It is great when a family has the love and compassion to open up their home to an orphan. Some may think it is easy, especially relatives that become guardians. It is not like raising one of your own. They have special needs. If those needs are not met then the happy family that you had hoped for my end up becoming a nightmare for everyone.
1. Understand that females and males tend to grieve differently. Males tend to be more quiet and reserved while females may want to talk about it. I wanted to talk but I didn't. I was quiet and kept to myself. I never really became myself until college when I was away from my former guardians. A few times I did try to be myself around them but I got in trouble so I just kept quiet and stayed in my room listening to music. Now I have tried to talk about it. I've asked my sister and my aunt about my mom. Understand that weather your new child is quiet or talkative make sure to be there for them. If they talk, listen to them. If they are quiet, try talking to them a little. If they don't want to talk, then just be there for them. Let them sit and watch tv with you. Take them out to lunch. Spend time with them. Give them attention. make them feel like a part of the family not just some adopted kid sitting in the corner watching.
2. Understand that they will not stop grieving just because they have been adopted. For the rest of their life they will miss their parents and think about them every now and then. Never tell them to get over it. It just doesn't happen that way.
3. Nightmares are very common for orphans. They may have dreams of talking to their parents or their parents coming back. It my not be a scary dream but it certainly doesn't help the grief. Don't shrug it off. Show them that you care and are concerned. Make sure they don't eat a meal right before going to bed. This makes nightmares more likely. Wake them up in the morning so the first thing they see is you. I find the worst part of being an orphan is waking up. Thats when I remember my reality. Every morning it hits like a ton of bricks again.
4. Watch out for "triggers". Triggers are things that may bring back sad memories of their parents. Avoid movies that include characters that die in the story. There are a lot of movies like that. Movies are meant to be enjoyed. Maybe try some classic Gumby. Gumby was actually created by an orphan named Art Clokey. I think they may be one of the reasons why the Gumby shows are so good for young orphan kids. Watch out for other triggers like their parents names, food their parents made, places their parents took them. Triggers will cause them to cry and stress out. Certain times of the year can be triggers. For example the anniversary of their parents death may make them more vulnerable. Also Mother's and Father's Day can be very awkward and upsetting for them. Take these into consideration and don't get upset if they get upset. Try to plan ahead and make it easier for them during those times.
5. Understand that you will never replace their first mom and/or dad. I found it very difficult to call my aunt "mom" and my uncle "dad". So I didn't. Sadly my aunt took this the wrong way and felt like I didn't accept her and that I had rejected her. She was hurt and didn't understand why I couldn't call her "mother" or "mom". That may be why she started to treat me differently than her own kids.
6. Don't treat them differently than your own kids. They will notice. Don't treat them like they have something wrong with them just because they are an orphan. Even when I got older and went off to college I would get "family" letters about the happenings of our family. I was never mentioned. Even when I graduated I was never mentioned. She only mentioned her own kids and their jobs and kids. Don't make your new adopted child the black sheep of the family.
7. Be mother/father to them. Don't just let them live quietly in your house and hope that they move out once they are 18 so you can retire. If they are female make sure to teach them things that other girls would learn at her age. For example cooking, how to put on make-up, and how to dress for certain occasions. No one is gonna want to marry a girl who can't cook because her dead mom never taught her and her adoptive mom was too lazy to teach her. If the orphan is male teach him how to play sports, teach him about cars and how to fix them, teach him how to tie a necktie, teach him about finances. There is so much these kids need to learn. My aunt sells Avon and she never once showed my how to put on make up. She never let me go to prom. She never taught me about dating or what to wear on a date or how to act. She never taught me how to cook. The whole point of adopting or becoming guardian is to make their lives easier. So teach them things they will need to know for when they have a family of their own. The only thing my Aunt and Uncle taught me was how to drive and got me my first job so they could get me out of their house.
8. Let them make friends and spend time with other kids. I was sent to three different high schools after my mom died. The first move was because of location, the second was because she wanted me to go to a Christian school. When a teen goes from school to school they aren't going to make any friends. Also when you move them to a school where their grade has only 12 other teens in it they aren't going to make any friends. If you child is home-schooled make sure that they somehow learn social skills and are able to spend time with kids their own age. Otherwise when they grow up how will they find a spouse and start their own family? My aunt would have Bible study and my cousins found their wives from the Bible study. Even my sister found her husband at the Bible study that was held at my Aunt and Uncles home. But when it was my turn they stopped having Bible study. They didn't care if I was alone.
9. Never say you wish you had never adopted them. Never say that you can't wait until they are out of their house. This makes them feel terrible and very unwanted and unloved. I bet you can't imagine who said it to me.
10. Never give up. If it was your own child you would never stop loving them. Why stop loving the adopted child? Are you not mature enough as human being to take responsibility for your own actions? Are you just going to quit when things get difficult? Thats not what parents are. Parents never give up, they never stop loving, they try to understand, they are selfless instead of selfish.
I'm not sure at what point my Aunt and Uncle didn't want me anymore or what I did to make them feel that way. I just wanted to be myself. I just hope other orphans have better luck and I hope adoptive families will learn and take better care of their new family members.