Susan and I love to talk with families who are preparing to adopt. What an exciting season for a family, full of possibilities and preparation!
So, here are some ideas for you in this waiting season. Since we had 3 children at home before our first adoption, I'm including that reality in these 4 ideas, and the 4 more to follow in our next post, but I hope these points will be helpful to a family bringing their first child home as well.
Share with a waiting friend!
1. PrayWe 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 TeamAs 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.
And I encourage you to include your children, if age permits, 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, when some of 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. ExposeSpending 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. CommunicateHelp 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 family members and close friends, and what details you leave out, will depend on the age of any siblings at home, on the facts at hand, and on your goal to always honor your child and his/her story. But telling some of the story ahead of time will allow your family to develop understanding and compassion, a sense of connection with this new family member.
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. Any children already home may need help understanding why their new sibling does not have a mother and father to care for them. I believe sharing something of that story is important as you help your children understand such difficult realities. It may be that you share only the broadest facts, or there may be so little information that you can only share some of the common reasons why a child needs to be adopted. Regardless, as much as it is possible, speak with honor about the birth parents. But I also don't recommend "sugar coating" the story either. It was not accurate, for instance, for us to say that the birth parents of our children loved them so much that they chose adoption for them. That is a noble and courageous part of many people's stories, but not for all. You don't want to have to explain years later that the story you told was not true because you were trying to protect from a harsh truth with a lie that seemed less painful. Better to omit details than create "facts."
Going through this process now of determining what details to share, and with whom, will help you in the future as you decide how much of your child's story to tell over the years.
Help us help waiting families by sharing ways your family prepared for your adopted children-- leave a comment! Thank you!
Read Part II.