This isn’t a post on how to feel butterflies and happy thoughts towards adoptive families, but how to action-verb “LOVE” them. Really LOVE them. But, to be honest, this list could be used to LOVE and support almost any family facing difficult journeys. (If you have ideas to add – things that have/would have helped you in your journey, I would SO love to know in the comments.)
It may seem so simple, but really it’s one of the most IMPORTANT and BIGGEST things you can do. Our God is MIGHTY. Pray for them…and write down your prayers and any insight that the Holy Spirit gives you. Send it to them. It’s one thing to to say “Oh, I’m praying for you.” in passing and quite another to actually take the time to send them the prayer you prayed or call them up and pray together. Honestly, I look back over prayers that friends have sent me in some of my hardest moments (in life, in general).
What can you pray for?
- Strength, patience, grace, and mercy
- God’s truth to be revealed and the schemes and lies of the Enemy to be shown for what they are.
- That their ears may be open to hearing the Living God, who will walk them through these trials
= That any siblings would face this new adjustment with love and grace and mercy and that God would cover them in His perfect love
……and, specifically for the child…..
- That God would heal wounds of rejection, abandonment, fear and mistrust.
= That their child will know and believe in the hope and love of our God and Jesus Christ
- That their child will trust in and receive his/her new family’s love and desire to help him/her heal
- That God would bind up all of the broken places in their heart
- Meals. Meals are HUGE. Get a group of friends together in honor of the family (along with a list of the family’s likes and dislikes regarding food) and have a Freezer Meal Party over the course of a couple of days (they could be spread out). Prepare (as a group) a bunch of ready-to-go frozen meals. (Many will be eager to help but not always available for the time you choose, so you can let them in on it by offering to let them contribute to the cost of the ingredients.) These meals will be GREAT months in, when the “meal trains” are no longer running, but the family REALLY still needs help. (If a family doesn’t have a deep-freeze, you could find someone to help out by storing the meals in theirs OR it could be a great gift.)
- Another GREAT way to help with meals is to set up a “meal train” (meal train.com). Basically, you set up days that they need meals and invite folks via Facebook or email and they sign up for different days to deliver food. It’s easy and fast. This has been SO helpful for us.
- Give gift cards to restaurants.
- When the family has been home for a bit and is no longer just in “surviving mode,” you could offer to come over to help prepare meals as they slowly begin to step back into preparing meals.
= Let them know if you are going to the store that week and ask them to just send you their shopping list. Or, if you are on your way to bring a meal, ask if they need you to pick up a couple of items on your way. (For us, this has been another HUGE one.) It can be hard to get to the grocery and everyone is just exhausted. It’s great to have someone who will go for you and get what you need and drop them off at your front door.
- Offer to pick up their laundry, wash it, and fold it and then bring it back. OR, offer to bring by their favorite treat (sweet tea and a cookie, frappucino, coffee, etc) when the kids go down for a nap and sit on their couch and talk while you help fold laundry. (It’s SO nice to be able to not lose touch with friends -and to have friends who are willing to do whatever it takes to slide into this new version of normal for a while AND help you in the process.)
- Again, offer to come by while the kiddos are napping or while mom is homeschooling or bonding or WHATEVER and bring a little treat for the parents and do the dishes in the sink.
- Go in together with some friends and pool some money to hire a housekeeper to come over once a week for 3 months to give the parents a break. (ASK your friends about their comfort level on this first. Some people would rather someone they know help. Others would prefer a stranger. Still others would be WAY TOO embarrassed.)
- If your skill is in organizing, offer to help do some light housework and a little organizing.
- One of the ways some of our friends loved on us while we were in Africa is by getting a key to our home and coming in to bless our home. They fixed a lightswitch, a couple of doorknobs, organized, decorated the boys’ room, and planted sweet surprises around the house. It was so exciting and amazing to uncover each surprise. They snuck body/hair care gifts, a few toys, organizing totes, wall art, etc. They did A LOT. And, we are STILL enjoying it!
- Offer to come over to mow their lawn.
- If their yard needs more TLC, get some teenagers and adults together for this special mission. You could paint things, weed, plant, trim, mow, and minor fix-ups to bless them.
- We welcome new babies by having baby showers, so why not have a blessing shower for the adoptive family? Before the child comes home, you could invite people over for snacks and drinks and collect gift cards and have a time of sharing stories and praying over the family.
- Another great idea that I have heard of (and LOVE!) is folks coming together and laying wrapped gifts out on tables. Then, after they had gone, the adoptive family goes in with their child. No people, no pressure. The family gets to “provide” for the child by physically going through the gifts with them (they will explain when appropriate these gifts were from folks who love them). Less risk of overstimulation. And, the gifts can be unwrapped as quickly or slowly as is deemed best.
- Sometimes we forget the other siblings. It’s sweet to give a little something to each child so they don’t begin to feel resentment or overshadowed.
- A date night in a basket or other little treat for mom and dad would be a great way to encourage and bless the parents who cannot leave the house like they used to.
Your Unique Talents
= One of our friends is a photographer and she blessed us by giving us a free photo shoot once our son came home. We had waited so long and we wanted a family photo as soon as we could with him finally in it!
= If you cut hair, maybe you could come to the family’s home and offer free haircuts WITHOUT them having to leave the house?
