It is common for families to have fundraisers while in the adoption process because it is typically quite expensive. Participating in those can be a great way to help a family as they work toward bringing their new child into their home. But then what? Once they are together and settled and figuring out life, how can we help? Here are five easy ways to show love and support to a family who has recently adopted:
I am passionate about feeding people. Jesus fed people. We all know about feeding the 5,000 and the Last Supper, but my favorite Bible food moment is in John 21:1-14. John tells a story of Jesus making breakfast for His disciples after His resurrection. He knew a big way to comfort and love them was by giving them food. Food keeps us alive, strengthens us, and is deeply enjoyable and social.
Just like when a newborn comes home, parents who have adopted a child of any age love the support of meals! Maybe the new child is older, so you don’t envision the parents having sleepless nights, but they will still greatly appreciate meals (and there is a good chance that they are missing out on sleep no matter how old their child is!). Providing food shows that you are thinking of them, and it is one less thing for them to do as they adjust to this new life. Ask about food allergies or restrictions ahead of time. Consider preparing food that can easily be reheated or frozen so that the family has the option to eat it at a later date.
When we first brought our son home from China, I had a friend who would come to my house and just put things in the freezer. Some days, I could manage to make dinner. Other days, I opened the freezer and saw her blessings all wrapped in foil and labeled with instructions. Cue tears of joy and relief. While you’re at it, don’t forget breakfast. If you have a great breakfast casserole or muffin recipe, that will be just as appreciated as dinner, if not even more!
Offering childcare can be a mental health lifesaver. You must be comfortable with any potential special needs of the child and the parents need to be willing to allow this to work. In the early days with our son, I did not allow anyone else to watch him while we were in the “cocooning” phase. Cocooning is essentially staying together as a family almost all the time so that the child knows who his family is and that his parents are special and different from other adults. But eventually, I was confident that he had learned to recognize me as mom and that I could leave him with someone else for a few hours. When I had friends who were willing to watch my children, I did things like take a nap, take a shower, or grab a cup of coffee. Simple things that absolutely changed my entire state of mind during some tough days.
Another way to help is by offering to watch other children. Many times, newly adopted children have multiple medical appointments. If the family you know has other children, you can offer to stay with them during those appointments, so the parents aren’t having to drag everyone around everywhere.
We all need prayer. Adoptive families especially appreciate prayer about their new child bonding with the family, adjustment for all family members, and any specific needs their child may have. Children from other countries often have medical or developmental concerns. Prayers for birth families and how to navigate tough conversations are always good. You do not need to know everything about the child to pray genuinely. God knows every detail, and you can offer up prayers of healing and love without knowing the child’s background. Every adopted child has gone through loss and trauma, so you can always pray about those issues. Asking the parents how you can pray specifically is welcome, but keep in mind that they will likely protect their child’s story.
However, while you don’t need to pry about questions regarding the child’s specific situation, be encouraged to ask questions and learn about adoption! Adoptive parents typically love to talk about adoption. We can talk about domestic versus international, special needs, Hague versus non-Hague, requirements, home studies, cocooning, and on and on. There is so much depth to the adoption world, and we often love to educate others. Ask your questions. It is okay to admit ignorance if you are willing to be corrected. If you ask, “What do you know about his real mom?” and I tell you that I am his real mom and who you mean to ask about is his birth mom, don’t be upset! You are learning, and so am I!
Keep in mind that these questions are not for gossip’s sake. There are parts of my son’s background that I will not share with you. That has nothing to do with you. It is his story to tell, and I will protect that. But I do appreciate you asking and wanting to know more about adoption, orphans, foster care, and how you can best love adoptive families. That kind of curiosity can change the world.
4. Teach Your Own Kids
In addition to your learning process, educate your own children. Teach them what adoption means. If you don’t know the right words to use, ask your friends who have adopted if they have any guidance; you can be sure they do! Teach your children that there are hard things in the world and that we serve a God with a redemptive plan. Let them know that there is no difference in how adopted children are a part of the family and that they are loved exactly the same way. Teach them, through your actions, to speak with grace and loving curiosity and to be supportive people.
Proverbs 22:6 says, “Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” When your children learn to love family, love adoption, and love our children, we feel accepted, and future generations will reap the blessings of that love.
This one is easy! Tell adoptive families that what they are doing matters. Verbally encourage them and cheer them on. Listen when they need to vent or express their fears. Make sure to tell them that they are doing the good work, that they are changing lives and sharing the gospel through their actions, and that it isn’t wasted just because this week may have felt like it all fell apart. Speak biblical truth over them, such as Deuteronomy 31:8: “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Or John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” Everyone needs a friend who helps pick them up and reminds them of the important race they are running. Be that kind of friend.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/zimmytws
Megan Moore is a military spouse and mom of 3 (through birth and adoption). A speech-language pathologist by training, she now spends her time moving around the country every couple of years. She is passionate about special needs, adoption, and ice cream.