New adoptive parents often find they don’t receive the sort of celebratory fanfare and support that their peers with biological children receive. Quite often, adoptive parents don’t get a baby shower or the casseroles and cards that new biological parents too. For some reason, if you haven’t physically given birth, people don’t seem to be as inclined to think you need support. This is especially true if you adopt an older child. However, any time someone adds a new child to their family, through any means, it is a drastic change for them and their loved ones and necessitates the support of their friends and family.
Many people are often unsure how to navigate giving gifts or support to new adoptive families. If they have adopted a newborn, most people’s instinct is to purchase something off of a registry. However, not all adoptive families have the chance to create a registry before their new arrival comes. Even if they do create a registry, they need more than just material things for their new child, they need the same sort of support you would give someone who just gave birth to a child. Here are some ideas of ways you can be helpful to new adoptive families:
1) Food: Either organizing a “meal train.” dropping off something that can be heated up easily, or giving the family a gift certificate to a local restaurant that does takeout or delivery is extremely helpful.
2) Household help: offer to come clean, do laundry, care for their pets, or even do small projects around the house they may not have had the time to get to before their child arrived.
3) Give your time: volunteer to come give your time so that the new parents can nap, shower, run errands, or do basically anything that is hard to do with a new child. If they have other children at home already, offer to take them out for the day and entertain them so that the new child and mom and dad can have some quiet bonding time at home.
4) Organize: your other friends, family and coworkers might also be wondering what the new parents need. Make yourself the head of the “welcoming committee” for this new child and act as the liaison between the family and the people who want to help them. Find out what they need or want, organize the “troops.” make a schedule, and do the legwork to get the family what they need so they don’t have to be the ones to coordinate themselves. Sometimes, families returning home with a child they have just adopted need some time to “cocoon” and don’t want to have to deal with a parade of visitors traipsing through their home. Act as the gatekeeper to make sure people who mean well aren’t actually intruding on what is a very precious bonding time for this new family.
5) Listen: Bringing home a new child through adoption can be a difficult adjustment. Many people assume that once you are home with this child you wanted and worked so hard to bring home, that it’s all “happily ever after” at that point. This is, most often, not the case. Newborns? They are exhausting. Older children? They can have issues bonding. Overall, this can be both a joyful and difficult time for the family. Don’t assume that everyone in the family is immediately bonding and adjusting to their new dynamic. Just like mothers can have postpartum depression, post-adoption depression and anxiety are real concerns that affect a large number of adoptive families. Offer to lend an ear and check in with them regularly in a noninvasive way such as a quick text or message online. Above all else, make sure they know you are happy for them, and you are here for them.