Parenting Children Who are Adopted
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Parenting with Adopted
Dr. Scott Turansky has adopted two children who are now
grown. The twins, Megan and Elizabeth, came into the Turansky
home just before they turned four years old. Not only has
Scott learned from his own experience, but also he has
counseled with hundreds of parents who have adopted children.
Here are some suggestions he offers for working with adoptive
1) If you have chosen to increase the size of your family
through adoption, congratulations. Although the work may
be great, you are following the model of God himself who
adopts us into his family. It’s not an easy job, but you
know that you are doing an important work that will have
lasting benefits that go beyond this earthly life. Cherish
the delightful moments you have with your adopted child.
Share them with others. Help your child develop a new identity
in your family and in the body of Christ.
2) Adopted children, by definition, are being raised by
someone other than their biological parents. Sometimes
it’s a grandparent, a relative, a friend, or a family eager
to extend their love to others. Something happens however,
in the bonding process that often requires extra work to
overcome significant struggles. The bonding between a mother
and a baby starts in the womb and continues after birth
through physical touch, feeding, talking, and connecting
in some very special ways. Adoption means that the process
of bonding is disturbed. That baby must make an adjustment
in order to bond to someone else. Some children are able
to make that switch easier than others. For some, trust
is broken, making temptations toward dishonesty, anger,
and mistrust a real challenge. Extra work is often necessary
to help adopted children address the challenges they face.
3) Understanding the heart is so important. You may want
to read the book Parenting
is Heart Work to get a picture
of what the Bible says the heart is. Careful heart work
will be needed all along the way to help your child develop
integrity, be hard working, develop a proper view of self
and family, and to experience life the way God intended.
The reality is that when bonding is disrupted, the heart
is damaged. Adoptive parents need to understand ways to
foster healing in the child’s heart.
4) Many of the resources available on our web site for
parenting will be helpful for children who are adopted,
but you may have to adapt the strategies or techniques
for your situation. One example of that is the use of the
Break. An important part of repentance has a child spend
some time thinking about life alone for a bit, and then
initiating to return for a debriefing. This strategy is
one of the tools taught in the Heart
Work Training Manuals and CDs. But some children who have been adopted experience
Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and separation from
the parent is misunderstood in the child’s heart, especially
during the correction process. You can still use a Break
to teach the child to settle down, but you may not send
the child away to do that. These kinds of adjustments will
likely be made along the way as you understand your child’s
needs more clearly.
5) Spiritual training is essential. Talk about the Lord.
Express gratitude that God has adopted you into his family.
Be spiritually demonstrative by praying during the day,
talking about things you’re learning from God’s Word, and
just express an awareness of God as you go through your
day. You’ll likely want to use the Family Time Activities
books to help you engage in important and deep conversations
with your child. Adoptive children often have greater needs
to understand the basic questions of life, “Why am I here?”
“How did I get here?” “Where am I going?” God’s sovereignty
is the answer because he is in control. Telling Bible stories
like those of Moses, Joseph, Esther, and Daniel also help
children understand the plan of God and how different families
can be. God loves us and wants to use all of us; he often
uses life’s circumstances to prepare us for serving him.
6) Setting up routines of how we operate in this family
is important for any child but those who have been adopted
often need special emphasis in this area. Making life predictable
gives a sense of security, allowing adopted children to
develop trust. The Heart
Work Training Manuals and CDs will be extremely instrumental in helping you develop relational
routines with your children. These become the unwritten
guidelines for how we handle common areas of family life.
7) The book Family
Heart Moments gives many illustrations
of ways that you can connect with your child’s heart. Some
of those stories happen in the lives of adoptive families.
Pray for heart moments every day. These may be relational
connecting points or light-bulb moments where your child
actually gets new understanding about life.
8) Be honest with your child about the adoption. That
doesn’t mean that you share everything right away. Some
pieces of information are best shared after the child grows
a bit and is able to understand the situation better. Some
children have a greater curiosity about their birth parents
than others. You’ll want to use wisdom as you help your
child explore his or her past.
9) Don’t be put off by angry comments from your child.
Kids can say some pretty hurtful things in the heat of
emotion. When your child says things like “I’m ready to
go to the next home,” or “I’m going back to live with my
birth mom,” recognize those as hurtful comments coming
out of your child’s own pain. You don’t necessarily have
to address them, certainly not on the spot. Adoptive children
often wrestle with identity issues and those are sometimes
revealed during emotionally intense moments. Your own emotional
stability in these situations is helpful. You can be sad,
and feel hurt, but don’t react with anger.
10) Specialized problems may need to be addresses so be
ready and watching for those symptoms. Sometimes adopted
children face challenges with addictive personalities,
conscience weaknesses, or fears of abandonment. Sometimes
the need special help to deal with eating disorders, emotional
explosiveness, or violence. Don’t be frightened by those
possibilities. Just be ready to get help at the first sign
of a problem. Early intervention can often help children
overcome tendencies or temptations.
You have an amazingly significant ministry as you parent
your adopted child. You’ll want to continually be learning
and growing. Remember that there are solutions out there.
You may have to look a little harder to find them but they
are there. If you are feeling overwhelmed, get help. Support
from others can often be helpful and encouraging.