- Children that were born to us are our “birth children” or our “biological children.”
- Children that were brought into our family by adoption are our “adopted children.”
- The parents that our adopted children were born to are their “birth parents” but are no longer their parents.
- Both our birth children and our adopted children are our real children.
- We got all of our children (both birth and adopted) from God. They came from God.
These are important phrases and if you can learn them, you will bless the adoptive families that you know and come in contact with. The reason that they are important is because they emphasize the importance of the adopted child and his or her relationship to the family. Questions that we, as adoptive families, are often asked cause emotional pain and insecurity in our adopted children.
When people, seeing that we have birth children and adopted children, ask, “Which ones are yours and which ones are adopted?” our adopted children feel that they are being called second class citizens in the family since they were not included in ‘which ones are yours.’ This may seem a trivial difference to someone who is not familiar with adoption, but it is significant to an adopted child.
When people ask, “Where did you get this child from?” or “Where did you come from, honey?” They may simply be trying to be conversational, or they may be letting nosiness get the better of them. Well intentioned or not, the questions feel like the child is being talked about like a stray dog that has been picked up somewhere. When, in fact, God carefully orchestrated the placing of the child in his adoptive family, and blessed that family in so doing. So instead of prying about history, simply talk to the child about the same types of things that you would talk about with any other child you know. Adopted children don’t want to be treated differently than birth children in a family. They want to be treated as a child of their parents.
Your kindness and care in taking time to learn the language of adoptive families will be a significant blessing to the family.
- Our adopted child’s birth story and need for an adoptive family is his/her own private history.
- Our adopted child lost his or her birth family through no fault of his own. But it was a traumatic event for him/her.
- A child may have lost his birth family by their death, or by their loving choice to abdicate their position as parents so that others could care for the child when they were unable to, or by the birth family relinquishing their position as parents through abuse and/or neglect.
- The questioning, discussion of and reference to the situation that a child ended up in (needing an adoptive family) is unnecessary. There is no good that comes from this type of questioning – it is generally our human nature of nosiness that prompts the questions.
If a child would like to share about his/her birth story of his/her own accord without you asking, simply listen, hug, or cry with him/her. Do not pry; let him/her share only what he/she wishes to share. Do not ever talk badly about his birth family. Nor, on the other hand, is it right to prevent the child from grieving over his/her loss.
Adopted children are special human beings just like all the other children that you know. Particularly in the first several years after an adoption, the child needs time to heal and bond with the new family. Until this healing has taken place, discussion of private history is very painful. Allow the child to maintain the privacy of his/her story. He/she may eventually share things with close friends and relatives or he/she may not. That is a right the child has.
- Meals for a family who has just brought home a new baby seem normal. An adoptive family who has brought home a new child has brought home a baby in the practical sense of the type of care and endurance needed. (This is true even if the child is older – like 12 or 15 years old.) Meals would be a blessing to the adoptive family.
- Give a baby shower – even for an older child. Most children come to an adoptive family with next to nothing, if anything.
- Offer to care for the children in the family by going over to their home and letting the parents get something done in the home or run an errand or go out to dinner together.
- Send a note or letter to the family or the children.
- Offer to clean the house or run errands for the family.
- Call one and say you are popping in the next morning to pick up 2 (or 3 or however many you can do) loads of dirty laundry. Pop in, take the laundry, go home, do it and take it back.
- Take by paper plates and plastic ware.
- Build the parents up. They may deal with a lot of anger and hate coming from their new child as the child works through the trauma and begins to bond with the family. Encouraging words will go a long way for the parents.
Offering practical help to a family who has just brought home their adopted child (especially through the first year) will bless them significantly. They may be too tired and too focused on their child’s minute-by-minute needs to think to ask for help, but they will appreciate it.
Do Not Judge
- Know that caring for an emotionally traumatized child is different than caring for a healthy child.
- New adoptive parents will not necessarily have time to chat or be able to come for events or stay as long as usual. Do not take this as a reflection on their friendship. Give them space and time to meet the needs of their child.
- Expect challenging or unusual behaviors from newly adopted children. (By ‘newly adopted’ we mean within the last 3 years.) Don’t criticize. Many of these behaviors will go away over time as the child becomes emotionally healthy.
- Expect that the adoptive family may not ‘have it all together’ at first. Give them time. They are weathering a wonderful but challenging and exhausting change to the family.