Adoption requires a certain "leap of faith" on behalf of the adoptive parents. This KidsFirst family adopted a sibling group (ages 11, 14, and 17) from Bulgaria. Here are some words from the father that he hoped would benefit other families...
Below are a few observations at 5 months since arrival in the US. My thoughts may be of help to other prospective parents. My adoption comments are based only on my limited experience with our three Bulgarian Girls ages 11, 14, &17.
1. I feel alive. Really alive. No boredom. No apathy. No depression. I have a purpose..... And I think God has something bigger for us once we raise these girls.
2. I'm really physically tired. Not complaining. It's just a fact. We have not figured out how to regulate our lives to our new roles and responsibilities.
3. These girls take a lot of time. If you don't give them your attention and time, they don't feel loved and don't grow emotionally and don't thrive etc. You can't just add teenagers into your life like a hobby. It's a full time job....7 x 24.
4. It's stressful. Make sure your marriage is rock solid because this will seriously stress even a 35 year marriage. Don't adopt to fix a problem in your marriage. Adoption will bring new marital problems to light you don't know about and amplify the ones you are aware of.
5. Be the adult. Don't lash back when they say 'I want to go back to Bulgaria' even though it hurts horribly... They are so very very insecure. Love them thru it and later when it's calm, talk about the power of words and how they hurt you.
6. For the husbands with girls, pour as much time and love into your girls as you can. My oldest has said she slept with boys to get love. Fill that love void with a Father's love so she does not have to go searching. Also, don't forget to pour some love on your wife. Nothing worse than two women competing for your love. Won't happen if you give your wife some time. Yes, these teenage girls can rock your wife's security as your main girl if you're neglectful of her. Listen to your wife on this one. She knows when the teenager is competing. I was clueless. This issue can be easily managed if you pay attention. You can be the daddy and hubby you need to be and keep all parties out of competition with one another. Again your wife will guide you on this.
6a. Dads - you need to touch, kiss, hug, and caress your teenage girl/woman. It's really uncomfortable at times, especially at first, but they need it. Just set boundaries for yourself. Gently enforce them with your daughter. If you're good, she won't even know your setting them. Odds are high your girls won't have received the touch they needed as infants right up to the day you pick them up. When adopting teenage girls, odds are also high they have been sexually active or sexually abused. Therefore you must set boundaries. They will interact with you the only way they know how; which may be uncomfortable for you as a man. Set boundaries. You're the adult - they're not predatory, just affectionate. A good rule is don't interact in any way with your daughter that you would not do if your wife were In the room. Hug them, kiss them and touch them. Just set boundaries. They're so hungry for love and affection. Make sure they're getting it from you.
6b. Conversely respect their boundaries. The 14 year old was very affectionate with my wife but limited me to one hug and peck on the cheek per day for months. I poured on the love even when she rejected me. It was tough. In fact I did back off emotionally for a short time and my wife called me out on it. Turns out my 14 year olds experience with men has not been good. A lot of neglect, rejection, and abuse. The reality is she craved my affection and love. Today she still sets boundaries for my physical affection but she comes to get hugs and kisses regularly. I'm glad I respected her boundaries.
7. I would not bring teenage adoptees into a home with bio children that are under 20 years old. Our girls need so much time and energy that we would have nothing left for our bio children. We're blessed in that our 26 year old son and wife actually help us a lot with our girls. We expect our other adult children would do the same if they lived closer.
7a. Keep them safe. They have experienced enough pain, neglect, rejection, abandonment, and abuse for two or three life times. Don't feel bad if you keep them in a bubble for a season. Keep them close in a safe bubble of church and family and friends. There is plenty of time for real life.
7b. Have a Honeymoon. When they arrive, focus on the relationship with your new daughters. The time will come for focusing on School, Sports, Travel etc. Right now they need a lot of my wife and I to build one of the most important human relationships they will ever experience. Today they may say they love us and they're bonded strongly to us but words and emotions don't make a powerful parent-child bond. That takes a lot of time and energy. School, sports, and travel should not be your focus in the beginning.
8. See them as God sees them. See all the potential, all the promise. Tell them you love them, that they’re beautiful, smart, kind, precious, a blessing etc. Tell them every day multiple times. Praise them. All I hear is 'Daddy do you like my hair. my nails, the picture I drew, the way I ride my bike, cooked the eggs, dressed my Barbie etc.' The answer is always yes. If there truly is a problem, such as "you're dressed too provocatively dear" ....You can address these issues in kindness and love. Remember, all our girls heard at home and then in the orphanage was how worthless, bad, stupid, ugly, & smelly, they were. These are not spoiled America kids that got trophies for showing up. They crave affirmation. Give it to them and watch the transformation.
9. Enjoy this time. When you adopt teenagers, you don't have much time before they're gone. Pour into them now because in the wink of an eye they're gone.
10. They will forgive you. You're going to make mistakes. Sometimes big ones. Go to them apologize and pour on the love.
11. When they act out, try to get past the bad behavior and figure out what triggered it. Odds are good it was something benign to you that you said or did. Remember they may appear well adjusted at times but inside they're insecure, hurt, and really angry about events from their past life. Try and try again to empathize with them and understand where they're coming from.
12. Let them grieve. They had a life in Bulgaria. Sometimes they're going to be sad. We just tell them were sorry and give them hugs ....they just need to cuddle and grieve what they have lost. Your empathy means a lot to them.
13. Don't say bad things about their parents, family etc. We assure our girls their mother loved them but the abuse she literally took daily ruined her mind. Don't make them choose between you and their bio family. Let them know they can still love their mom and grieve their loss without risking losing your love and affirmation.