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Ask the Adoption Coach: Coping With the Wait

coping with the wait
Reader: How do you cope with the wait/search/disappointment?
Adoption Coach:
Dear Reader:
Your sentiments are felt by many prospective adoptive parents. Waiting for the news that you have been referred or chosen can be incredibly frustrating, confusing, disheartening, and anxiety-inducing.
It’s important that prospective adoptive parents keep three main ideas in mind while waiting. First, do not allow anxiousness and impatience to interfere with common sense and sound judgment. It’s tempting to allow oneself to fall into the trap of doing anything to become parents, to say yes to situations they may not be truly comfortable with, to accept unethical adoption practices as “okay,” or to attempt to pursue as many family-building options as possible, all at once. These decisions can lead to even more disappointment, complications, and pain.
Second, self-care is key. I like the analogy of the oxygen mask on a plane. Flight attendants request that passengers always use the oxygen mask first before assisting the person next to them. Likewise, neglecting to take care of oneself (emotionally, physically, spiritually) will eventually result in downfall in small and great ways. A common mistake prospective adoptive parents make while waiting for good news is that they tend to stop doing the things they enjoy. They put their lives on hold because “at any moment” they could get word that they are parents. The issue with this is that the wait for child can take many weeks, months, or even years. Meanwhile, that time is consumed with worry and speculation and impatience, instead of joy, adventure, and peace. Certainly, choosing to be happy during a difficult time isn’t easy, but it is possible.
Third, care of one’s current family is important. Adoption journeys are complicated and bittersweet, and sometimes couples (and their children, if they have any) divide, rather than unite. Though the division isn’t usually intentional, it’s unfortunately very common. The wait for a child is stressful and uncertain, and it’s easy for each family member to slip into an adoption journey coma. Children may fear their parents are spending too much time and energy preparing for the future child. Jealousy may arise, as well as anxiety and fears of the unknown. Partners may not agree on the adoption decisions that need to be made along the way, and thus, conflict and the emotions resulting from those disagreements may arise and dominate if not appropriately addressed and handled. Likewise, extended family and friends may express doubt, fear, or even anger toward a family’s adoption choices which can hinder the family emotionally and create more conflict within relationships.
While waiting, I recommend:
  • Dating your partner. Keep your relationship strong!
  • Continuing to do what you enjoy.
  • If you don’t have a current hobby, explore what interests you. Take a class, attend a conference, find someone you can shadow.
  • Establish a healthy coping strategy: exercise, journal, go out for coffee with a friend once a week, travel.
  • Enjoying the family you have now, whether that family currently includes children or not.
  • Preparing your future child’s bedroom.
  • Researching medical care, schools, resources that will benefit your child when he or she arrives.
  • Joining an existing adoptive parent support group, or starting one.
Let me leave you with this thought: If you establish a pattern now of thriving on negativity and hardships, the habit will not suddenly disappear when the child enters the family. What you do today greatly matters to your family’s future well-being. Should you find yourself dwelling in unhealthy thoughts and expressing those through unhealthy and unproductive behaviors, seek professional help.