- If you paint, make jewelry, make candles, soaps, etc… maybe you could give a gift that would be a little bit of “happy” sunshine on a rough day?
- You do massage? You could offer a free in-home massage to the parents during the kids nap=time or even better, after bedtime. (How heavenly would that be?)
= If the family homeschools, you could offer to come over to help the siblings with their “classes” while mom works with her newest child.
- If you do nails, etc… you could offer a free gift for mom to have her nails done. Or, eyebrows waxed, etc.
*The idea is that we ALL have talents. These talents and gifts can be used to bless families… and it may be as simple as pampering adoptive when their self-care is at a place that looks close to non-existent as they triage all of the other needs of their adopted child, other children, and household. Be creative! They’ll love it!
- Be encouraging. Send handwritten notes, texts, copies of devotions that you feel they’d benefit from. Look them in the eyes and tell them “You are amazing parents. You are doing a great job.” If their life is blessing you by encouraging or inspiring you, TELL THEM! You don’t have to have the answers or advice… just let them know you think they are amazing and believe in them!
- Encourage them with God’s promises. Help fill them up. Use scripture, devotions, etc.
Offer respite care. Respite care is a very very special blessing. Often, respite care is for the families who are struggling 3 months and beyond. At 3 months, it may look like simply coming over to “man the house” after the kids have been put to bed so mom and dad can go out for an evening. After you’ve done it a few times, it may look like a full weekend. Respite care is simply offering parents a break in more challenging adoptions.
-Mark your calendar to offer respite care 3-4 months out.
- In order to be a good respite care provider, you should get to know the children (with mom and dad present) well beforehand. There should be a sense of trust there.
- Respite care is NOT a vacation time for the children. Generally, respite is only needed with their are significant challenges that are being worked through. –Which means, they need to stay on schedule, chores (if they have them) should still be done, and things should stay normal. This is not a time to “spoil” them or break a few “little” rules. Basically, at the end of the time with them, they should not want to go home to live with their respite care providers.
- All decisions and communication from the respite provider should affirm the adoptive parents to the child. Parents must clearly present boundaries and limits so respite providers can offer consistent care.
- If possible, provide respite in the children’s home in order to maintain as much of the structure and schedule as possible. There are times, however, when parents and other siblings may need quiet time at home; If so, the respite can happen away from home
- During respite care, cuddling the children is generally discouraged. Bonding and attachment is likely still a process for the parents and children and you don’t want to get in the way of that.
*If you are interesting in providing this type of care, let the parents know you are interested in partnering with them to provide a time of respite. Suggest full days or weekends to them. If they are brave enough to ASK for help, but you are unavailable, be sure to respond enthusiastically and offer up some FULL days/weekends that you are free so they know you are willing. Keep in mind, however, that this is NOT the same as babysitting. A couple of hours is rarely enough. Also, keep in mind that it’s hard to find someone who can be trusted to follow the guidelines of respite care, so if a family agrees to give it a go… it is a great HONOR and very special thing. On the other hand, if they decline, they may just not be ready. Don’t take it personally.
Please, if you choose one of these things off the list and offer it up but are politely turned down, don’t take offense. They may not be ready…or, they may not think they need help yet (or may have trouble admitting they do/accepting help), or perhaps they don’t need help in that way. If that’s the case, consider asking how you could help and even offering again later.
Finally, a note:
There are different types of support (hence, different types of supporters). Some of us feel more led to DO SOMETHING. Others of us are much better with words and praying. Still, others are GREAT encouragers.
Don’t feel like you must do ALL of these things to support and love on someone. However, if you know of a family that isn’t getting a whole lot of support…rather than you trying to be it all, maybe you could get your church or community or bible study group or book club involved? Together, maybe you could support as a team!
And for the ones who need supporting: if your friends and family aren’t being supportive, maybe they don’t understand your need. People don’t generally automatically understand (I didn’t before we were here) what it’s like. So, tell them. Ask for help. Be specific. And, THEN if there’s still nothing… THEN, maybe you need some new friends.
I HIGHLY recommend a support network. Best case scenario is that you’ve already built this network up before you need one, but sometimes that’s just not the case. In your support network, you need a number of people – and different types. First, you need your people who “get it.” These are the people who’ve been there, done that, and survived. People who are at the same stage as you are won’t always be able to support you. It’s hard to help someone float if you, yourself, are having trouble swimming. (So, look for people who have aspects of their stories that are like yours… If you are adopting trans-racially… if you are military and adopting…. adopting and homeschooling/public-schooling…adopting and have a large family…adopting because of infertility…adopting with parenting styles/discipline styles like yours, etc. You don’t need ONE family to reflect yours exactly, but several who share at least one facet.) Second, you need your listeners. The people who can listen and not over-share and who won’t judge you or offer advice. Third, you need people who will BE THERE…physically … to help you when you need it. These are those who show love by acts of service. They are the ones who will jump in and help with meals, cleaning, etc. Fourth, you need people who will have FUN and can make you LAUGH. –It may be laughing over a phone call, or getting out after the kids are in bed for an hour (on the back porch)… but, someone who can cheer you up is golden. Fifth… you need someone who will pray for you and pray hard. Someone who will remind you of biblical promises and hold your arms up when you are tired. You need several people in each category because the truth is, no ONE person can be all of this for very long.