt children or is there a better age?
Every age is the best age for an adopted child to come home to a loving family. There are adoptable children of every age waiting for you. The best age is the age you think you would really enjoy. Even older teens want to be a part of a family. The best age is up to your personal circumstances and desires. Adoption agencies are tremendous supports in determining what age is best for you. Don’t be afraid to be honest. If you cannot imagine parenting two children, the most darling of sibling pairs is not for you. If you have a large house and plenty of resources, go ahead and reach out for a set of 3 or 4 siblings that need to stick together. If baby’s rock your world, hold on; there are babies needing adoption, too.
6. If a couple adopts a child as a baby, should they tell the child that he/or she is adopted? Is there a good age to have the conversation with your child?
In my opinion children fare better when they know from the beginning that they are a gift of adoption. A coherent narrative about how you came to be where you are, how you are, and how you feel is essential for positive mental health later in life. If parents celebrate adoption day, as well as a birthday, children will delight in two whole days every year devoted just for shining on them.
As for best age to have the conversation, I think it begins with reading adoption books to your child when very young. It will be part of their awareness from the beginning of consciousness that some children come by stork, some by marriage, some by relatives, and some by adoption. Children will eventually ask you the age old question, Where do babies come from? Most wonder this around 3 or 4 years old. That is the perfect time to tell them their adoption story. Tell it beautiful, because it is.
7. How do you make an adoptive child comfortable with their new family?
You must be as safe as possible. Use therapeutic principles to parent—high structure, high nurture approaches. Frankly, parents need to put away traditional means of discipline and employ kinder, gentler styles because building a safe relationship with an adopted child is the first order of business–not disciplining poor behavior. Children need to be physically and emotionally safe before they can heal from their traumatic life experiences. Get support for learning a new way. You will be glad you started out on the right foot.
8. How do you deal with an adopted child who wants to seek out his/her birth parents?
First consider the circumstances that brought your child to you. If they were relatively abuse free and your attachment is strong, then supporting investigation can make sense in the teen years. Not all adoptive parents want to be found, so be sure to investigate first before involving your child. If the circumstances were abusive, I am in favor of waiting until the children are adults. Full disclosure: there are many divergent opinions about this. The level of attachment the child has to you needs to be considered before making promises that may not be followed through on. If your attachment is weak with your adoptive child, seeking out the birth parents is not wise, as it will likely cause even further distance in your attachment relationship.
9. Why is there still a stigma around adoption?
In general, many believe that you are gambling by bringing an unknown adoptive child into your life. Who knows what you will get? Frankly, bringing biological children into our lives is gambling, too. We never know what the child we bring into our lives is going to present. We just love and care for them the best we can. That is the nature of being a parent, adoptive or otherwise.
10. Why do you love being an adoptive parent?
I love my children. The fact that they are adopted has nothing to do with that. The journey to heal their broken hearts was a challenge for all of us. And, it turns out, we were all up for it. Now our dinner hours are full of stories, laughter, chatter, and true affection for one another. Nothing is better to my ears than that wild and zany family sound.
Children’s therapist Ce Eshelman has decades of experience working with parents and their kids, including those who’ve experienced the added trauma of the foster care and adoption system. Founder and CEO of The Attach Place Center for Strengthening Relationships in Sacramento, CA, Ce has been in practice since 1987. She works every day with adopted children and their parents. Raising her two adopted children into adulthood has given her the insight, humor, and hard-earned wisdom to write with authority and love.
Her book for foster and adoptive parents, Drowning With My Hair on Fire, is a must-use resource tool for navigating the choppy waters of being an adoptive parent. Ce’s book is available via Amazon.