We have brought three kids home via adoption over the years and each one was completely different.  Our first was an infant just a few days old, our second was a 23 month old who spent her first 5 days in the hospital, and our last was a 4.5 year old that had just 10 days earlier experienced the earthquake in Haiti and then flew home on a military plane.  Three different kids, three different circumstances, and lots of different emotions.  I tell you all that so you realize that the things I’m about to say are my opinions and what has worked for us and lots of other people that I know.  I also hold true to the idea that it’s much easier to loosen your boundaries, then it is is to tighten them.  So if a family brings a child home and their requests and boundaries seem super strict and you don’t get it, well then you need to know a few things.  #1 it’s not your family so your opinion doesn’t count & #2 give them space and let them adjust and some of their boundaries will as well.

Here are my thoughts and opinions on how to help families as they adjust to their new family member.

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1. Leave the Child Alone

That seems harsh doesn’t it!  As friends and family you have journeyed alongside your friends for months and a lot of times years.  You feel a connection to their story and their new child  and you want to show that child and family how much you love them.  I get that.  It’s normal and a great attitude.  The hard part is that this family needs to be together and help this child establish a bond with them.  When I go to an airport homecoming I will hardly acknowledge the child.  Maybe a gentle high five or fist bump, but that’s it.  The child is taking a lot in, and the people that need my love and support are the parents.  The  love the child needs most in that moment is from the parents.  I mentioned earlier in the week that we were fairly strict about people holding our children when we brought them home, and it was so that we could build that bond with them that they needed desperately.  Respect the parents in this one.  They might be strict at first, but it won’t be that way forever.  Realize that you loving the parents is showing the whole family love.

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2.  Meals

Feed them!  If you have birthed a baby you know how impossible it feels to fix a meal for your family.  It’s the same way now and in some ways even harder.  Right now the family is concentrating on creating their family, and honestly people bringing the meals was one less thing we had to think about.  It helped us concentrate on our family time the most.  When you bring your meal, bring some staples as well.  Some treats for the kids, or some cereal for breakfast.  Everything is a blessing to them!  Once again, don’t overstay your welcome.  If they ask you to drop off your meal and leave, don’t be offended.  I remember times where Amos was losing his mind and I knew someone was coming over to bring a meal and I hated asking them not to stay, but we just didn’t have it in us to chat right then.  Some days are hard, and they might just need you to bring the meal in and run out.  No big deal.  Remember this isn’t forever.

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{boys meeting their sister for the first time on Oct 23, 2009}

3.  Other kids

Are you close enough to the family that you can take the other kids to the park every once in a while?  The other kids in the family will be going through a hard time as well.  It’s an adjustment on everyone in the family.  Just as I go pick up my friends daughter for a while because she’s busy with a newborn, you can do the same.  Offer to take them to church if the family isn’t going yet.  Offer to take them for ice cream on Friday.  Offer to pick them up from school for the parents.  Offer to take them to an early Saturday morning breakfast.  The family may be doing great and they might not need this, but what a help to get to spend one on one time with your new child.

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{My baby girl was so sick when she came home.}

4.  Babysitting & Special Treats

One of the best things we did was have people we loved and trusted come stay with our kids after they were all in bed so we could go on a date.  It means a late night because kids might not be sound asleep until 9pm, but it was worth it.  Just to sit at a table alone with Aaron was such a priority in those first few weeks.  We needed to connect if we were going to make it through this time.  If you are close enough with the family, what a great way to show them love by offering them this.

Another great thing would be letters and gift cards.   They will eventually be back to life and leaving the house, so how awesome would it be if the mom had a pedicure or hair cut or massage gift card ready to be used as soon as she feels like leaving the house to pamper herself.

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5.  Be gracious.

A friend told me once after she brought her girls home that she wished her friends and family knew that they weren’t ignoring them, but they were just trying to keep their head above water and survive.  If you send a friend a text of encouragement (which you should do often) don’t expect a response back.  If your friend forgets your birthday, show grace.  If you are calling and not getting a phone call back.  Show grace.  Lots of it.  For the first few months their live is chaotic and honestly you aren’t their first priority.

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6.  You don’t need to know

Another thing several moms have mentioned to me is how it’s awkward when people ask about their child’s story before they joined their home.  To truth is that people are just curious (heck I’ve done this before) and intrigued by your child’s story up until they joined your family.   Think to yourself if you would like it if everyone around you knew some of the most intimate and hard things about your life.  You wouldn’t like it one bit, and in fact you would feel uncomfortable and upset with whoever took it upon themselves to share your story without asking you.  That’s the same for kids as well.  You don’t need to ask them all the questions, because it’s none of your business.  There are parts of my 3 kids stories that no one knows and it will be up to them to share.

I feel like this list could be ongoing forever, and if you are an adoptive mom or dad, please leave a comment and add to this list.  Did anyone do something awesome that helped your transition?  Did someone do something that was not good?  Share with us so we can all learn!  

**Remember I’m not an expert, just a mom that’s been there done that 3 times.  These are just my opinions and other opinions from other moms that I asked.

 

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