We have friends who will be traveling out of the country soon to meet and bring home the newest addition to their family. Thinking of what lies ahead of them prompted me to make a list of Do’s and Don’ts which might be helpful for those of us anticipating their return.
1. DO be sure to stock their refrigerator and pantry with necessities that they will need upon arriving home. This may be a task best saved for the closest relatives or friends, but it should not be neglected. No one wants to be burdened with an immediate trip to the grocery store when you’re physically and emotionally exhausted and trying to get acclimated to home life again.
2. DON’T overwhelm them at the airport. Other than immediate family, or their ride home, no one else needs to show up because, realistically, who is in the mood for partying when you are suffering from jet-lag, have a completely overwhelmed child and haven’t seen a bed in over 24 hours? Party another time when everyone can really enjoy it.
3. DO welcome them home with a simple sign. Both times that we returned home with our children, my heart was warmed to find a “Welcome Home” sign in our front yard. It was such a great feeling to finally pull up to our house and see it there, like a warm hug. It caught me off guard each time, but brought a big smile to my face and made me feel loved, remembered and encouraged.
4. DO work with family and friends to coordinate some meals for the returning family. A hot meal delivered to their door the first few days they are home will allow them to concentrate on other things–like sleeping, unpacking, laundry, catching up on mail and scheduling doctor appointments for the newest member of their family.
5. DON’T forget to send a congratulatory card. Parents who welcome a child into their family through adoption deserve to be congratulated just the same as those welcoming a biological newborn. If these cards are collected and stored in a scrapbook, they will be good reminders to the child in later years of how much his arrival was anticipated and celebrated.
Now here’s the hardest thing:
6. DO leave them alone. I realize that every situation is different, but for many families, the best thing you can do, after assisting them in meeting their immediate physical needs, is to leave them alone for a while and let them bond as a family. They will step out, or invite you over, when they are ready to introduce their child to more people in their world. This may take days, weeks, or even a month or more. Every family is different. Give them the time they need, but don’t get offended, or pressure them to get out before they are ready.
7. DON’T try to hold or hug their child once the family does venture out. You’ll get your turn, but for now, the parents and siblings (and other close relatives of their choice) really need to be the only ones doing this. A lot of bonding needs to take place and keeping that between the immediate family members creates less confusion for the newest addition to the family. Save hugs, kisses and cuddles for later. The family has waited for this child for so long, now you need to respectfully wait too. The time for all of that will come before you know it.
8. DO offer to spend some special time with other kids in the family, if there are any. Offer to have them over or take them somewhere so they can receive some special attention, giving Mom and Dad some focused one-on-one time with the newest member of their family.
9. DO offer to throw them a shower or help them plan a welcoming party once things slow down a bit and a routine is established. Some families might feel more comfortable with this than others, so leave it up to them. Honestly, if this is not their first child, they might not need any more toys, clothes, or baby gear, but a gas card or gift card to their local grocery store would most likely be much appreciated considering they have probably been saving every last penny in an attempt to complete this adoption.*
And one last thing:
10. DON’T remind a child that they are lucky, or should be grateful, that they have been adopted. Try to realize and remember that adoption is not possible without great loss, and the child will feel that loss no matter how wonderful his new family happens to be. Just let them be a regular kid and enjoy them for who they are.
And, aside from the first three, these suggestions are also helpful for families who didn’t travel to adopt their children. No matter the situation, adoptive families need time, support and understanding as they adjust to their new normal.
Do you have any other suggestions that you think should be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments.
*Adoptions can be very expensive. Not because we “pay for our children” but because it takes social workers, adoption agencies, attorneys, doctors and others to complete the necessary paperwork, and they all need to be paid. Plus there are many governmental forms that need to be processed, and you can imagine what the fees are for that. Add traveling across the world…well, I think you get the picture.