Did you miss out on February’s #29Days29WaystoSupportAdoptees? Review them all here!

#1: Journal about your adoption process before you even receive a referral, so that your child can see how loved and wanted they were by you before they even became a part of the family.

#2: If you adopt internationally, take as many pictures and videos of your child’s orphanage, orphanage workers, and community as possible, so that your child will have as many details as possible about their story. If pictures/videos are not allowed, draw diagrams and write detailed notes.

#3: Keep copies of documents that share any information about your child’s first family in a safe and special place for them to read as they grow older – this connection with their early identity is essential!

#4: Put pictures of your foster or adoptive child up in your home along with all of the other family pictures as soon as possible to help them feel welcome and included.

#5: Let older children coming into your home choose their own room décor/colors, clothing, grocery story snacks, etc. to help them feel in safe and valued – you can make adjustments over time, but empowering them early on will enhance attachment.

#6: Do not underestimate the importance of cocooning to build attachment, no matter what age your child is at adoption!!!!!!!!!!!

#7: Eye contact games build trust and attachment, no matter the age of your child: Feeding one another, staring contests, cottonball hockey (all you need is two straws, a table, and a cottonball!), the possibilities are endless!

#8: Mirroring play is a great way to build attachment – let your child take the lead with silly play, and copy their movements, noises, volume and excitement level to attune!

#9: If you are trying to determine whether your child’s tantrum is manipulative or related to genuine distress, try using “The Whisper” – if you whisper your child’s name during the tantrum and they look over to you, it is likely a manipulative or goal-oriented tantrum. If they do not seem to notice, it is likely genuine distress.

#10: Remember that anger is always secondary to underlying emotions – responding to your child’s anger will not help, but responding to their underlying sadness, fear, anxiety, pain, jealousy, disappointment, frustration, shame, and embarrassment will bring you closer to one another.

#11: Instead of removing privileges or toys/electronics as a punishment, add chores that you do with your child as a consequence that still helps to build attachment. Kids who have lost everything are usually immune to the loss of privileges because they didn’t expect anything to be permanent anyway.

#12: Be creative with consequences to build attachment – weed gardens and shovel together, wash the car together, do dishes together, fold laundry together…

#13: Talk about adoption as early as possible and often, so that it does not become a scary, uncomfortable, or taboo topic.

#14: Talk with your child openly about how to respond to other people’s adoption questions so that they feel prepared and confident with practice!

#15: Never speak poorly about your adoptive child’s first parents – even if your child does. They have the right, you do not. Their first family is a part of them always.

#16: If you are triggered by your child’s trauma history or struggles with attachment, seek individual counseling for yourself – your wellbeing depends upon the love, guidance, and support you receive from other adults, and this will trickle down to your child’s wellbeing.

#17: Do not underestimate the importance of documentation follow through – re-adoption requirements, citizenship requirements, all are vitally important to complete as soon as possible to avoid major headaches later!

#18: Remember that it’s better for your child to feel like you talk about their feelings too often than not enough. As Mr. Rogers so eloquently shared, “What’s mentionable is manageable.”

#19: Do not always assume that birthdays are celebratory events – check in with your child about grieving losses on that day, as well, and follow their lead about how to best celebrate.

#20: Do not use the words “Gotcha Day!” to describe your child’s official entry into your family. “Gotcha” is what we say when we trick someone or are playing a game of tag – “Family Day,” “Arrival Day,” or “Famiversary” are acceptable alternatives, and your child should always have the final say in what to call the day and whether it is celebrated by your family.

#21: Give your child opportunities to honor their first mother and first father on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.

#22: At some point, your adoptive child is likely get angry with you and say they want to go live with their first family – understand that sometimes this is the only way they know to hurt you when they are hurting.

#23: Not all struggles are adoption-related, some are developmental and expected. Consult with an adoption-competent mental health professional if you are uncertain about how to best support your child.

#24: When having a conversation with your child about adoption, the best possible thing you can do is listen a lot and talk a little. They are the experts on adoption.

#25: Replace the word “but” with the word “and” – as in, “You did a great job washing the dishes, but/and next time will you please help put them away?” Instead of negating, be inclusive and consistent with showing appreciation and love.

#26: Remember that your child’s adoption story may be the only thing they have owned for their entire lives – it belongs to them, and they are the only ones who are allowed to decide when, where, how, and with whom it will be shared. Do not violate this privacy.

#27: Love is important, but not enough – the permanent and unbreakable commitment to parent a child through good and hard times is more important.

#28: Talk to and learn from as many adult adoptees as possible if you want to be the best parent you can be to your child – do not only surround yourself with the advice of other adoptive parents.

#29: Remember that adoption is multifaceted – it is a birth, a death, and a marriage rolled into one complex experience, and each adoptee’s experience is unique and valid.

About Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker

Dr. Chaitra Wirta-Leiker is an adoptee, adoptive parent, and psychologist who provides mental health support focused on adoption, trauma, and racial identity work. She is the author of the "Adoptees Like Me" book series.