It is our most powerful weapon, so let’s use it. Regularly ask, “How can I pray for you today?” Snap a photo of the family’s name on your prayer list. Remember to let them know, “Our family prayed for you last night.” Have kids make cards promising to pray. Best, invite the family over to be prayed for by your family or ask friends to circle up at church and pray over the adoption.
Let the family know that you rejoice with them. Offer to throw a baby shower, or a “family addition” shower for older kids, before or after the homecoming, based on their wishes. When they reach a process milestone, such as completing their dossier or when a government document arrives, celebrate. Send a text full of emojis, show up with celebratory chocolate or ice cream. When hosting a dinner, make a toast. The adoption process can be grueling. Your excitement will encourage.
3. Ask questions.
Talk to them. Do you want to help, but are unsure how? Tell them. Try, “I really want to support you in this process. What would help you?” Or, want to talk about their adoption, but aren’t sure of the right words? Try asking, “What are you learning through all this?” Or, “Can you explain the process?” The good news is that honest questions show that you care.
4. Be sensitive.
Be thoughtful in conversation. When matched with a child, the family might choose to keep details regarding a child’s abandonment, or sensitive medical needs, private. Allow them to lead discussion in these areas. Also, consider that some comments can be hurtful, such as, “I bet you’ll get pregnant after you adopt.” Or, any thoughts that relate to adoption being a family’s “plan B”. Further, adoptive parents consider themselves to be “real parents” and regard all their children as “their own kids”.
5. Listen to learn.
Invite your friend out for coffee or margaritas. Most adoptive parents would appreciate, “I’d love for you to join me for coffee so you can tell me about your adoption process.” Or, “Let’s go on a walk and talk about how you are feeling about all this.” Parents in this process have a thousand thoughts swirling, decisions to make, and faith lessons to process. Offer your ear. Try to understand the process. It’s a giant garble of terms, acronyms and documents, but just attempting to “get” what they are dealing with is appreciated. If you remember what their next step is, you could say, “I am praying that your immigration approval arrives soon.”
The child being adopted is very real to them. As soon as they make their decision, the family grows by one. Accept any emotions they feel, because even though this child is still faceless, it is already embedded into hearts, just as in a pregnancy. Let the birth parents “feel their feels” without being judged. Tell them, “I know this is hard.” Being known is a gift.
7. Help Fundraise.
Can you donate to their GoFundMe account or fundraiser? Could you help sell and mail T-shirts or share their fundraising posts on social media? Organize an online auction? Help find grants or organizations that offer support? Hold a garage sale? Funds are a major obstacle for many. Let them know that you are praying specifically for the provision of funds.
Offer to take siblings for a day so the in-process parents can work on paperwork and grab lunch. Or, volunteer to entertain kids during home study appointments.
Simple gifts are always meaningful, and never have to be expensive. For families who have announced that they are adopting, I usually give a simple bouquet of flowers (often in a jar from my yard) and a bag pistachios with a note saying, “This process will be both beautiful and nutty. I am in it with you.” Other simple gifts are bars of good chocolate, a well-timed Starbucks delivery or books about adoption (suggestions here).
10. Make Them Laugh.
The process is a weighty one, loaded with emotions, requirements, and angst. Offer the gift of a giggle. Text a funny meme or call with a silly kid story. Bringing levity by sharing a hilarious YouTube clip. Invite your adopting pal out for a Melissa McCarthy movie and a bucket of popcorn. Laughter heals all sorts of hurts.
If you have read these tips, I commend you for having a heart for an adoptive family in your life. What a gift. Thank you for wanting to step into the adoptive process with them.
Know that this family may resist all offers for physical help. Can I encourage you to gently, but respectfully, push a little? Accepting help is so hard for many people – especially husbands. Some want help, but are too overloaded to know what to ask for. For others, they attack challenges with fierce independence. Try saying, “Please let us bless you and play a part in this special process. If it would help you, let us do this.” That said, if you gently push and they decline, that’s OK. Reply with, “If you change your mind, it would bless us to help. We’ll pray.”
For our family, supporting adoptive families is a blessing and pay-it-forward opportunity. We love adoption and love what God does through it. Walking alongside families grants us a front row seat to His sacred and redemptive work. It’s a tough, tough road, but goodness, is it beautiful too.
*special thanks to the Nelson family for the image
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