Do you know an adoptive family? Have you checked in on them lately? They might be fine but just in case they aren’t, I have something to say. Here are some things adoptive families want you to know.
1. If we don’t hang out as much, there’s a reason.
I know that feels like a line. However, adoption is an emotional transition with a bunch of moving parts. While I thought I would love to take my kids everywhere and do all of the things I saw biological families doing (going out and being around large groups of people, mostly), I found myself unable to do so.
My kids were emotionally and physically traumatized before we met. That translated into bizarre behavior at best and harmful and dangerous behavior at worst. My oldest son was so angered by me pulling him from in front of a moving vehicle in a parking lot that he didn’t talk to me for two days. His body translated my potential life-saving behavior as abuse.
My other son threw himself down to the floor in the middle of the main aisle at a big box store. The reason? He was overwhelmed. His brain had too much input and he had too few words to tell me what was wrong. So, he silently, stubbornly, flopped on the filthy floor and lay there. He was 9 years old at the time. He looked younger than he was, but I got enough stares and criticism to last me years. I was eventually forced to scoop him up and take him out to the car to wait for the rest of my family.
Those are just two out of hundreds of examples. Going to birthday parties, while super fun, has major consequences. It seems like for my kids, the longer they go having to act socially acceptable, the bigger the blowup will be later. One day, we made the (frankly terrible in retrospect) decision to allow our daughter to go to a friend’s birthday party the same day we had two other bigger activities. My sweet girl was a champ until she just could not keep it together any longer. Her sister looked at her the wrong way and she broke into tears. It took almost two days to get her emotionally regulated.
2. We need your support.
Insomuch as we can’t go out to see you, we depend on you for help. See, adopting a sibling group, especially a sibling group of older children, is difficult. We went from zero kids to three kids literally overnight. Then we went from three, to six, then down to five. It was like having newborn babies in the house that could destroy the house if left unattended. We made the horrendous new-parent mistake of taking the kids to the store the first full day they were with us. I think I aged five years by the time we were done. At eight years old, nine years old, and six weeks, my kids had almost no idea how to behave in a store.
What I needed was someone to do the shopping for me. I shouldn’t have tried to go out on my own with three kids while my husband was at work. That was silly of me. Anyway, live and learn. We had so many doctor’s appointments and specialist appointments when the kids came. I needed an extra set of eyes and hands. Thankfully, I had people in my circle that guessed that without me saying it out loud. I wanted to be able to do this thing all on my own, but it isn’t something anyone should do alone.
Being a new mom, if the child is biological, or adopted, is a difficult, emotional time. We need to support each other. If you know a new foster, adoptive, or birth parent, call them the next time you’re going shopping. Say something like “I’m headed to the store for our groceries. Is there anything you’d like or need?” Sometimes the answer will be no. Other times it will be a relieved, tearful, thankful yes.
I didn’t know to ask for help. Chances are good if there’s a new parent in your circle of influence they could use a helping hand.
3. As much as people might love your casserole, there’s a fantastic chance the kids won’t eat it.
One of the things that helped me the most was when friends brought dinner over for us. Our new kids were 3 and 4 and were being added to our existing group of three kids who were 11, 12, and 3 at the time. No one in that group was going to eat vegetable soup and oven-roasted chicken. I mean, my husband and I enjoyed it, but the kids made gagging noises and refused to eat.
Homemade is fantastic—but ask first. Ask what the kids like to eat and go from there. Sometimes ordering pizza is the simplest thing for everyone. I know that feels impersonal, but it is really appreciated.
4. Keep calling (or texting, or emailing, or video messaging)
I’ve said already that we’re not able to get out as much. I think most stay-at-home parents know the feeling of isolation and loneliness that can creep in. I am as introverted as they come and I still feel left out and alone when I see on social media that a bunch of my friends got together without me. I say with all sincerity—if I was invited, I probably would have said no. However, it is always really nice to be asked.
Just a simple text saying “Hey, thinking about you today, anything you need?” can make me cry some days. I think part of the human condition is wanting to be seen and known. For a lot of people, that looks like being met where they are. I’m okay knowing I feel insecure and will probably not go out. I feel lonely when it seems like no one even bothered to check and see if I’d like to go. My brain tricks me into thinking I’m unloved and unwanted. Chances are good if you know an adoptive family, they are feeling similar things.
5. We are so thankful for your friendship
They say you know who your real friends are when you have a crisis. My whole life in the past three years has been varying degrees of crisis. Most recently, my husband had a medical issue that makes him unable to drive for a while. One of our friends went out and bought a booster seat specifically so she could pick up our kids or take them places.
I’m so thankful for the people who love us when we feel unlovable, when we feel alone, and when we feel like we’ve been underwater for a long long time. If you’re friends with an adoptive family, I’m going to guess they feel the same way about you.