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The First Three Steps When You Come Home

This knowledge base contains information and links to deal with all sorts of challenges that adoptive families may face. It is meant as a resource, and hopefully, you will not need to access most of the articles. While it is good to be aware and on the lookout for potential issues, don’t let it overtake the joys of parenting. It is important to savor every second of your child’s life since time really does fly !

The most immediate things you do when you first come home are to see to your child’s physiological needs, safety needs and giving them a sense of love and belonging. Depending on the age of the adopted child, parents will have to support these needs accordingly.

Physiological needs cover health, nutrition and comfort. Adopted children often lack nourishment because of their birth history. In addition to taking the child to a pediatrician experienced (Check Health Challenges for more information ) in international adoption, it’s a good idea to consult a nutritionist or dietitian, who also has experience with adopted children. Caring parents make the mistake of overfeeding or force feeding in the hopes of making up for lost time, which can set a path to bad eating habits. Expose your child to as many different types of food, allow him/her to make independent choices and do not restrict sugary foods to the point that it becomes a temptation and focus for the child. Check our resource section for books on how to develop healthy eating habits for children.

Another physiological need is how comfortable the child may be coming to a different environment, which includes everything from people to clothing to the climate. Every experience is new and adoptive parents must be sensitive to the child’s adjustment. It is a good idea to bring a few of their belongings from the orphanage (for example clothes, blankets, toys) so that they have a few familiar things. If the orphanage does not have these, make a donation of these items in advance and bring a few back with you when your child comes home.

Safety needs include a secure home and reliable caretakers, in this case, the new adoptive parents and the new home. The child may be used to sleeping with many others. Keep the transition to the new setting gradual and secure. Have as many familiar toys, books, pictures around the child so the new home does not feel alien. If it’s possible, send pictures of prospective parents, siblings and friends for the child to see when still at the orphanage.

Lastly, and most importantly, the child needs to feel loved and have a sense of belonging. He/she needs to feel safe and fit in. This means lots of affection and attention from family by engaging in lots of hugging, laughter, rough and tumble play, a stable routine and meaningful discipline. Make sure the child is engaged. Give him/her enough exposure to music, books, art, outdoors  and also encourage social interaction with not only his/her age group but all ranges. Check the Resources section for links to parenting websites and books.

This is a good time to make sure you regularly read the child’s adoption story. No age is too early. Talking about adoption at a very young age (even if the child does not understand the meaning) helps both the child and parent. Both get used to the words “adoption,” “birth parents” and “adopted parents” and helps future conversations happen with more ease. This process can be as simple as any book off the shelf that is similar to your adoption journey or simply a photo book with your personal pictures taken during the adoption itself. Check the Resource section for recommended books.

Balance is the keyword to remember during this  time. It is very easy to overdo everything, in order to make up for lost time with your child. But as outlined in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, if a child’s physical, security and social needs are met, they will develop into confident, emotionally healthy adults that can achieve their potential.

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