The adoption process is never easy. Often, many prospective parents endure failed pregnancy(s) or difficulty to conceive before their decision to adopt. Once they make this decision, they face many stressors throughout the process including having to make difficult decisions and having to face many unexpected challenges throughout the process. After the birth, the adoptive parents must wait for the adoption to be finalized which is often incredibly draining. Even after the adoption, adoptive parents will still face new parent struggles. Like anything, this can lead to high levels of stress that can harm your physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It is important to understand that stress is a normal part of the adoption process so that you can utilize positive coping strategies to ensure your well-being throughout the process.
First, it is important to understand that stress manifests itself differently in every person. Some common symptoms include headaches, trouble sleeping, lack of energy, mood changes, feelings of being overwhelmed, depressed, frustrated, or lonely, and changes in appetite. While these are some of the most common signs, people can suffer from all, some, or none of these issues. If these issues go unaddressed, they can lead to greater problems in the future, so it is important to acknowledge and cope with these issues to ensure the best for yourself and your family. Learning good stress management skills early on will help you become better equipped to handle the stress that comes with parenting later on.
Here are some ways that you can help manage the stress that results from the adoption process.
1. Surround yourself with positive people. During this time, it is important to rely on family and friends who will support you and your decision to adopt.
2. Engage in hobbies or activities that you enjoy. Engaging in these activities will help you relax and release anxiety.
3. Exercise. This will not only help you release stress and stay healthy, but it will get you ready for the active lifestyle having children will bring.
4. Prepare your house for your new child. No matter how old they are, you will be able to design their room. If they are young, you will have to child-proof your home and purchase toys, clothes, strollers, etc… This will get you excited about the adoption.
5. Don’t try and hide your emotions. Talk to someone about them whether it be someone you trust, a doctor, or a licensed therapist. Allow yourself to feel all the emotions a new parent faces.
6. Self-Care is important. Don’t be afraid to sit down and take a few moments for yourself. Meditation, yoga, even watching T.V., are all ways to unwind and catch your breath.
7. Recognize and stay away from things that trigger your stress. This may seem obvious, but sometimes it is easier said than done especially when your stress is coming from external things like work, relationships, family pressure, etc…
8. Keep a journal. Write your feelings down even if you are unsure how to say them aloud. For, some new parents, reading parenting books might also help to reduce stress.
9. Remember the good. While it is easy to get caught up in all the anxiety and uncertainty of the process, remember that at the end of the day, you are getting to expand your family and bring home a child. There is so much good that results from this experience!
10. Don’t overthink it. Every new parent is anxious. Every new parent is worried that they will not be good enough. Every new parent struggles with the same fears about if they will be a good parent. It’s normal. But, at the end of the day, you have prepared for this and you are ready to take on this wonderful responsibility.
Ultimately, while the adoption process can be incredibly stressful, it is important to recognize that at the end of it all, you will have the greatest gift- expanding your family. Despite the stressful process, it is important to recognize that there are ways to cope with this stress. Every person handles stress differently so it is important to manage it the way that best suits you so that you can be the best you can be for yourself and your new family.
Julianna McKenna is a college student at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana double majoring in English Writing and Psychology. She is passionate about adoption and foster care and is considering a career in adoption law or counseling. In January 2019, Julianna became an intern for Adoption Choices of Kansas, Inc. She is incredibly dedicated to promoting children’s rights and is excited to research and advocate for children.