Recently, my sister and her husband traveled to Colombia to adopt their new son. Serendipitously, their adoption matched up with our dear friends’ who are also adopting from the same country. In fact, both families traveled at exactly the same time and are each still in-country waiting for their respective adoptions to finalize. Exciting, right? It is. Super.
As I have followed their stories and Facebook posts over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been catapulted into my personal past. To an adoption of four Colombian siblings nearly 10 years ago. I can smell it. Taste it. Touch it. The days were long as we adjusted to our new life together. Bonding, language barriers, and pre-molded personalities took constant time and attention, especially the first two months home. Magical moments were there though, in the longness of the days.
Our friends and family were the ones that helped make those first weeks and months bearable. Their acts of kindness and support meant so much and made our adjustment period simply doable! Do you have a friend or family member adopting soon? Maybe they are already adopting or just came home with their new little one(s). Maybe you know someone who is considering adoption in the future. Let me share 6 ways you can offer your love and support in tangible, meaningful ways:
- Throw an Adoption Celebration. Yes, do this! If there is just one thing you do for an adoptive family, it should be this. It doesn’t matter if the child is a newborn or turning 15. Adoptive families already feel like a giant, school of fish out of water, especially those who are adopting a non-newborn. An adoption celebration helps the parents feel your love and acceptance and also helps the new child feel special and included. When our family threw an adoption shower for our first adoption, we felt the full love and support of everyone in our extended circle of influence. And it was super fun. I mean who doesn’t want to register for a family tent and Wii games?!? If you can’t throw a party or someone has already taken that job, put Welcome Home signs in their yard, send them a card of congratulations, have your children drop a token of friendship off to the new children. Big or small, do something to celebrate the beauty of adoption.
- Meals. Meals. Meals. Yeah, I know, the mom did not just come home from the hospital and she is not physically recovering from birthing a child. No, no, she is actually dealing with much harder things. A new, adoptive mom is busy integrating awkward, little people (and sometimes not so little) with all of their emotions and demands into an existing family structure. She’s also busy finding services, setting up appointments, registering for school, scouts, activities, etc. It’s kind of a lot and the last thing she is thinking about is eating or feeding her family. Whether you bring in fresh meals, bring over freezer meals for the future, or invite the family to eat at your house, they are not only a loving gesture of support, but they are also very needed for most new parents.
- Stock the Pantry. Can you imagine the new adoptive parents coming home from a long trip to another country with new children in tow? All they want to do at that point is sleep, hug their kiddos, and sleep some more. With our adoption, our friends had completely stocked our pantry the day we arrived home. We had milk, cereal, bread, fruit, and veggies packed in our fridge and pantry. I didn’t care about brands or types or even the level of healthiness, I was just so grateful to not have to go to the grocery store for a week. It was the kindest act of love and actually made a huge difference those first few days home.
- Make Yourself Available. Sometimes the new kids adjust easily. Sometimes they have a rough time. New moms and dads can be just as tired as when they are juggling 3:00 a.m. feedings. Taking over carpool for a few days, teaching a friend’s Sunday School class for a couple of weeks, or just letting the family know that you can pick up the slack with anything for a little while is another amazing way that you can support adoption.
- Don’t be Weird. Seriously! Be normal. An adoptive family’s life might be crazy for a short time while they adjust, but the biggest thing they need is to feel normal. If you leave them alone or stop inviting or act weird around the new kids, well, that’s exactly the opposite of supporting someone so just don’t do it. These kids aren’t going anywhere and they need love and support from their entire, new village. They don’t have cooties. They aren’t going to hurt your children. They are just normal kids who have lived a not-so-normal life and need others to help them understand what normal is. Their parents will let you know if an invite is too soon. It never was for us. We were so anxious to integrate the kids and have our friends fall head over heals for them. And they did. Quickly.
- Give Grace. Some adoptive parents may have rules or new ways of parenting that you have never seen before. They may be dealing with issues such as food hoarding, PTSD, indiscriminate attachment, etc. This means that they may not allow their children hug you or may not allow them to have certain foods. They may not let them play alone with your children right away. And the list goes on. This is not weird. This does not mean the children are bad. It only means they are learning boundaries where there may never have been none. They may be learning to love and attach for the first time. These are monumental tasks that come naturally to newborns, but are learned skills for anyone who was deprived early on. What can you do? Support new rules. Ask permission to direct the children or to help feed them etc? Sometimes it’s not a thing at all. When in doubt, ask! And as the new family learns as they go, show them copious amounts of grace.
All those years ago, in a house on Whistling Duck, our amazing friends and family didn’t miss a beat. They did all of the things mentioned here and more. My prayer for all adoptive families is that they have similar experiences. You can make a direct difference in how quickly and wholly these families adjust. We have several more friends heading off for adoptions over the next few months. Perhaps these ideas will help you navigate the sacred roles of love and friendship that are crucial in supporting adoptive families. I can guarantee one thing–It matters.