This past month, Compass Rose celebrated National Adoption Month. In our work, we’ve found that no matter the situation or scenario, change is never easy. This is especially true for those who have recently been placed in foster care or a new home through adoption. This can be a seamless process or one with some bumps in the road. What’s important is that parents show boundless love and compassion. But there are few things you can do to make the transition easier for both of you.

Every child’s adjustment will be unique, and the time it might take is always unknown. Depending on prior experiences, trust issues might take some time to repair. There also might be some acting out. The key is to be aware and patient. Here are a few tips to ease the process and make your home the best place for your child.

1. Give them familiar surroundings.
Surround them with something familiar. Place pictures of familiar faces in frames and hang them on the bedroom wall or place on the bedside table. Does your child have a favorite teddy bear or blanket that he or she can keep nearby? These associations create a comforting atmosphere and a greater sense of belonging. Some psychologists recommend creating an adoption life book to help children understand where they came from and where they have been. It also will give them a sense of belonging to a new family now. Some experts say this may be one of the most therapeutic things you can do with a child being adopted.

2. Explain family rules and expectations.
Some professionals suggest that family rules and expectations should be introduced right away to avoid more changes for the child down the road. Regardless, bring your child into the routine of chores slowly. Foster and adoptive parents should remember that even smooth transitions can be traumatic for children, so don’t be surprised during the first day or week if you have to repeat yourself several times, as it may be difficult for your child to absorb all of the information during this transition period. This is natural and should be expected.

3. Help foster a strong and supportive learning environment.
School is regarded as the next challenge after adjusting to a new home. As another new and different environment for your child to experience, it may create additional stresses. It is important to not only support your child’s academic efforts but to have a positive and friendly relationship with the teacher. This creates greater communication and will help you to better understand how your child is adjusting. If you feel comfortable enough with the teacher, you may want to discuss how your child might answer questions about adoption from his or her peers. This will help you prepare your child to handle this discussion in the future.

4. Identify problems and work on a solution together.
There are a few behaviors common to newly adopted children, such as pulling away from attempts to show affection. Should this be the case with your child, start slowly by asking permission for a hug. In this way, he or she will feel in control instead of being violated. If your child is not ready for a hug, start with a simple pat on the shoulder.

Another common behavior is hoarding or sneaking food. Children who were not adequately fed at their previous residence may do this. Do not make a big issue of this while bonding with your child. Undernourished children need their basic needs met before they are able to attach deeply to a parent. Allow your child to have some snacks in his or her room, or assign a kitchen space that contains “free food” that may be eaten at any time. Eventually, children drop this behavior once they learn to trust that the adoptive parents will feed them consistently.

In addition, it’s important to give your child choices. Many times, older adopted children may feel a loss of control because strangers have been dictating their every move, or they were forced to fend for themselves. Either way, allow them the chance to make appropriate choices. For instance, if your child prefers to wear inappropriate clothing, present him or her with two or three choices from which to select an acceptable alternative. On the other hand, some children have never made a choice for themselves and must be slowly introduced to the concept.

Adoption is a wonderful way to share your love with a child in need. If you have any questions about adoption or adjusting to a new family, please contact us today.