What We Wish We Would Have Known

It is about time for another installment of Jane's advice for people adopting a older child. So here goes and thanks Jane:

Here are a few ideas from the "Stuff we wish we would had known about before adopting an older child" file:

  1. That a summer vacation isn't real life. Some of the children who are up for adoption come as guests of a summer program. Of course children on vacation are going to have a good time with their host families. But once the vacation is over, the papers are signed and real life begins, it is a shock. Be prepared for the reality. That a child's wishes may not be in her best interests. If your child wants to change her name, that's not cute. She wants to forget the past, which is impossible. Just because you have adopted an orphan doesn't mean you have to accede to every wish. If she wants to stay up late, text boys you haven't met, watch only Spanish TV, it's OK to just say "NO!" And then explain why. You'll be doing a lot of explaining! LOTS and LOTS of explaining....

  2. That kids who say they don't want to be adopted probably mean it. We know a family whose social worker in Colombia pressured the child to go through with the adoption, only to end up with difficult problems once thechild was brought to live here in the States. The problems were finally resolved, but the process was painful and harmful.

  3. That a bilingual therapist is a must. Start early. Find out the depth of your child's trauma and start the healing process at once -- don't wait.

  4. That English is hard to learn. Go easy on your child. During the first year, we allowed our daughter to watch Spanish language TV on the weekends. It was her comfort zone. Think how excited you would be in Colombia, if you found your favorite show in English.

  5. That experience raising children is a HUGE advantage. Going from NO children to an adopted child must be tougher than having raised kids already. This is simply speculation on my part.

  6. That the form accompanying the child during her summer visit doesn't tell you everything. The dossier accompanying the child is often sanitized. Some of these kids have been through stuff that would curdle your blood. And you may not find out about it until your child is in your home. Accept any information you are provided with a grain of salt. And if your child tells you stuff that is different from what the authorities told you, chances are your child is right.

  7. That knowing how to speak the child's language is important. Take Spanish lessons! Your child is going to put out her best effort to learn YOUR language. Buy Rosetta Stone and learn hers. It's the least you can do while waiting for sentencia.

  8. That you will question your decision once in a while. It's only natural. Some mornings you will wake up thinking, "What have I done??" It's OK. You'd do that with your biological children: it's OK to do it with your adopted child!

  9. That it will turn your life upside down --in a good way! Are you up to the challenge? Is your marriage up to the challenge? The child is going to take A LOT of time and emotional energy. Your relationship with your significant other had better be strong. Seriously! Schedule time alone with your husband/wife/significant other.

  10. That your kid doesn't necessarily want to socialize with kids from her past. Just because your child came to your town with other orphans doesn't mean that she likes the other kids. It may be fun for you to meet up with the other prospective parents once in a while, but your child isn't going to find it particularly fun. Hanging out with former orphans isn't cool. Hanging out with regular kids is.

  11. I wish I had known about this book. An adopted friend of mine recommended it. Read it! The Primal Wound: Understanding the Adopted Child by Nancy Verrier. Quote from Amazon: "This book is a definite 'must read' for all parents of adopted children." I know that as a parent you will resist believing in the Primal Wound, but you must, for the benefit of your children. You will learn to understand your adopted children and will be able to help them throughout their lives - sometimes even in the smallest way, i.e. the simple reassurance that you WILL return home after work.

Jane and her husband John run the organization: FRIENDS OF COLOMBIAN ORPHANS. Recently, their organization won a competition and received several thousand dollars. Read more here:



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