So your friends tell you they’re adopting…now what?!
What do you say? What do you do?
It’s kind of like having a baby, isn’t it? But it’s pretty different, too…Quick…where’s that “How to” guide for those situations that you’re not exactly sure how to handle?
Can’t seem to find your copy? Here are some tips from an adoptive mom on what comes next when someone you know announces, “We’re adopting!”
1) Say “Congratulations!” just as you would if they announced “We’re pregnant!” In both cases, a child is expected…so congratulations is a great response! It’s really not necessary to ask, “Why?” They’ll share with you to their level of comfort. At whatever point the hopeful adoptive family announces to friends and families that their plan is to add to their family through adoption, be happy and celebrate with them in the same way that you would for your friends who are pregnant.
2) Offer a shower or party. Talk to your friend about what they might like. Some hopeful adoptive parents rush out and buy lots of baby gear because they want to be fully prepared for baby’s entrance. Other families are more reserved and possibly even nervous about getting a nursery ready for a baby that they are not sure exists yet. Additionally, some families adopt older children, and a party of some sort would be welcome, but it may take some additional conversation. Perhaps a shower after the baby joins the family is a good idea…or if the child(ren) are older, a party with friends and family to welcome them. Again, each family is different, so the needs of the children involved are different, too. Sometimes a large party with lots of unfamiliar faces may just be too much. The new family may need time to bond and work on attachment. Be caring and courteous to the needs of the new family and let your friend’s answer shape how you might help welcome their new additions.
3) Save the adoption horror stories you’ve heard. Trust me…if the hopeful adoptive parents have done any research, they’ve already heard, read, seen, and/or know of people who have experienced any number of these stories that you’ve heard, read, seen, or know of. Just as you wouldn’t begin telling scary birth stories to a newly pregnant mom, please be courteous and kind in what you decide to say to the hopeful adoptive parents.
4) Save the “Well now you’ll get pregnant! It happened to someone I know!” comments. Again, trust me…we all know someone it happened to as well. But many families who have faced infertility and chosen adoption know the chances, down to the percentages, that it is unlikely that they’ll ever become pregnant. When they’ve reached the stage of choosing adoption as the option to grow their family, regardless of their personal reasons, they don’t need any such comments.
5) Ask them how you can help stay busy while they wait. Unlike a typical 9 month gestation period, there is often no timetable for adoption. There is no magical answer of how long families will wait for their match or referral. Sometimes it takes months…other times it takes years. Just as each birth story is different, so is each adoption. Exercise together, get creative, and set some goals with your friend…keeping them busy will ease the tension and stress that can sometimes occur while attempting to patiently await their child’s blessed arrival.
6) Let them talk & be a good listener. Even if you don’t understand everything they’re going through a friend to depend on in good times and difficult times is such an asset. Allowing them to go as deep or as shallow as they wish about their adoption journey can be helpful, and it can also help you to gain a better understanding of what adoptive families go through.
7) Be respectful. Unlike birth, adoption does come with it’s own unique sets of situations. Details and questions about birth families or particular circumstances of the adoption may not be something each adoptive family feels needs to be shared. Additionally, sometimes parenting children who have been recently adopted can look much different than parenting a child you have had since birth. Be respectful of these differences and boundaries and understand that as parents we are all trying to do our best for our children.
8) If necessary, help raise funds. Adoption can be costly, especially for families who may have to travel to different states or countries to get to their children. This can include long hotel stays or multiple international flights. Plan a trivia night, hold a garage sale, run a spaghetti supper or pancake breakfast, sell something homemade, or help promote your friends’ idea. They’ll be grateful for your support.
9) Talk positively about adoption. Even without knowing, people may make hurtful comments about adoption. We often remind our children to be careful what they say, but sometimes it’s good to step back and take a look at our own language. Children are like sponges…and although we don’t always think they’re listening, always operate as if they are…because it’s likely they are! Here is a heartbreaking photo series a mother made with her two daughters who were adopted from China. This blog shares some more great ideas about what to say/not to say and gives advice on “better” language to use when talking adoption.
I offer a big thank you to my fellow moms who helped me with this post!