I recently attended the FFTA (Foster Family Treatment Association) conference in Nashville, Tennessee. I received an excellent tool through one of the workshops I attended which discussed post-placement support for adoptive families. We discussed “Ways to Integrate your Adopted Child into your Family” here are 10 of my favorite tips:
*Create a new family history – family members may start a family album that includes the new extended family, as well as fun shots of each individual member.
*Communicate – to your child that he/she should feel comfortable discussing feelings with you, even negative ones, without worrying about your reaction. Learn to control your outward responses, such as: frowning, cursing, and laughing at the child, or frequent disruptions during the course of your conversation.
*Create structure & routine – your child needs to know that certain things occur on a regular basis, such as the times when meals are served, when the school day starts, when home work is scheduled and bedtime. Also, inform your child of your regular weekly schedule such as church attendance, sports, activities, dinner with grandparents, etc.
*Give your child chores – assign children age-appropriate chores to do. This helps them feel needed, gives you something to compliment them on, and helps them recognize everyone in a family has responsibilities that support the family structure.
*Establish consequences for both positive and negative actions – teach your child the rules they need to know, and explain the consequences of both positive and negative behavior choices. Be consistent in your application of consequences, both positive and negative. You can’t allow your biological child to do something, and then punish your adopted child for doing the same thing.
*Create opportunities for sharing: -plan to have ongoing open discussions with family members that encourage everyone to share thoughts and feelings about adoption and the different issues that may arise, and how family members can function better as a unit.
*Have fun – find time and opportunities to laugh together. Even in the most trying of times, share a joke or play a game. It will help both you and your child appreciate life as a rainbow of emotions and a blend of activities.
*Exercise patience – it takes time to blend and mesh the various personalities, interests and expectations of all family members. Allow patience to be your virtue.
*Create new family rituals – select, with the input of family members, new ways for celebrating birthdays and other holidays that incorporate the traditions your child may have brought with him/her. Be prepared to make changes.
*Accept without guilt that “falling in love” with your child takes time – accept that feelings for your child will grow as your relationship grows. Forming a lifelong loving relationship may be an especially slow process with older children. In many cases, commitment comes first and love comes second.