Tips for Supporting New Adoptive Families

Adoption involves couples opening their lives and hearts to children who need forever families. However, successful adoptions require the support of a community that is far larger than the adoptive couple. Family, friends, social workers, adoption agencies, support groups, and religious groups all play a part in helping an adoptive family successfully adjust. As someone who loves an adoptive family, there are a number of things you can do to provide meaningful support and encouragement.

adoptive family

Provide practical help.

The adjustment period that occurs after an adopted child joins their forever family is much like that which occurs when a new baby is born. For instance, even in older child adoption, the child must bond with their new family. This takes a great deal of time and interaction. Challenges (such as dealing with emotional trauma) may consume a family’s resources. Routines must be established, taking up even more time and energy. As a result, adoptive families may experience exhaustion or struggle to find time to complete basic chores and housecleaning.

Because of the challenges presented by the adjustment period, one of the best ways for you to support adoptive families is to provide them with practical help. This help will probably take the form of bringing them meals, cleaning their home, or running errands for them. Even if they do not ask you for this type of support, take the initiative to offer it to them. By doing so, you give them the precious time they need to bond with their child, figure out routines, and give their children the emotional and physical support that is so critical during this period.

 

Give adoptive couples community.

While adoptive families need practical support in the form of meals, housecleaning, errands, etc., they also tend to have deeper needs for socialization that you can help to meet. Adopting a child often results in families spending lots of time at home in the first weeks and months. They need this time to bond with their child and to establish new routines. However, this time can also lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness for parents, who miss the family and friends they used to see regularly.

During this time, you can provide adoptive families with meaningful support simply by staying in touch with them. Do not be afraid to text them encouragement or to call them up to see how they are doing. Take the time to initiate visits or arrange to take them out for a few hours of shopping, coffee, or another fun activity. Adoptive families have testified that these gestures of love and friendship provided them with a lifeline of community to which they could cling during even the hardest periods of adjustment with their adopted children.

Spend time with older children.

Sometimes, adoptive families have older children who also need support once their sibling comes home. These children need the same love and support they required before the adoption, but their parents’ time may be stretched thin by the demands of adjusting to the newest child. Older children may also feel left out if the sibling is the recipient of gifts and attention that they do not receive.

As a result, another way that you can support an adoptive family is to spend time with the older children. For instance, you may be able to take them out for a day of fun. You could bring gifts that all of the children can use (for instance, art supplies) instead of bringing gifts just for the new child. You might also be able to allow older children to participate in making dinner for the family or in doing some other activity. By doing so, you give the parents a break while reassuring the older children that they are still a valuable part of the family.

SEE ALSO: Tips for Helping Children Process Their Adoption

Respect boundaries.

Finally, when supporting adopting families, take the time to learn about and to respect any boundaries they have in place for after their child comes home. For instance, because it is so critical that the child and parents bond, adoptive couples may prefer that you not touch their children. This means that you should not initiate hugs, kisses, or other contact until you have the permission of the parents. This boundary keeps children from becoming confused regarding who they should bond with and helps them begin to learn that they do not have to submit to any unwanted contact. Another potential boundary is that the adoptive families may want to be the only ones to feed their child, at least in the beginning. Doing so allows them to bond with their children more quickly. Some families may not want you to bring gifts for the child, because children who have never had many possessions may be overwhelmed by too many presents. As a result, check with the family before providing gifts, food, or physical contact with the adopted child, and respect their wishes. By doing so, you will be able to offer a supportive and helpful presence in their new life as a forever family.

Supporting adoptive couples through infant adoption, older child adoption, international adoption, or embryo adoption requires you to find meaningful ways to offer encouragement and help. By providing practical support, giving adoptive couples community, spending time with older children, and respecting boundaries, you can give your friends and family who are adopting the loving help they need to enjoy a successful adoption.

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