Monday, October 31, 2011


So often the wait for our children to come home seems so long, but the Lord never wastes time! Here are some ideas to make the time fruitful by building up your family even before your adoption. You will enjoy reading the accounts of adoption from Birth Children's Perspectives HERE. If your children are old enough, read some of these accounts aloud and talk about them together.

God had already rocked our world in a big way that night when we heard Him say, "You need to do this." Stephen and I were in a meeting at our children's school and were not anticipating that we'd hear from God at all! Yet when Susan Hillis began to speak of the opportunity to have Russian orphans come spend their summer in our homes, and when I was minding my own business filling out a form for one of our girls and not really paying her any attention, God interrupted me -- interrupted my thoughts, interrupted our family, interrupted our life! It was a Glorious Interruption! As if I had a marionette string attached to the crown of my head, I looked up from the form I was filling out and heard, in the most clear voice as if with my ears, but in my spirit, "You need to do this." I turned to Stephen and said, softening the words a bit because I couldn't quite say it so commandingly yet, "I really think we are supposed to do this." His reply was a simple, "I know." 

I won't tell the rest of the story here, but that same night, as we reeled with the increasing clarity of what had just occurred and with the many, "well, that will mean...." trying to engage our minds with the consequences, I found myself asking the Lord, "But what about our girls? Will they be ok? I don't ever want to do anything that will harm them!" We didn't feel we could move forward until we heard what God had to say about this concern. It was our gravest concern actually. Maybe some of you reading this know exactly what I am talking about. I'll never forget the time Stephen and I were praying about this in the following weeks when he turned to me and said, "I feel like God is saying that it will be hard on our girls, but not the kind of "hard" that will tear them down or bring damage to them. It will be the kind of hard that will strengthen them as people." Once we heard that, we were ready to jump in the deep end!

So, now we were in full preparation mode. I'd love to share with you some ideas to help prepare your family for the huge changes that adoption brings. Preparing your children to receive a new sibling can have a significant impact on the kind of relationships the siblings will have later on in life. And for many of us, there is LOTS of waiting time until our children come home, time used by God to make us ready.

1. Pray
We learn so much through the adoption process don't we?! One of my favorite things I learned in our long months of waiting for our children was the absolute power of prayer to change my heart. We prayed every day, literally, for the brother and sister we thought we would adopt. As we prayed for them, God began to carve out a place in our hearts and even in our lives for these two children. They became ours in a way that is difficult to describe. We had never met them, had only seen one photo and a very short video, but somehow through prayer we became connected to them. We never ended up adopting them (another story for another time), but I will tell you, because of that year of constant praying for God to bless them, I anticipate meeting them in heaven and embracing them as a mother embraces her own children. So, I encourage you to pray for your waiting child often and watch how God not only uses that to bless them, but how He uses it to prepare you to receive them as your own. 

2. Be at Team
As you pray, be sure to include your children as often as possible. So much will be communicated to them as you do! They will see that this adoption process is something that you are doing together as a family-- that it is not just something Mommy and Daddy are doing. I encourage you to include your children who are old enough in the decision process. Not to say that if they say they don't want to adopt that you will say "no" to God's call, of course. But we believe that if God is calling you to adopt, He is calling your family as a TEAM. Let your children know that you have heard His voice and that you know He will speak to them as well. And then give them some time to come into agreement. Let them in on what God is saying to you and expect that He will lead them. Having the whole family recognize your adoption as a call from God will provide a wonderful strength when times are difficult, and all the loving feelings that accompany the idea of adoption are replaced by a real live stranger in your home. It gives you a reference point to help your children through those tough times-- there is absolutely nothing like knowing you are in God's will to strengthen you!

3. Expose 
Spending time with other families who have adopted, and fostering friendships with other adopted children will do part of the work of expanding your hearts and your lives to receive your new family member. The sometimes frustratingly long wait from the call to that first day at home together is the perfect time for exposure to adopted children and adoptive families. For us finding a group of families who adopted from Russia was a huge blessing and help. Look for ways to serve an adoptive family by helping with tutoring or offering to have their children over to play or even spend the night. This service will not only be a huge blessing to the family, but will really help you to prepare yourselves for what your life will be like. 

