The experience of creating a family through adoption can be an emotional rollercoaster. Those who haven’t been personally touched by this experience may be unaware of what adoptive parents go through. Most submit to grueling background checks- intrusive inspection of their finances, health, family, religious, and professional life.
Many families adopting domestically go through the vulnerable exercise of creating a profile and putting it out there, in hopes of being chosen by a pregnant mother who is creating her adoption plan. The emotional exhaustion of comparing yourself to other families is overwhelming on its own.
Most waiting adoptive parents have lived with uncertainty about whether the birthparents would change their minds.
International adoptions add another layer of challenges: language barriers, culture shock for parents and child, additional documentation, and travel expenses. Adoptive families often travel overseas to stay in country with their child before or during the adoption process.
The adoption process usually takes a long, long time and parents are completely relieved when they finally get their new son or daughter home, especially if everything is official. Right? Well… There is tremendous joy in becoming a parent or adding a child to your family, but the adjustment period is very similar to any new parenthood in that parents need to be surrounded with support and care. Also, like any new parent, adoptive parents need to let go of any ideas they have about being a perfect parent. Being a parent, through any route, can be extremely hard at times, and every parent has their moments.
Look to those around you for support, and don’t be afraid to make specific requests. (Print out this article for them, if you like!) Our family and friends are usually glad to be helpful. These are the things I have found to be needed in every house with a new child.
- Our bodies and souls are exhausted after the adoption process. We need nutritious food! Make us a meal. Drop it off, meet the new child, but don’t stay too long and have us feel like we need to entertain you.
- Don’t ask too many questions about the adoption and biological parents. We may feel obligated to tell you at first, but at the end of the day it is the child’s story to share if he/she chooses to in the future.
- Give us some bonding time with the new child. Take my older kids for a really fun-filled afternoon to a park, zoo, or science center and feed them healthy food or at least don’t give them a bunch of sugar and junk food and send them home wound up and with a tummy ache. If you don’t have a whole day to spend, just do something small, like take the “big” kids for a walk or play a board game with them.
- Help with laundry! New kiddos mean more laundry and this is usually the last thing to get done with all the attachment and bonding work going on in the home. Note, however, that if the laundry is really backed up, it is generally a bad idea to leave a load in the washer when you go.
- In the spirit of a baby shower, throw a “sip and see”. A sip and see is a party that is thrown after a child arrives home. Make it easy for friends to come and go as they please, snack on grab-and-go goodies, meet the child, and honor new parents without overdoing it.
- Come over and give the parents a two hour break to go out to a coffee shop or for a drink. We love our new child, but we need breaks like any new parents.
- Treat us like any other new family! We know our family wasn’t created the traditional way, but we are so happy to finally be a family!
These are the kindnesses that new families remember and appreciate forever. It’s easy to spend money on gifts but the things that really make a difference are the services for the body and soul described above. Most of your friends and family members don’t know what they can do that won’t be an intrusion. There’s magic in the fact that close friends and family realize “I could use a little help.”