So much love and intentionality goes into adoption long before you precious child comes home. Waiting for that moment is far from passive, as I know you all know quite well! Here are 4 more suggestions to make the most of those sometimes painful season of waiting.
5. Anticipate PositivelyWe 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 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. ListenIncluding 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. ConnectWe 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 HistoryAs 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!