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10 Ways to Help an Adoptive Family

Post-Adoption Family and Community Support

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  Written by Susan Serrano on 09 Jun 2016

You’ve finally done it! You’ve started the adoption process. You’re so excited to announce your joyous news to family and friends.

“How can we help?” they’ll ask. You have great friends, awesome in-laws, caring cousins….who may have no clue where to begin without a few specific ideas from you.

Here are some suggestions you may want to share with friends and relatives who are looking for ways to support you during the adoption process that will hopefully turn would-be bloopers into bliss for all concerned

Learn together

Invite your loved ones to learn the basics of adoption by accessing information materials from your agency’s website or RainbowKids. Help them avoid putting their foot in their mouth by sharing some information on positive adoption language. Encourage them to read a book about adoptive parenting. (The Connected Child by Karyn Purvis is a great one.) And don’t forget that learning can be fun, too: Ask them to join you in a cooking class to learn how to make dishes from your child’s native country. Or practice learning a few phrases in the language of your child’s birth country together.

By understanding a bit about the unique process, terminology and challenges of becoming a parent through adoption, they’ll be prepared to be the wonderful source of support that they want to be. 

(Gently) let them know what not to do

As you go along in your adoption process and the paperwork weariness starts to set in, you’ll likely develop your very own hot-button question: The one that secretly makes you crazy every time you hear it.

For many waiting families, it’s “When is he coming home?” or “Have you heard anything new?” Try to curtail the repeated questions by letting them know in advance how difficult the wait will be for you and assure them that you will keep everyone in the loop as important milestones approach.

When the child comes home

Another common area of concern that new adoptive parents often face occurs in the first weeks after their child comes home. They’re trying to keep things quiet and build trust and attachment with their child while fending off a small army of loving relatives who want to shower their new addition with hugs, food, toys and trips to Disneyland.

This is another area where you can be proactive. Talk to your close friends and relatives about how important it will be for your family to have some quiet time in the first few weeks after your child comes home. Let them know how happy you are that they’re excited, too, and that the opportunity for them to become your child’s favorite grandparent, aunt or cousin will come. You just need some time to bond with one another first.

Top 10 ways Friends and Family Can Help

10. Rake the leaves, mow the grass or shovel snow when a family is traveling to recieve the child and for the first couple of weeks home.

9. Offer to care for the family's pet and check the mail while they are traveling.

8. Clean the family's car or van, which will need some TLC too.

7. Bring over a casserole to make dinners easier.

6. Start a Meal Train

5. Make a donation to the family to help with adoption fees.

4. Offer to babysit the other children.  It will be awhile before the newly adopted child is ready to be away from mom and dad, but the siblings will be ready right away!

3. Don't bring lavish gifts for the new child or try to make yourself the child's favorite person. Remember the child needs to bond with the parents first.

2. Continue to call, text and visit even if the family seems withdrawn.  They'll be focused on the new child, but they'll appreciate that you're staying in touch and offering to help.

1. Don't expect the family to be perfect quickly.  Building trust and attachment takes time. 

Ask for help

Let them know when you need help. If you are comfortable talking about money and adoption expenses pose financial hurdles to your family, say so. Let your loved ones know that you would rather receive a cash gift to help out with adoption costs rather than a birthday or Christmas present this year. Or, consider asking your friends or church family if they would be able to help you organize a garage sale or other fundraiser.

And then there’s the time you travel for your child’s adoption. International travel is never stress-free; factor in the challenges of traveling with a child you just met and…well, you’re going to need some help. If you’re a single parent, let a trusted friend or family member know how much you and your child would benefit from having someone travel with you to be a support person during this beautiful-yet-exhausting adventure. And if you have other children who won’t be accompanying you on your adoption trip, you’ll need the help of your support team to care of them while you are away.

Once you are home, your newly enlarged family will need quiet and privacy, but you’ll also need an equal measure of help.

While you’re busy getting to know one another and settling in to a new family routine, laundry and dishes have a way of piling up. Let your friends and family know that you could really benefit from someone coming over to mow the grass/shovel snow, drop off a casserole, or help with the housework during the first few weeks after you arrive home.

Be specific

Most friends and relatives who offer a generic “if you ever need anything, just call me,” really do mean it; however, they can’t read your mind. With a few specific suggestions, you and your child will have an all-star support team and a much broader and deeper definition of family.

 




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