What Adoptive Families Need When They Bring Their Child Home
The adoption process can be long and strenuous for many families. Adoptive families need support throughout the entire process as they fundraise, discern when/if to accept a match with their child(ren), throughout the waiting period, and finally when they bring the child home.
As an adoptive mom, I can attest to how much we benefitted from having a community rallied around us throughout the process. I think before the child comes home, it is easier to communicate needs, and they are a lot more basic in the sense of praying for financial needs to be met, praying for the safety and health of the child, praying for the court system, travel, etc.…
But once the waiting and fundraising are over and the child comes home, everything changes. As we approach the one-year mark of bringing our daughter home, I wanted to share five ways you can help adoptive families when they first bring their child home.
1. Bring the family meals
It doesn't matter if the adopted child is an infant or 12 years old, meals are a huge help. I've heard people comment that adoptive moms don't give birth; therefore, they aren't recovering and are capable of making meals. Sure, that may be the case, but what people don't realize is how exhausting and difficult it is for the entire family at first.
Our daughter was 10, and we were all getting less than four hours of sleep a night for the first several weeks. In the beginning, days are filled with a lot of emotion and recovery from a rather traumatic season of transition. Families also usually have doctors' appointments and social workers visiting within those first few days. Having meals at the end of the day is a huge blessing!
2. Don't confront the child and ask how they're adjusting or if they like it here
The adopted child is likely in a completely new environment; A new state or country, new family, new home, new surroundings, and new people everywhere they go. And the child had no say in it. So, a stranger asking them how they are adjusting or if they like it here can be very uncomfortable for them.
Even if you are close friends to the family, you're still a stranger to the child until they get to know you. Don't ask personal or invasive questions. Though adoption is often a very good thing for a child, it doesn't always feel that way to them, especially at the beginning.
3. Treat the parents the same as you did before they brought the adopted child home
Just because a family adopted a child doesn't mean you have to start treating them differently. They're still the same people, just going through a big transition. Don't make everything about the adopted child. Pursue the family as you did before. It's ok to ask how life is in other areas besides how the child is adjusting.
Families need a break from the adjusting and still want a sense of normalcy in their life while they're going through a significant transition period. If friends only ask questions about the adoption, it can be overwhelming and feel like that is all people care about, even though it is well-intended. Adoptive parents don't want to feel like they are being interrogated about their child and the adjustment period.
4. Don't compare the adoptive family's experience to yours with your biological children… it's different
Sometimes adoptive parents will want to vent. What they need in those instances is someone to listen to and affirm them. If you continuously say things like "my child did that" or "that's so normal," it will make the parents what to shut down. The reality is, though your child is the same age, or acted similarly, your biological child had the entirety of their life to securely bond to you and learn to trust you.
An adopted child has trauma in their past and has to form a new secure attachment to their new parents. It takes a lot of time for this to occur, especially for older children. Adopted children don't have a history with their new parents that tells them they're safe, loved, and can trust. Many basic parenting methods need to be different because of this, and adopted children respond differently due to their past.
5. Respect boundaries the family puts in place
Adoptive families have a reason behind their actions. If they tell you to only get their child one gift for Christmas off of a specific list, then do that. There is a reason! If families say, they can't come to things because their child gets overwhelmed in a new setting or big crowds… respect that!
It doesn't matter how well the child appears to be doing, in your opinion. The truth is there is a lot you don't see or understand. Adoptive parents have to learn about their child, figure out their needs, and how to best meet them. Give them space to do this and respect them in the process.
Adoption impacts families differently because every child is different and comes from different circumstances. It can be a lonely process for adoptive parents. Remember to love on these families, respect their boundaries, listen to them, and affirm them. There is a lot you don't see from the outside. For the privacy of the child, many of the hard things going on shouldn't be shared with most people. You can read more about the importance of protecting an adopted child’s story here.
By doing the five things listed above, you will be able to provide excellent support to adoptive families when they first bring their child(ren) home!