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5 Adoption Dos

What Mary-Louise Parker did right when she adopted her daughter.

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3. Involve your other children. Parker took son William, then not quite 4, with her to Ethiopia when she adopted Aberash. “It was such a rich experience” embarking on the adventure to find Ash together, Parker says. If it doesn’t feel right to you, you don’t necessarily have to take a sibling along on an international adoption trip -- deciding whether to do so depends a lot on the age, maturity, and comfort with travel. But “including your family in building your family” is important, says Pertman. Ways to involve your older children include:

  • Read books about adoption together.
  • Let them pick out a special gift for their new sibling.
  • Show them pictures of the country you’re adopting from and help them find it on a map or globe, if adopting internationally.
  • Ask your children to help you choose photos to include and family stories to tell if you’re preparing a “dear expectant mother” letter for a domestic adoption.

4. Dare to believe you can do it. Parker was a single mom over 40 when she adopted Aberash -- many women in a similar position might fear that they had little hope of adopting in that situation. But single moms, single dads, gay couples, people with disabilities, older couples, cancer survivors, and others have adopted successfully. It’s all a matter of finding the right situation for your family. International adoption, domestic adoption, transracial adoption, adoption from foster care, special-needs adoption -- there are many possibilities. Check Adoptive Families’ Web site for resources.

5. Don’t overthink things. There’s a lot that is difficult about adoption, but ultimately, you’re just a family with children, dealing with bedtimes, homework, toy squabbles, car trips, and holidays like any other family, experts say. “There are lots of complex kinds of families. What is it like when there are stepsiblings, or half-siblings? What is it like when you live with a grandmother who takes care of the family? That doesn’t mean you don’t think it through, but I don’t think we should be making it a bigger deal than it is, either,” says Pertman. “It’s just another way of making a family, and that’s the way you should present it to your kids and to the world around you.”

For Parker, the decision was – ultimately -- very simple. “I was drawn to somewhere that’s in crisis,” says Parker, explaining why she looked to Ethiopia in her quest for adoption. “But it’s not about choosing this child over that child. If you adopt from anywhere, if you give a child something they need -- it’s a beautiful thing.”

Adapted from the cover story of WebMD the Magazine’s June 2009 issue. Read the complete story here.

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