5 Ways You Can Bless a New Adoptive Family (and 4 discussion topics that are off-limits!)

By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Buckner International

November is National Adoption Month, and we feel that everyone can celebrate – no matter whether your family is called to adopt or not. If you know an adoptive family, or a soon-to-be adoptive family, there are plenty of ways you can celebrate with them and help them as they transition.

1. Get excited for the family!
Adoption is something to celebrate. No matter how old the adopted child is or how many children the family already has at home, treat them the same way you’d treat a family who gives birth to a new baby.

“Bringing a child home through adoption is as joyful, if not more so, for the family as having biological children, and we want our friends and family to prepare with us and celebrate with us as they would for a biological child (shower, a card, etc.). My biological children have baby books full of cards that came when they arrived, along with many photos. My adopted child has two cards in his album. I worry that someday he will notice the difference and wonder why.”
- Lori Risinger Heinrich

“Be sensitive—if that family has had the child two years or two months or two days, the adoption day is still just as special.”
- Veronica Adkison Rountree

What you can do: Send a card, give a shower or hold a reception or small party. If you have a gift for photography, offer to take some family portraits.

2. Help around the house
When parents bring home a newborn from the hospital, they’re often met with lots of helping hands. Adoptive families need just as much help as parents of newborns! You can bless them by sharing some of your extra time and energy.

“We have friends that bring meals when we least expect it! They help so much when we are just trying to adjust with a new one!”
- Kara Guinn Curfman

What you can do: Bring over a home cooked meal, clean their bathrooms, do a load of laundry, mow their yard – anything that will give the family some relief from the pressures of daily life and more time to focus on bonding and adjusting.

3. Cut them some slack
Don’t expect a new adoptive family to be able to keep all the commitments they used to, no matter what age their new child is.

Mom and Dad are exhausted, and their child is learning how to live in a family, and even a new culture. Social situations can be overwhelming for everyone involved, and those obligations usually have to be put on hold until life at home settles down.

What you can do: Don’t be upset or hurt if calls or e-mails aren’t returned. Let it slide and know that life will return to normal eventually.

4. Listen, listen, listen
Adoptive families have unique challenges and struggles. Give them space to share frustrations and vent without feeling judged.

“I was thankful to have people who allowed me to pour out my heart without making me feel as if I had betrayed my child or didn't appreciate the incredible gift and blessing I'd been given. They gave me an outlet, which gave me the strength to be what my child needed as he learned to trust me.”
- Lori Risinger Heinrich

What you can do: Cry with the new family in the heartaches and celebrate with them in the triumphs. You may get tired of hearing the same problems over and over again, but the family needs your support and love.

5. Give Mom and Dad a breather
Many adoptive parents will hardly have time to think straight or sometimes even take a shower, much less any quality alone time to enjoy each other’s company.

“[What blessed me was] giving me a break and taking him to park as I was adjusting to parenthood. Just being there and loving our family as our lives changed.”
- Kari Forrest Hunt

What you can do: Come over and babysit for the new parents. If it’s too soon for the kids to be alone with a sitter, offer to come over after the children are asleep so that parents can take a short walk or have a coffee date.
Four Things That Should Be Left Unsaid:

1. Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice.
This is particularly true for parents who have adopted older children or foster children. If you haven’t parented a child who has lived through trauma, you can’t know what’s best for that child. Don't offer suggestions or advice unless they ask you for it.

2. Don’t ask about the child’s past.
“We are proud of [our son] and all he's overcome. We long to tell you EVERYTHING about what a miracle he is, but the story is our child's to tell, not ours. When the questions become prying and personal, it is very uncomfortable for us. We don't want to hurt your feelings, but for our child, we have to find a nice way to tell you it's none of your business.”
- Lori Risinger Heinrich

3. Don’t ask, “Which children are yours?”
Biological or adopted, it makes no difference. All of the children are theirs.

4. Don’t comment on a child’s appearance or ethnicity in front of him or her.
“If my child looks different than the rest of the family, chances are we've already noticed, and chances are he has too. Hearing constant comments about it does not help him to feel like he belongs.”
- Lori Risinger Heinrich

Do you have other suggestions for ways to bless new adoptive families? Leave them in the comments below!

To learn more about ways you can be a family through Buckner foster care and adoption, please visit www.beafamily.org.

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