Adopting a child is one of the most exciting, scary, exhilarating, and nerve wracking times in your life. This true for all types of adoption, but especially true when you adopt a child or children past infancy from either foster care or international adoption.
In addition to all the typical new parent concerns (how will the child adjust to us, how will I handle discipline, will I ever get a full night’s sleep again…), new adoptive parents also have the added issue that the way we are creating our family is not the usual and not well understood by most people in our circle of family and friends.
When a family brings home a newborn from the hospital, everyone knows how to help. They know to bring food, offer to babysit, and most importantly offer a listening ear when you are so sleep deprived you sound like a stoned zombie. When we are adopting an older child (and that means any child past infancy) our friends and family may not know how to help. After all, by the time most parents have a 3 or 6 year old they are past the needing help stage.
Our friends and family have likely never experience adopting an older child and probably have little with anyone who has. We can’t expect them to know how to help us. It’s up to us to explain what we need.
Roma Goodlander, one of our Creating a Family online community, suggests sending the following letter to your family and friends right before you bring your new child home. Obviously you will have to adapt it to fit your own circumstances, but it’s a great template to begin with.
Letter to Send to Family & Friends Right Before You Adopt
Hi Friends and Family,
As you know, our new son/daughter/children will be joining our family soon. It has been a long wait and we are ready to finally have this child in our arms forever. We are so exciting for this new stage in our lives, but we are also nervous.
We have been speaking with other adoptive families about what life was like after their children came home, and we know that we have a lot of challenges ahead of us. Almost all adoptive families have told us that the early days, weeks and months were some of their hardest times of their lives. Of course we are hoping that we will be one of the lucky families that doesn’t experience this, but at the same time we are realists. So we are nervous for what lies ahead for us and our new son/daughter/children.
A few families have told us that their communities were encouraging during the waiting phase, but then “disappeared” after the excitement of the initial homecoming was over. The good news is that most other adoptive families say that the support from their networks is what got them through those hard times. So just in case we end up with an intensely difficult experience after our child’s homecoming (which seems to honestly be the norm), we are asking for your help please.
It is tough for us to ask for help because we are typically a strong, independent family. You all are already such a blessing to us, and we appreciate everything you have done for us thus far. We hate to feel like we might be an imposition to any of you. However we also want to share some things that we have learned might be useful during these next few month.
Here are some suggestions that other adoptive families have said was beneficial to them after their children came home, just in case this gives you any sense of what kind of help we might need.
- Spending Time with Our Other Children – We worry that our other kids are going to feel ignored as the focus will be on the new child. Taking our kids out to do special things or have them over to play at your house might give them some well-deserved attention and give us a bit of a breathing space to spend focusing on our adopted child’s needs.
- Meals – Food is such an important part of family life, but it also takes so darn long to make. We’d be so very grateful for grocery shopping, meals brought over, frozen meals to reheat, takeout gift cards, etc. If it involves food, we would appreciate it.
- Cleanliness – Having the house in chaos makes us feel like our lives are in chaos. Help cleaning the house or a cleaning service would be amazing.
- Preparing for [the next upcoming] Holiday – We want to celebrate this upcoming holiday with our new child, but we are worried that we will be too busy to focus on the holiday prep. Would be great to have help with planning a few of the holiday traditions.
- Your Advice – We haven’t had kids before, so we don’t know all the secret kid info that other parents all seem to know. Your advice on great pediatricians, the best playgrounds, the cheapest indoor activities, weekend sport teams, school systems, etc. would all be useful to us as we learn the parenting tricks.
- Empathy and a Listening Ear – We are taking this plunge into the unknown and are going to be having a lot of new experiences as adoptive parents. We need people to give us space to vent in a non-judgmental way. We worry that we are going to bore you or that you might think we are crazy because of some of the words that are going to come out of our mouths. Please ask about how our kid is doing, but please also ask about how we are doing too. Just because we look like things are going well doesn’t necessarily mean they are. And don’t be surprised if our answers are long, overly emotional and filled with strange adoption/special needs topics that you haven’t heard about in typical parenting books.
- Invitations Out of the House – Spending time with little humans is wonderful but the level of conversation can be a bit basic. Please encourage us to hang out with people above the age of 18. Even if you have invited us out a few times, don’t give up on us, we will get it together to say “yes” eventually. And if it also involves exercise, that’s even better.
- Reminders to Self-Care – Things like exercise, healthy eating, personal appearance, etc. are the first things that parents tend to skip when they get busy. Help us remember not to do that please. And encourage us to get counseling if you think we need it. There’s no shame in telling us if you think we need extra help that you can’t provide.
- Kid Stuff – Kids need some much darn stuff! We appreciate your gently used or new kid gear, furniture, car seats, sports equipment, toys, clothes, etc. Gift cards also go a long way.
- Pet Care – Our pets were our first babies, but now their position as the supreme rulers of the house is going to be upended. Help with pet care is so appreciated, pet cuddles included.
- Medical Stuff – We anticipate that our son/daughter/child will have some medical needs that need to be addressed. We have an understanding of what that might entail now, but it could end up being different once the child is with our family. Any help in navigating the medical system and dealing with the health insurance company is golden. Or even just listening to us complain about how confusing and frustrating it all is would be platinum.
- Come Visit – Once we have all settled in, we would love to have you come visit. Adoption can be an unknown for many people who don’t have an adopted family member or close friend. Don’t be scared of the unknown. Come visit, we invite you! Please arrange ahead of time of course, and bring food and drinks because we can’t make any promises about our hosting skills these days.
- Spending Time with our New Son/Daughter/Children – We are so grateful that you are a part of our lives, and we know that our child will grow to feel the same way too. In the beginning, you will be a stranger to them, but we hope that after we all get comfortable within the family unit, that you might be able to spend some quality time with our child to get to know each other. And we might even be able to slip away to get in a date night or a haircut! Be patient because we will want some time alone with our child so that she can learn who are mom and dad, but eventually we will welcome you with open arms. [Because our child is a foster kid, you would be required to get a background check before we can leave the child in the care of you. If you are willing, it is not that hard and would be so valuable as obviously there aren’t many people who would be willing to do that.]
Most importantly, our last request is just to be excited with us. A new child is a blessing to any family, no matter how they came to be a part of it. We are so happy to share our joy with you and we invite you to be a part of this blessing. We truly and utterly appreciate it. Thank you.
With our deepest appreciation,
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- The New Normal – Life Once the Adoption Excitement Fades
- Finding Balance with “Cocooning” Newly Adopted Kids
- 9 “Easy” Tips for Surviving 1st 6 Months with Newly Adopted Kids
P.S. Did you ask for help from friends and family post adoption? How did it go?
Add Your Comment
This letter is great except for one thing…it needs to emphasize that while they could use these helpful things, they also need to be able to “cocoon” and not have a lot of visitors to the child. They need to express that holding the new child and such is not okay at first. Of course, I don’t need to go that much into this as I know there are articles on this, probably on this site, but it does need to be added here. Thanks!
Good point Angela, although I think sometimes we over-emphasize this and scare people away. As in all things in life, it’s all about balance. I wrote a blog on that very topic: Finding Balance with “Cocooning” Newly Adopted Kids
So great, pregnant people get baby showers, food prepared, etc. We got none of these. People just don’t know that we need those things too!
Amy, that’s why I think this letter is so important. You are right that people don’t know, so that’s why it helps to tell them.