Hello AC family! So honored to have the opportunity to share a few ways to help you demonstrate your love for adoptive families. My husband and I have four young children. We are incredibly grateful that one of the ways the Lord grew our family was through adoption! Here are some of the ways our friends and family supported us and continue to support us now that our son is home!
- Take a Meal Probably the most obvious answer, but worth mentioning. Dinner time when my son first came home from Ethiopia was difficult. Dinner prep is hard in general with four kids five and under. Or one kid. Or ten! It’s just hard! Having a child who came home malnourished and likely had experienced fear over when he may have his next meal, initially took the difficulty of dinner time to the next level. A friend set up a meal train for us and WOW! I had no idea how much we needed that! When dinner would show up, I would frequently shed tears of gratitude. The ease of having my family come to the table for a warm meal that required no prep on my part was a huge blessing. It might have felt like an insignificant way to help, but it truly made our home much more peaceful and reduced dinner time stress tremendously. It also gave me more free time to bond with my son throughout the day when I normally would be in the kitchen.
Note: depending on the family and their adoption, it can be overwhelming for the adoptee to have different people bringing meals nightly. One thing that helped us was having a cooler by our front door. Friends would drop the meal off in the cooler and text me to let me know it was there. This helped reduce the stress on my adopted son as we tried to keep his world small during his first few weeks/months home.
Consider how EASY it is to order food delivery through different delivery services (post mates, grub hub, uber eats). Less than ten minutes to order, pick a delivery time, and pay without leaving your house. I love 2019! If making a meal would be difficult, having a meal from a restaurant delivered is just as helpful (and honestly, such a treat for a family in a season when eating out is difficult). One of the sweetest moments post adoption was when a friend texted me long after my meal train was complete to tell me she was having lunch delivered to my home that day. That simple gesture meant the world. That day in particular I needed to be reminded that I was not alone, that the Lord sees me, that He is near, and that meal reminded me of that truth.
*Side note – Meals are so great, but I also love a latte! It can be such a treat on a hard day. Several friends dropped off specialty coffee drinks on my porch and I felt so loved and supported in those moments.
- Mow the Grass This is from my husband. Ha! It's another simple way to love on an adoptive family. My son was 2.5 years old when he came home. The best way for us to bond and grow a trust-based relationship with him was by time together. So things like mowing the grass, laundry, cleaning the house, running errands, and picking up groceries took away from the time we could be together. A simple offer of mowing the grass means so much! I also had friends who came over at night to fold laundry and play games with my older kids so my husband and I could focus on our adopted son. Some friends even picked up our big kids several times and took them somewhere fun for a few hours. That helped my older kids feel loved and special in a season of big transitions.
- Ask About Boundaries Since our son was a little bit older when he came home, we had to put boundaries in place early on for who could hold him, feed him, care for him, etc. We wanted him to know that we were his parents and that we would always nurture him and provide for him. He had many different care-givers in the orphanage so this concept of parents was very new for him. We are pretty laid back about most things, so we chose not to make a big announcement about our boundaries. But we did appreciate when people would ask about ways to interact with our son. We became huge fans of friends and family just simply giving him a “high five” during that season.
Note: Always try to be conscious of the way you talk about the adopted child or what questions you ask, especially in front of the child. Most adoptive parents are pretty selective about who they share their child’s story with since we believe it’s our child’s story tell. The most respectful thing is to let the family share what they feel comfortable sharing and leaving it at that. When talking about adoption with the family, be mindful of not asking questions like “how much did the child cost” or comments like “he’s so lucky to be in your family” or “you saved his life." These comments typically come from someone not super familiar with adoption and not from a place of malice. However, they can hurt an adopted child's heart if they hear these phrases as they get older.
- Be Present Adoption is beautiful. It is such a time of rejoicing but it also comes with hardship. It comes from a place of brokenness and it is a long journey of healing. God can take what was broken and hard and do the beautiful and redemptive work of providing a family for the fatherless. There are a lot of ups and downs on this journey. Personally, the most important thing was to not feel alone. When someone gets sick or has a baby, we all flock to help initially, but it is easy to move on with our daily lives without much thought to the continued needs that could arise after all of the excitement dies down. What has meant the most to me over the past year was the friends that continued to check in, that continued to ask if I was ok, that continued to ask how our son was adjusting. I went through a period of loneliness after my son came home. I am an extrovert to the extreme, and that season of trying to hunker down at home along with some of our other family circumstances have really changed some aspects of our life that were once a big part of our norm. I love our new normal, but with that said, keep checking on your adoptive friends. Even if they say they are ok, ask them again and again. Look for continued ways to love on them and provide some respite care or a meal or their favorite drink from Starbucks months and years after that child has come home. It is needed and they will be forever grateful.
- Celebrate As an enneagram 7, I love to celebrate all the things and am always looking for a reason to have a party. Ha! Adoption should be celebrated! For most families, adoption comes after an intense period of waiting and when that waiting ends with a child now being in their forever family, that is always worth celebrating! Have a baby shower for your friends if they are ok with it! Drop diapers off on their porch (or clothes or other needed items if an older child). Make a welcome home banner that is hanging on the porch (like our sweet neighbors did) for them to see when they arrive home. Greet them at the airport with balloons and signs if they are up for it. Celebrate what God has done in setting the lonely in a family (Psalm 68:6).
Christine lives with her husband and 4 children (1 through adoption) in Spring Hill, TN where her husband serves on the staff of a local church. She is a nurse in the greater Nashville area and in her free time she likes to have a party;)