Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cross-Cultural Adoption Advice: The Do's and Don'ts for Grown-Ups

Do's of Cross Cultural Adoption

~ Do treat them like any other kid. It may be difficult and take a while for adopted children to feel like they belong within their extended families. Treating these children like they're "nothing special" can go a long way toward making them feel at home and comfortable within the group.

~ Avoid the temptation to spoil them because they didn't have everything that the other kids had in the first few months or years of their life. The most valuable gifts you can offer these children are patience, routine and consistency -- and most of all, unexaggerated expressions of love and devotion.

~ Do support them when curious strangers ask questions. When curious (and sometimes thoughtless) strangers ask questions or feel the need to comment on the circumstances of the adoption, do not let them lead you into uncomfortable territory. Instead, gently steer them back to more suitable small talk or respond in such a way that shifts the conversation to positive adoption language that in turn lets the children know that you are on their side.

~ Do respect their privacy. Adopted children have the same need for and the right to privacy as you do. They do not want their entire life story being told to strangers. If they hear you discussing the intimate details of their origins, they will likely feel embarrassed. Until the children are old enough to decide for themselves how much information they would like to share regarding their background, please respect their privacy.

~ Do treat prospective adoptive parents the same as expectant parents. Adopting a child is just as exciting for soon-to-be parents as being pregnant. They feel the same way all expectant parents do -- overjoyed, overwhelmed, nervous, impatient, and most of all, excited. Don't be afraid to ask adopting parents about these feelings. After all, adoption is neither a secret nor a source of embarrassment or shame.

~ Do acknowledge and celebrate the differences. One of the best things you can do to show your support as well as your love for the adopted children in your life is to learn a bit about the culture and history of their birth country. Read a couple of books, especially travel books. Even if you have no plans to travel there, there is no better way to get the feeling of another country.

Don'ts of Cross Cultural Adoption

~ Don't introduce them as adopted. The pain this inflicts on the children is obvious. The children are made to feel inferior, like they will never be considered a real part of the family. The rule is simple: Don't ever, ever do this.

~ Don't say how "lucky" they are. After hearing this enough times, the children can be made to feel like a lifelong charity case, rather than the cherished children they are. Yes, they are lucky, but so is any child who has a supportive, loving family. And we parents are lucky, too, to have been able to create this loving, supportive family.

~Don't assume adoption is a second choice. The reasons people choose to adopt are as varied and unique as the people themselves. While it is true that many choose adoption because of infertility, it is also true that many choose adoption for a myriad of other reasons as well. Many people choose to adopt not because they are out of other options, but rather because they believe that adoption is the best choice for them.

~ Don't jump to conclusions about the birth mother. Often thought of as weak, irresponsible, cheap, and worthless, birth mothers often suffer a lifetime of pain far greater than that of childbirth. Please don't jump to the wrong conclusion that these women are any different than you and me or that they love their children any less.

~ Most cross-cultural adoptive families know little or nothing about the circumstances that led their children's birth mother to relinquish her children. What they do know is that they love their children's birth mother because they are a part of their children and it is because of them that their beloved children are who they are.

~ Don't tell us we're sure to have "our own" now. They are our own. Those parents who choose adoption because of infertility do not secretly harbor lifelong yearnings for a biological child. Having "our own" is now irrelevant; the child we have is the one we want and it is inconceivable that we could love or want any child more. Like all parents, we have the BEST.

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Today I Kissed an Angel

Today I kissed an angel. I knew it from the start. The first time my angel smiled at me; I gave away my heart.

Today I kissed an angel; This angel child of mine. Though not of my creation, My child by God's design.

Today I kissed an angel. My heart is dancing wild; Our family, by a miracle; Blessed by our angel child.

All I Really Want by Steven Curtis Chapman