4. Communicate
Help your children and other family members with the adjustments to the changes ahead by sharing appropriate information about your new child. How much you tell, and what details you leave out, will depend on your child's age, as well as on the facts at hand. But telling some of the story will allow your family to develop understanding and compassion. Just finding out about what their life is like, the foods they eat, their daily routine is interesting and helpful to begin a relationship. Your family will want to know what happened to their new sibling's parents and sharing something of that story is important. Going through this process now will help you in the future as you decide how much of your child's story to tell over the years.

5. Anticipate Positively
We might be tempted to tell our children how hard it is going to be, how they will be jealous and how difficult their new sibling might be. Rather, stress the positive as you prepare for the challenges ahead. Don't ignore the fact that life is about to change, but help your children see their role from a place of strength. For instance you might say, "Sometimes you might feel like you want mommy's attention when I am feeding the new baby (or helping teach your sister English, etc...) You are going to be such a good helper. Isn't it good that God has made you to be the big sister?! You'll get to teach her so many things. Do you think you could teach her how to get dressed by herself like you do? (or help her learn English words?)" Emphasizing the role of the older sibling, as the one who can help and give with an open heart will help your children see that things are going to be required of them, but that they can give with love rather than see this season as a time where things are taken from them.

6. Listen
Including your children in the decision-making process can be extended all along the way. Keep your family "in the loop" and give them time to respond, especially allowing them to share their fears or negative thoughts. For instance, the decisions that the new sibling will share his brother's room or that the new sister will be older than your birth daughter are best made as a family, allowing the children to share their fears or concerns. Again, this doesn't mean that all decisions are made by your children, but rather that each child knows he or she is valued and heard. It can be hard not to become defensive when your children share negative thoughts, but staying calm and encouraging may be all they need to eventually be willing to make the changes demanded of them. So often just being heard is what people, children and adults, really want in time of conflict. When our middle daughter expressed that she did not want to have a sister older than her, we took her seriously. However, as it became clear that God was leading us to our precious daughter Kristina, whose birthday turned out to be 2 weeks before Rachel's, we knew we had a situation on our hands. You can read about this situation from Rachel's point of view in her post, but for us it was clear that we needed to communicate with Rachel and then trust God to open her heart. 

7. Connect 
We love to say at our church that parenting is a team sport, and this is even more true with adoption. Indeed, adoption is a team sport! Connecting with people who will be there for you once your new child comes home will be life-giving and on some days you may even say life-saving! Don't wait until after your adoption to find help. Hopefully you have people asking what they can do to help-- now's the time to say, "Actually I will take you up on it. Thank you!" Having meals brought in those first weeks is very helpful. Getting friends or family members to take your daughter to her piano lessons every week or your son to his soccer practice is worth more than you may be able to anticipate. Maintaining some normalcy for your family is very important. So much change and sacrifice will be required, so keeping some things "the way it used to be" will communicate love and security to your children. But you will need help for this. If your child speaks another language you will want to line up someone you can call to translate. Susan tells a wonderful story of the day her daughter wanted (as in insisted!) to wear her bathing suit to church and needless to say, translation was needed! 
The help you can get for those first months will diminish any resentment or just simply the stress that your children may deal with.

8. Create a Common History 
As much as it is possible for you, begin to create a common history even before the adoption. We were all amazed to find out there was a live webcam in Vyborg, Russia, so we could see the people walking down the street, see what they were wearing and how cold it was. Make use of the internet to find out about the history and culture of the place your child lives. If it is possible, write letters and send gifts as a family. We have some of the sweetest notes from our children to their new siblings and those interchanges did much to connect us as a family. Although this is not possible or wise for everyone, when it is appropriate travel as a family to receive your new child. The common experience you will have as a family in your adopted child's environment will expand understanding and compassion. The week we shared as a family in Russia before each adoption gave us our first family stories, not in our home, but in our adopted children's homes!

Help us help waiting families by sharing ways your family prepared for your adopted children-- leave a comment! Thank you!


  1. We are a waiting family right now and fly to bring home our daughter from Taiwan on 11/27 after a 16 month adoption process. Yea! I so appreciate all these tips from those who went before us and know that it will help ease the transition for our family as we prepare to welcome a new family member from a whole different background. Thanks!

  2. Oh how exciting to be so close to bringing your sweet girl home. Thanksgiving will have a new depth of meaning for you all won't it! I pray for a beautiful and joyous transition for you all! Keep us posted.