Raising an adopted child is a unique experience that not everyone gets to go through. In many ways, it’s no different from raising a biological child, but you’ll have to pay particular attention to certain key factors. If you’ve chosen to take this incredible journey, it’s wise to learn as much as you can about the process of raising an adopted child.

A Biological Difference

Probably the most obvious difference between raising your biological children and adopted ones is the fact that your adopted child won’t share your genetics. While this shouldn’t affect too many areas of your parenting, there are some unavoidable differences. For starters, you won’t be able to predict specific needs with the same accuracy you’d bring to a biological child. For instance, if neither you nor your spouse have eyeglasses, you’d be able to predict that your biological child would have perfect vision as well. With an adopted child, however, health issues and physical differences can take you by surprise, so it’s important to be vigilant and flexible. He or she is also likely to have a different personality, disposition, and set of interests from your biological family. Take particular care to expose your adopted child to various experiences and opportunities so they can better discover their own identity. The difference in genetics can also call attention to your family in public, particularly in the case of multiracial families. It’s important to plan ahead, preparing appropriate and measured responses in the event that a stranger calls unwanted attention to your family’s unique composition.

Identity and Sense of Self

Almost all children go through phases of experimentation and self-discovery, but this is especially true for adopted children. As your adopted child grows up, they will become increasingly aware of differences between themselves and their family. While many of these differences may be superficial, they will still play a role in the way your child views themselves. Because your child looks different, behaves differently, or has different interests from his adopted family, he may struggle with identity and self-esteem. They might also have a hard time relating to their peers. Growing up, most of their friends will probably have a lot of knowledge regarding their own personal history. They might have extended family trees with whom they’re in frequent communication and have information about who their great-grandparents were. As your adopted child won’t usually have all this information, they can develop a sensation of isolation from their peers. The best way to help your adopted child is to remain open with them. Encourage them to explore their passions and interests, even if you don’t understand them yourself. If you have any information at all regarding their birth, do what you can to learn and share with your child. They might feel more connected with themselves and their past if they have even the slightest information regarding their origins. It can also help them alleviate feelings of alienation from their peers. Providing them with a strong set of morals and a foundation of principles can also help them feel grounded and secure in themselves.

Impact of the Birth Parents

All adopted children are different, but the one thing they all have in common is that they have two sets of parents. Your adopted child will at some point have to reconcile the fact that they were born to one family and raised by another. Coming to terms with this can be a monumental challenge for young adopted children, and it poses several complicated issues. For one thing, your child may struggle with the question of why their birth parents gave them up for adoption. Most adopted children want to know the reason their original family made the difficult decision to put them up for adoption, and in some cases your child may never know. As a result, many adopted kids feel inadequate, resentful, or abandoned. They might feel like they weren’t good enough for their birth parents and they may need to go through a grieving process. One might expect this to take place primarily in older children, but even kids who were adopted in infancy will likely go through this experience. Your child may openly express these feelings to you, but they might not. In some cases, they may not even understand these feelings and simply act out in order to express their inner conflict. That’s why it’s important to discuss adoption openly with your child. If you don’t take the time to address these feelings, your adopted child will probably turn inwards with increasingly unhealthy behaviors. Keep that communication channel open, letting your kids know that you’re always there to talk with them about their adoption and answer any questions you can. There is also the case of open and semi-open adoption, in which you have a direct relationship with your child’s birth parents. This type of arrangement is usually beneficial to adopted children but presents its own set of challenges. As with all parenting strategies, keep your child’s wellbeing first and foremost at all times. Communicate with all parties honestly, including your child and their birth parents, so that everyone involved knows the nature of the relationship and any expectations you may have.

A Challenging But Rewarding Journey

Adoption is a challenging experience for any family, but just about everyone who takes this journey discovers the challenges to be well worth it. There’s also a ton of resources available for parents of adopted children and you should always feel free to take advantage of them. There’s no harm in involving adoption specialists or therapists with experience in these situations. Professional help can provide you with expert advice tailored to your particular family dynamic. Raising an adopted child is a beautiful experience and, with the right parenting strategies, you and your child will grow through it and grow together.