How to Help an Adoptive Family
A month after welcoming our toddler son home, I sobbed to my Bible Study sisters, “We prayed for this for the past year. Remember? We really wanted this adoption to happen!” Did I regret adopting again or not expect the difficulty? Absolutely not. It’s similar to childbirth. You know it’s going to hurt for a while but the pain leads to joy. I was overtired, missing my comfort zone, and feeling inadequate to meet this little boy’s needs as well as the needs of the rest of my family.
As God has built our family through birth, adoption and through fostering I can say that each has its unique set of challenges. After going through childbirth I needed to heal physically but after welcoming a child through adoption or fostering there have also been great adjustments. Older children and/or children from another country have emotional pain to deal with. The children grieve the loss of their home, even if it is a rundown orphanage. The adoptive family grieves the routine they had before welcoming a new child. Siblings grieve the loss of attention from their parents. Toddlers and older children don’t sleep round the clock like a newborn, they are trying to establish their territory and are scared or confused. They need parents within sight but may push away and scream when held. It is an overwhelming time for everyone involved.
How can you help a family who has recently added a child through adoption or foster care?
- Understand their need to close the doors for awhile. Social gatherings and public places are overwhelming to an adjusting child and exhausted parents. Bonding is a full-time job and all other exterior responsibilities need to be minimized. Finding 10 minutes alone to shower is a monumental task and the thought of dealing with meltdowns in public can be downright daunting.
- But knock on their door (after calling ahead!) with a meal, gift card, an offer to mow the lawn or take home laundry. Help is needed just as much (we found needed more!) when bringing home an older child as when having a newborn. The entire family needs extra time and attention.
- Invite the other siblings over for a play date or sleepover. Their world has been turned upside-down! With our last son, we juggled bedrooms and everyone ended up with a new roommate. The older kids have been frustrated by the toddler invasion and need a break from tantrums, messes, and diapers.
- Come and play with the kids so Mom can enjoy a nap (especially if jet-lagged), spend time with a child one-on-one or catch up on some chores.
- Help create ‘bonding moments’ with the new child. Babysit the other siblings so the new parents can take their new son or daughter to a movie or shopping. Or give a gift card to the local mini golf course and pizza place and give the entire family a chance to make new memories together.
- Volunteer to come and stay with the kids after they are in bed so Mom and Dad can go out for coffee or a walk alone. It may be too disruptive to have a sitter so they can go out for the evening but they still need a little time alone. After the kids are sleeping will cause less disruption.
- Extend grace for a last-minute cancellation of plans, forgotten responsibilities (really? I signed up to bring treats for today?), and lost conversations (you told me that 5 minutes ago? I’m so sorry!).
- Have a good camera? Take some family photos or individual candid shots as a gift to the family.
- Listen with compassion, even when you are tired of hearing the same frustrations. Give a hug or a laugh. Celebrate the happy and funny moments.
You can make a difference in a child’s life by loving their new family!
Editor’s Note: What are your ideas? How can you help a family in your local community today?
This is so insightful. As a member of the Sandwich Generation – caring for my 99-year-old grandmother and helping frequently with the care of a 29-month-old nephew, I could totally relate to the challenges and stresses described here. You have beautifully captured a range of emotions and needs. Your suggestions will hopefully enlighten many and cause more people to get involved in supporting families who are experiencing these challenges firsthand. God bless you!
You are in a unique situation, Debbie. What have others done to help your family? Or what do you wish others would know you need help with? I would love your insight!
Being a foster parent for almost two years and having 8 different children come through our doors, a big help to us has been clothing when they come into your home with nothing. Our foster son that we have right now, came to us with only the clothes on his back. A dear friend of ours brought him clothing that her grandson had out grown. Had many others offer clothing!! What a blessing.
As a foster parent don't be afraid to ask for help, we have found that most people would love the opportunity to help out!
Amen, Alison! When a child comes into your home you don't have time to go shopping (or the money, many times!). One friend also gave us baby toys and gear since we were out of that stage. Some friends threw me a baby shower they planned within 2 hours right after we found out we were getting a baby. Thanks for sharing!
The basics: laundry, meals, and clean toilets. Also is wonderful to have a truly sympathetic listening ear, which is no small task for a non- adoptive person. It is so comforting however.
I agree! A friend willing to listen can be a huge help. did you actually find someone to clean your toilets, lol? thanks, Victoria!
Meals were a big plus offered to us by so many people. We loved the generous hearts for that! The time we spent just becoming acquainted with our foster boy was so consuming that supper time came so suddenly. Clothing was also offered to us, plus he is still in diapers, a couple gave us two big boxes of diapers and wipes. They also supplied us with a grocery gift card. They also were very thoughtful to us as a couple and gave a gift card for a restaurant for a time out as husband and wife. That is a big need to just get out! Even to volunteer to babysit so we can get out is a good one too! Helping families who are fostering or adopting is such a great ministry in itself. Thanks to all who have helped us so far!! And don't forget the most important part of it all….PRAYER! So much prayer for patience and understanding doesn't end at the first week or month. It is a continued need.
Wow, Katie! You are very loved 🙂 And so true: "Helping families who are fostering or adopting is such a great ministry in itself." Hopefully your story will motivate others to help foster/adoptive families around them!