Parenting Tips: An Open Letter to Friends & Family
TO THE FRIENDS & FAMILY OF ADOPTIVE PARENTS, HERE IS HOW TO HELP
We are often asked by our clients how to help their extended family members and friends prepare for an upcoming placement. Our clients know their friends and family are excited for them, and sincerely want to help. But our clients also know it is important to establish healthy boundaries so the child has the chance to thrive in his or her new home. Below is a draft of a letter that you can share with your support network, with advice and suggestions for what they should and should not do in the first few weeks after placement. Feel free to amend to suit your particular situation.
An open letter to our friends and family:
We are thrilled that we will soon be bringing our new child home! Through this process, we have been blessed with your support, prayers, and encouragement, and we know you are almost as excited as we are for this homecoming! Thank you for all you’ve done to make this dream come true for us, but our journey is just beginning! We have been reading and talking with our adoption caseworker about how to help ease our child’s transition into our home, and we’d like to share with you some insights we’ve learned.
We have come to understand that for us, this is a joyous forming of a family, but for our child, this placement can be a significant trauma. This child is about to be taken from the only home and “family” she has ever known and put into the arms of people who are strangers to her. We understand that we will have to parent her differently, so she will bond with us and learn to trust us. We are asking for your help as we adjust to our “new normal,” and here are some suggestions for you:
- We would love for you to meet us at the airport, but please try not to overwhelm our child. Keep in mind that we have just been through a very long flight that might have been stressful for all of us, and we are not at our best. So bring us a snack and offer to carry our luggage, but leave the balloons, noisemakers, and confetti behind.
- Expect us to “cocoon” for several days or even several weeks. We need time to settle into our routine and to get to know one another. Please don’t come over without asking first, and keep your visit short. Don’t be insulted if we decline a visit or ask you to leave.
- But feel free to offer help. Text us and ask what we need from the grocery store; bring us a hot meal; fold the mound of laundry sitting in the corner; mow the lawn. Any chores you can do for us will leave us more time and energy to devote to our new child.
- Don’t forget our other children. They are likely to feel deprived of our attention and would welcome the chance to go out for ice cream with you. Offer to take our other children to church or to their sports’ practice. We want to keep their lives as normal as possible, but we may have our hands full with our new child, so any help you can offer is appreciated.
- We know you want to love on our new child, but please leave that to us. Please don’t pick up our child without our permission, and we might say no because being picked up is scary for a child. Don’t offer our child treats without checking with us first. Don’t ask our child to hug and kiss you – hugs and kisses are reserved for mommy and daddy only! Instead, you can offer a fist bump, a high five, or a special handshake.
- We may discipline our child differently. As we seek to build a bond of trust with our child, we may not make a big deal out of every infraction. We are going to pick our battles, and we will choose our method of discipline. We will likely use a technique called “time-in,” where we keep our child close to us rather than sending her to her room or a designated time-out spot. This technique helps promote attachment while also giving our child a chance to calm down. So try to understand if we let some things slide, and please don’t discipline our child for us.
- Think about the words you use and the questions you ask. Yes, I am my child’s “real mom.” No need to refer to him as my “adopted son.” Don’t tell me I got off easy because I didn’t go through pregnancy and labor. And why do you need to know how much the adoption cost or why we chose to adopt from (insert name of foreign country) rather than the US? Here’s what you need to know: I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of Him (1 Samuel 1:27).
- Offer me empathy and a listening ear, without judgment. Some parents struggle after placement, similar to post-partum depression but without the hormones from childbirth. There are times I may need to talk, vent, question or cry. Just stay by my side and be my friend.
This placement is life-changing for all of us. We have worked hard for this and though we have tried to prepare in every possible way, we know there will be bumps along the way. Our strength comes from the LORD, and He has blessed us with an amazing support system of friends and family. Thank you for all you have done for us and for our future child!
This article was written by Diane Hood, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Georgia office. Diane has more than 20 years experience in the adoption field and she is a parent by birth and by adoption.
ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services on our website here, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.