Adoption introductions: staying sane and making memories

Adoption introductions are daunting for everyone. You’ve finally made it through both approval and matching, and now it all suddenly gets very real. There’s that weird mixture of emotions – the excitement that you finally get to meet your child(ren) and the waves of ‘Oh my goodness what am I doing?’ that crash in as well. Exactly how much is this little person going to turn your life upside-down? Will anything ever be the same again? How will you survive the emotionally and physically gruelling introductions period? What on earth do you do together in a strange place when you’ve only just met? What happens when they hand them over and you have to suddenly be the parent? So. Many. Questions. Here are the things we did – and wished we’d done – during adoption introductions.

Adoption introductions

Exactly how much is this little person going to turn your life upside-down? How will you survive the emotionally and physically gruelling introductions period? What happens when you have to suddenly be the parent? So. Many. Questions. Click To Tweet

Before introductions

  • Get as much sleep as humanly possible. You’re going to need it.
  • Try to avoid getting ill – take your vitamins! We were full of colds during our introductions which added an extra layer of exhaustion and brain fog.
  • Adoption introductions: how to stay sane and make great memoriesGet the fridge and freezer stocked up with things that are quick and easy.
  • Get the emergency chocolate supplies in.
  • Charge your camera and a spare battery or two.
  • Put age-appropriate snacks and drinks in your car, and maybe also some of the things from my transitions bag of tricks. Colouring, wipes, plasters, bubbles, distractions… We should have bought shares in Fruit Shoots and Freddos.
  • If you’re using your own suitcases to stay near the foster home, borrow or buy some for moving the child(ren)’s things. You may be able to arrange for your social worker or the foster carer to get hold of a free bag from Madlug (or you can buy one and help someone else out). Ikea bags also work well for moving large quantities of clothes and toys (ours came with mountains of clothes) – but avoid bin bags.
  • Consider buying a present for the foster carers. We bought ours vouchers for a meal out and the cinema so that they could have an evening out now that they didn’t have to worry about babysitters for a little while, and gave these to them on the penultimate day of introductions.
  • Invest a couple of quid in some anti door-slamming guards – the foam ones are fine for younger children, but we have now upgraded to the rubber ones as our girls get stronger. If your children have a lot of meltdowns your eardrums will thank you for these. Trust me.


During introductions

  • Get as much sleep as humanly possible (this can be tricky when you start having to be there for getting them up and having breakfast, but get the sleep when you can, in order to stay sane).
  • Although the joy of meeting your child(ren) can be amazing, don’t panic if it takes a while to feel the feelings you think you’re supposed to feel.
  • Call your social worker if you are having any problems.
  • Try to relax despite the overwhelm. Children who’ve experienced trauma are often great at reading other people’s stress levels which can elevate their own.
  • Try to get a photo with you, the child(ren) and foster carer(s) all together. This will be useful for making a life story book later on.
Although the joy of meeting your child(ren) can be amazing, don't panic if it takes a while to feel the feelings you think you're supposed to feel. Click To Tweet

Moving-in day

  • It’s normal and healthy for there to be some sadness from the child(ren) and foster carer(s) about the transition. Don’t take it personally. You are allowed to be happy today, even if you have to contain that until you can celebrate sensitively.
  • You might want to mark heights on a wall (we did this for the whole family) so you can compare it every year. Our girls love seeing how much they’ve grown since that day and are incredulous that they were ever so tiny.
  • We used a kit for making handprints on moving-in day too. This felt much more significant to me than anyone else in the family but I am so glad we have them.

The first few weeks

  • You might get a honeymoon period as the children start to get to know you. You might not. Any honeymoon period we had was well and truly over by about halfway through introductions, when our then 4-year-old Joanna made her feelings about having new parents really very clear indeed and had an epic meltdown (quite understandably) at the foster carers’ church, which we attended as part of the introductions. A few days after they moved in, she bit me very hard on the tummy through my jeans (ow). Charlotte, then 3, wasn’t violent but instead sadly put on her little boots at the bottom of the stairs and politely asked to go back to the foster carers. So we were straight in at the deep end. In hindsight, I think I’m glad about that. I like that they were honest about how they felt so that we could help them. But don’t assume your child is fine if their behaviour is immaculate. They might just be bottling it up for a bigger explosion later.
  • Take them to the places that feature in your introductions book and/or video – for us, this was the park, the library, a cafe, and feeding the ducks. This helps them make all the connections to start to feel connected to your home and surroundings.
  • If you’ve done any Theraplay training, use it to help build attachment. Also think pleasurable/comforting sensory experiences generally, so things like hot chocolate, soft blankets, bubble baths, as much of the gentle nurturing stuff as they’ll let you do.
  • Don’t forget to look after yourself in this time. It can feel overwhelming, chaotic, and as though you have landed on a new planet with all the adjustments and responsibilities. Schedule some time for yourself. Get into good self-care routines as soon as you can. You will be much more use to those around you if your own needs are met first. That’s not selfish, it’s practical. You’re in this for the long haul. You might like to join my self-care club for tips, freebies and resources.
  • If you think you might have post-adoption depression, please speak up and get help rather than suffering alone.

In summary…

Go easy on yourself and each other. It’s a maelstrom of emotions and changes and potentially tricky social interactions, so there are bound to be a few awkward bits and hurt feelings somewhere. If you expect that, it’s a bit less likely to knock you sideways when it happens.

It's a maelstrom of emotions and changes and potentially tricky social interactions, so there are bound to be a few awkward bits and hurt feelings somewhere. If you expect that, it's a bit less likely to knock you sideways. Click To Tweet

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