Adoptive Families, the award-winning national adoption magazine, is the leading adoption information source for families before, during, and after adoption.


Ask AF

AF answers your parenting questions.May/June 2006

Have a question? Ask our panel of experts.

Encouraging a reluctant spouse

Q: My husband is getting anxious about becoming a father. His fears range from not being a good father to finances to “losing freedoms.” Is there anything I can say or do to ease his worry?

A: Boy, can I ever empathize. When my husband, Joe, and I were preparing to adopt, he ran so hot and cold on adoption that I wondered if he’d stick around after we returned from China. Here are three suggestions that might help out in your situation:

  • Acknowledge your husband’s fears, and try to listen without judging. His concerns are not unreasonable: He will lose certain freedoms. What he does not yet see are the many joys that will offset those losses.
  • Don’t expect your husband’s excitement to keep pace with yours. For that, talking to other waiting couples—sharing both their reservations and excitement—can be useful to both of you.
  • If your husband’s anxieties escalate, try marriage counseling. Your husband may respond better to advice from a neutral observer.

And what became of Joe? Long story short: He stuck around, and he’s a terrific, involved dad who saw all his concerns fail to materialize.

—Jill Smolowe,
co-editor of the new adoption anthology,
A Love Like No Other: Stories from Adoptive Parents

Night wakings

Q: Our three-year-old has generally adjusted well since we adopted her two years ago, but she sleeps through the night only about 50 percent of the time. (She usually settles back down as soon as I tuck her in again.) Is there any hope of changing this pattern?

A: Sounds like you have a tough sleeper, but every child can do better than what you’re describing. As long as you feel your daughter is well attached to you (uses you as her secure base in the world, is able to separate from you but is happy to reunite, and so on), you can push her a bit more at bedtime. Getting her to sleep through the night will not only help you, but will also help her feel competent in her ability to manage “big girl” things.

During the day, bring up bedtime in a positive way. Acknowledge that it’s been hard, but say that you’re going to “start doing it a new, better, big-girl way.” See that your daughter gets some heavy exercise or activity a few hours before bedtime, then wind down with a simple routine (i.e., bath, snack, brush teeth, potty, stories) until lights-out time.

You may need to be the “bed police” at first. Sit outside her door for a little while, and, if you hear her getting up, say, “I’m right here, get back in bed.” Soon she should be able to put herself back to sleep if she wakes up during the night.
—Sarah Springer, M.D.,
International Adoption Health Services of Western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh

Citizenship status

Q: I can’t find my daughters’ alien registration cards or other Russian adoption papers, and I’m not even sure that we received them to begin with (we adopted them from a disruption). What’s their citizenship status?

A: Our consulting adoption attorney states that, as long as the girls immigrated with IR-3 visas, they are undoubtedly citizens. Beyond that, however, you should always consult an immigration attorney in a situation as complex as this. You can find one through the American Immigration Lawyers Association’s referral service (
—Susan Freivalds,
founder of
Adoptive Families magazine

Adoption benefits

Q: My company is giving me a hard time about taking adoption leave. but I’d really love a few months of uninterrupted bonding (and adjustment to parenthood) time. Help!

A: It might help to put your request in writing. You can adapt our sample letter: Try to diplomatically point out the message of good will they’ll send to all employees by instituting adoption benefits. Log on to www.adoption for more information, and send your company’s HR manager to the site to order their free Adoption-Friendly Workplace Guide. Good luck!
—the editors of AF

Health history

Q: As an adult adoptee, I’m concerned about hereditary health problems. I have contact with my birthfather—what should I ask him about?

A: You should inquire about the age and health of any birth siblings. Also, ask about any history of the following specific genetic conditions in your birth family: diabetes, early-onset heart disease, breast or colon cancer, and depression or other psychiatric disorders.
—Jerri Jenista, M.D.,
St. Joseph Mercy Hospital, Ann Arbor, Michigan

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