Not everyone is called to, or able to adopt or foster--and that's OK! But everyone can do something to support the families and individuals who open their hearts and homes to children in need of love and care. Here are 5 practical ways you can support families who have adopted.
1. Celebrate Appropriately
When thinking of a celebration we tend to lean toward a large gathering or party surrounded by gift-bearing friends and family. While large parties are an option, they can often be overwhelming for the child(ren). Talk to the parents before planning any sort of gathering to ensure you are celebrating in a way that is meaningful and appropriate for their family. An alternative way to celebrate is by coordinating with other family members, neighbors, or church members to organize a “Welcome Basket” that includes family-building activities, a meal, and other items the family can enjoy together.
2. Recognize the New Family as a Whole
An adoption brings changes for everyone in the family and it is important that no one feels left out or unimportant. This is why in #1 we encourage family activities rather than gifts directed at only one child which can sometimes lead to resentment. Avoid using labels to refer to children as “real” or “adopted” to help recognize the new family as one.
3. Offer a Break
Parenting is a full-time gig and sometime we all need a break. Whether it be an overnight getaway or a couple hours of childcare to allow a parent to run child-free errands or have some “me time”, offering your time can be a huge blessing! A break may also be a "break" from everyday chores or responsibilities that require their time and and attention. For instance, if you grocery shop every Tuesday, offer to pick-up the family's grocery order while you're out. Something as simple as offering pick-up a child from an after school activity can be a big help.
4. Bring a Meal.
The evening dinner time rush can be exhausting. The kids are tired from school and parents are worn out from work, but dinner must be served. Dropping off a kid-friendly meal (think pizza, spaghetti, or mac n’ cheese) is a great gesture that not only takes away some of the hectic day-to-day stress of parenthood, but also allows parents to spend more time focused on connecting with their child(ren).
5. Listen and Offer Non-Judgmental Support
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again, parenting is hard. When a parent trusts you enough to open up about their hard days, respond in ways that are helpful & supportive. One of the best things you can do is provide a listening ear for a parent to vent their frustrations and struggles without the fear of judgement. A tough day doesn’t mean a parent regrets their decision to adopt. Remember that parenting is also a never-ending learning process for the parent and no two children are alike. Techniques that work for one child may not work for the other and comments such as, "You really need to get him/her under control." or "You shouldn't allow them to do ____." can be hurtful and may prevent the parent from feeling like they can come to you in the future. Some helpful and supportive ways you can respond are by helping them remember a fun or humorous moment with their child, point out strengths and great qualities that YOU see in their child, offer a break, and remind them that you're there to listen whenever needed.