Adoption and Mental Health: Understanding and Addressing Common Challenges

Mental health challenges while adopting

While the adoption process can be an exciting time, it is also a time of uncertainty and big changes for prospective adoptive parents as they navigate the legal and social interactions that are required to move through the process and ultimately become parents. This level of transformation, uncertainty, and impending change can take a toll on anyone’s mental health, but especially prospective adoptive parents. 

At Angel Adoption, we encourage prospective adoptive parents to take their mental health into consideration and engage in self-care as an important component of the adoption process. Read more about the mental health challenges that prospective adoptive parents face, why self-care is so important during this time, and suggestions for self-care during the adoption process. 

What mental health challenges do people face during the adoption process? 

The adoption process can bring about a wide array of emotions ranging from uncertainty, stress, anxiety, hope, excitement, self-doubt, and so much more. Stress is one of the most common mental health challenges that prospective adoptive parents face, and it is one that can harm both physical and mental health if not properly managed. 

Additionally, prospective adoptive parents often feel overwhelmed by a multitude of things: the adoption process itself, the impending change of becoming a parent, the feeling of uncertainty while waiting to be chosen by a birthmother, and all of the other unique emotions that adoption brings out. 

Sometimes the emotions felt throughout the process can feel like an enormous mountain that seems difficult to climb, which can negatively affect mental health. Mental health challenges can also manifest in the form of physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbances, low energy, tension headaches, digestive issues, weight gain or loss, irritability, and many more. Because of this, it is critical for prospective adoptive parents to take their mental health seriously and prioritizing caring for their well-being.

Why is self-care so important during the adoption process? 

The adoption process is a time of transformation and change, which often feels uncomfortable and brings many emotions to the surface. This, compounded by the rigorous nature of the adoption process, makes self-care even more beneficial for prospective adoptive parents.  

Self-care is critically important to prioritize during the adoption process because mental health challenges and physical symptoms can present themselves and become detrimental to the quality of life of the prospective adoptive parents. It’s no secret that the adoption process is tough. Because of this, it requires you to be the best version of yourself in order to face these challenges with a good mindset. 

Take time to recognize uncomfortable emotions. 

While considering the impact of the adoption process on mental health, prospective adoptive parents should develop the ability to recognize uncomfortable emotions and what draws them out so that they are better equipped to deal with them. A part of this is recognizing what triggers stress, understanding what stress feels like when it is coming on, and having mechanisms to overcome the feeling if stress is unavoidable in that moment. This is also a great skillset that will come in handy as you navigate becoming a parent and raising a child. 

Connect with others. 

Going through the adoption process and waiting to connect with a birthmother can feel like an isolating experience. One of the best things prospective adoptive parents can do is connect with others who can relate to what they are going through and help them not feel so alone. We recommend that prospective adoptive parents join local or online support groups to surround themselves with others who are going through or have already been through the adoption process. Often, the best thing we can do for ourselves during a stressful time is find comfort and understanding in others.

Another important element of this is to ensure you are surrounded by people who support your choice to adopt. Not feeling supported by the important people in your life can add an extra layer of stress to the situation. Having a network of loved ones, friends, and other adoptive families around you is a key factor that can improve and sustain you mental health. 

Get in touch with nature.

It may sound clichéd, but getting in touch with nature can do wonders for your mental health. According to the US Department of Agriculture, studies have shown that spending time outdoors can strengthen our mental capacities and increase our focus and attention abilities. It can also improve your mood and, importantly for prospective adoptive parents, reduce feelings of stress or frustration. Of course, being outside also provides an opportunity to engage in physical activities, like walking, hiking, running, or biking, which is also highly beneficial for both physical and mental health. 

Whether you enjoy gardening, going for a run or walk, visiting your local park, taking a hike, or even simply stopping to smell the roses, getting in touch with nature is a very beneficial act of self-care.

Prioritize yourself.

While this time can be stressful and pull you in many directions, it is extremely important to make sure you are prioritizing yourself. We know this is easy to say but difficult to do, especially for prospective adoptive parents going through the adoption process. This means actively taking time to focus on your mental and physical health through exercise, self-reflection, relaxation, self-love, and any other acts of self care you enjoy. Take some time each day to check in with yourself to see how you are feeling and what you can do to prioritize yourself that day.

Be kind to yourself.

Often, we are our own worst critics and engage in negative self talk, especially during times of great uncertainty and stress. If you find yourself engaging in such talk, flip the script and meet it with self-love. Instead of saying “I’m not doing enough,” say to yourself “I’m doing my best and I am enough.” Instead of “I’m not strong enough to go through this process,” say “I am strong, I will get through this, and it will be worth it.” Remember you started the adoption process for a reason, you are enough, and most importantly, you are doing your best to overcome any challenges you are facing.

Being kind to yourself also means holding space for the emotions you feel and not judging yourself for feeling them, especially emotions of frustration or overwhelm. Being kind to yourself is the ultimate act of self-care. Something to think about is the idea that if you wouldn’t speak to a loved one the way you are speaking to yourself, you should take a step back and evaluate if you are being gentle enough with yourself. 

What are some other self-care suggestions for adoptive parents?

We know that self-care looks different for everyone, so here are just a few suggestions for things you can do to engage in self-care and improve your mental health. What is most important about self-care is that the ritual you engage in works for you and helps to reduce the stress or negative emotions you may be feeling. 

  • Journaling
  • Exercising or physical activity
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Active relaxation
  • Daily affirmations
  • Creating art or music 
  • Booking a spa day 
  • Engaging in your favorite hobby 
  • Taking a vacation
  • Visiting with family and friends 
  • Watching your favorite TV show or movie
  • Eating healthy, nourishing food
  • Schedule yourself a do-nothing day 
  • Read or listen to a book or podcast

Final Thoughts

The adoption process can be emotionally draining for prospective adoptive parents, especially during the wait to be connected with a birthmother. Because of this, understanding the connection between mental health and the adoption process is key for prospective adoptive parents. Even more important is engaging in self-care so that when your baby arrives, you are the best version of you. Going through the adoption process may seem tough, but just remember it is worth it, you will grow through it, and prioritizing your mental health will enable you to care for your baby and yourself in the best ways possible.

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Angel Adoption, Inc. provides marketing and advertising services that assist biological parents considering adoption and prospective adoptive parents to connect with each other, and provides support and referral services throughout the process. Angel Adoption, Inc. is an independent contractor and provides services under the supervision of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, License #012998, One Oakbrook Terrace, #501, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181; 708-771-7180.