Holt adoptee Qiulan Henderson shares some advice for adoptive parents about how they can build a strong and loving relationship with their child.

My name is Qiulan, which means “autumn orchid” in Chinese.  I was born in China, and I came to America three years ago when I was 10.  When I was first adopted, I was so scared because I didn’t know what it would feel like to live in America and be in a family.  Now I know I am safe and loved, but it is still hard, and even now I feel like I am still learning what it means to be in a family and to trust.

I am learning many things about America, including the way that parents raise their children.  I have tons of ideas for parents that I want to share, so maybe I can help parents understand their newly adopted child and I can help a child who is being adopted.  I know what it feels like to be adopted, and I have a lot of empathy for newly adopted kids.

First, listen to your child’s heart, dreams and wishes, because kids need parents who will encourage and support them and believe in their dreams.  Kids can feel your heart.  Make a strong connection between your child and yourself by being together.  Spend time together and try new things — let the child pick an activity they would like to do even if it’s something you’re not interested in.  Do it for the love of your child.

Be gentle and understanding with kids when they do something wrong — remember it takes time for them to learn things they need to know.  When your child first comes to your family they will be afraid, even if they act like they are not scared.  Help them trust you by showing them love and know that it takes time.  Some day, your kids will feel like you are their true mom and dad.

Respect your child.  Respect their fears and respect their past.  The past is the child’s to share with others.  Do not pressure your child to tell their past.  Trust is very important.

Food is important too.  Kids still deserve to have food they like.  They can try new foods, but let them also have food they like from their birth culture.  I still like to cook Chinese food almost every day.  I love it when I get to go to the Asian market!

It is important to keep a connection with your child’s friends from their birth country.  It is very important to keep a connection with a child’s foster siblings too.  I keep in touch with some of my friends and my foster sister from China (they are adopted too).  It is like having my best friends back — in my new life.  We connect by Facebook, Facetime, Snapchat, texting and Instagram.  I get to go visit some of them including flying on an airplane to see my foster sister!  Whenever I feel sad or lonely there is always someone there for me.  We talk together in Chinese and English and it helps me still be able to speak Chinese now.

Keep everything your child comes with when they are adopted — little things might be very special.  You might think something looks old, but to your child it might be very important.  It might hold a special memory and getting something new doesn’t make it better.  It makes the child sad.

Please look to your child’s future and show your love.  Let them know you will love them forever no matter what.  Help make their dreams come true and remember that as parents you are teaching your child how to be a loving parent some day.  Make the best of life, full of good memories.

I wish all of you good luck in becoming a family!  Go find your future and your happiness, keep encouraging your child even during hard times and never give up on each other!  It takes time!  You will get there!

Qiulan Henderson | Portland, Oregon

Qiulan’s mom, Shila, has also shared her thoughts and advice about building a strong relationship with older adopted children. Read a story she wrote shortly after Qiulan came home in 2012 and here to read Shila’s Holt Magazine feature from Spring 2014.

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