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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

.How to {Really} Help Adoptive Parents.

I have been thinking about this a lot.

I will write about Jamesy's appointments soon (probably tomorrow). I am still processing everything that was thrown at us. Overall we walked away at peace and feeling very positive - praise God! Your prayers were felt and very much needed (and are still needed but more on why to come).

So you have friends who adopted or people in your church who adopted and you want to help? What do you do? I have a few ideas. {wink}

  • Pray for the family. {Really} pray. Ask the family specifically what battles need to be prayed over, because there are battles, real, hard, scary at times, battles. Then let the family know that you are praying for them, for the redemption in their child, for the siblings who are experiencing huge changes in their world, for healing, for the unification of their family. Be specific rather than just saying I'm praying for you. Prayer will be honey to their hurting hearts.

  • Celebrate with the family. Adopting a child is just as special as birthing a child, so act like it. Send congratulatory cards, buy a small gift for the child if you would like, do whatever it is that you would do to show any other family that was adding to their home, that you get how special the life of this child is to their family.

  • Cook meals for the family - especially when they first bring their new child home. It's hard to even explain what those first few weeks and months are like - especially if jet-lag is in the mix.. It is not like bringing a birth child home. It's just not. It's normal for adopted (especially internationally adopted) children to have major sleep issues - which brings about very little sleep for the parents. And many of these children are not newborns who sleep during the day giving their parents that much needed reprieve. A fresh, hot, thought-out meal could mean the world to a family hanging by a thread. Even a lukewarm, day old casserole would be a welcome sight on most days.

  • If the family is not cocooning or done cocooning invite them over for dinner, for normalcy. Let them see that you support them and that you are in the whole process with them, you are fighting beside them. And if the dinner is not normal, because things seldom are right after adoption, be okay with that, roll with that, merge into the family's new rhythm. If the family seems a bit dysfunctional, a bit more needy, just love them all. Just empathize as you can. Just smile and hug them.

  • If the family is working on attachment and therefore needing to do things that look different and odd - especially in the church setting, then welcome them, acknowledge them and their child, give them grace when their child squeals for the umpteenth time in the middle of the church service. Support the attachment process. Shoot a stressed out dad or mom a reassuring smile.

  • Unless you have adopted, or deal with counseling severely traumatized children, or are a social worker and have dealt with adoption, don't offer parenting advice. And don't judge when parenting is way different then what you did with your birth children. Grace.

  • Invite the siblings over for a play date. Their world has completely shifted, and ostracizing them just makes everything even more confusing. Play dates in the adopted families home will probably be sparse for awhile as there is no guarantee how any given day will play out, but the siblings still need to interact with their friends. And it is very awkward for an adoptive family to have to invite their children over to your home. They probably won't do it. Or take school age children to school and pick them up again, or take them for ice cream, or to the park. Let the parents spend a few moments alone with their new child without feeling guilt for neglecting the siblings.

  • Help with yard work. Pull weeds, mow the lawn, shovel the driveway. Maybe even offer to wash a load of laundry. All of these things distract from the intricate bonding process, that is so vital the first few months and even year, that is happening inside of the home.

  • Be a friend. A genuine friend. Use the phone. Check in on the family. Send a card. Listen. Really, really listen to the struggles, the battles, and ask good questions that show you understand and are really invested right along with the family. Don't expect everything to be normal and rainbows and roses, and be okay with that. Sneak the mom or the dad out for coffee or a walk - just a moment to get away, to breathe, to laugh together, to celebrate the victories, and cry over the battles that remain. Just be there. Having someone who will listen and not judge is an amazing gift. The neediness will not last forever.

  • Allow the family to freely express frustration, discouragement, hurts, fears. Give the same grace you would give parents of newborn birth children. Yes, adoptive parents chose this path, but it doesn't mean it will be easy, or that they need to pretend it is.

  • Even if you don't get adoption, if you don't get what the family is going through - smile anyway and give the family a hug. Kindness goes a long, long way. And maybe fake it until you make it. The family probably already knows you don't get it. Actions are loud, but faking it just may show the family that you are at least trying.

  • I am sure there are many others that can be added to this, so feel free to add them in the comments.


    PS the photo from the last post was fruitflies, and my homemade trap. Ick.


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