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Assisting with the Wait
April 4, 2018
The US Census reports that 1 out of every 25 US families with children have an adopted child. All things considered, this is a fairly large number. Adoption has changed and shifted over the years, and it is becoming more and more discussed, understood and supported. That being said, 24 out of 25 US families do not have an adopted child, so they cannot understand the depth of emotions that make up the adoption journey.
Even if the majority of Americans do not have an adopted child, they likely know someone that does, or they know someone that is in the midst of the process. Without having firsthand knowledge, it can be overwhelming to try to support a friend or family member waiting on their child to be placed or waiting to be matched. Adoptive Family Magazine has several articles about what kind of support adoptive families are looking for. In the March 2017 and February 2018 issues, many adoptive families gave examples of what responses from their outside support systems were helpful.
If you are a friend or family member of someone in an adoption journey, these suggestions may help you to provide the support your loved one needs.
The truth of the matter is that you do not know what the family has been through. Likely, the adoptive family has been completed and provided many documents and participated in a home study. They may have been matched with a child, or they may be waiting. They may have had placements fall through, or they may know their child’s arrival date, and the wait is getting to them. In all of these situations, they need support and encouragement. They need to know that no matter what, they have a safe place to land.
-Allow them to grieve.
Adoption is joyful. But it can be riddled with grief. Some adoptive families deal with infertility issues or the loss of a child or children before starting their journey. Other families may be matched to an adoptive child only for the placement to fall through. For other families, the wait itself can be difficult enough to cause distress. Well-meaning friends and families may say, “Everything happens for a reason” or “You’ll be a parent soon enough” among other things, but trying to replace a loved one’s grief or redirect it may not be helpful at all. Allowing a loved one to grieve can look many different ways, but it is always a good idea to take cues directly from them. If they feel the need to cry or complain or simply sit in quiet, allow them that space.
-Don’t act like you understand if you do not.
Comparing a loved one’s adoption journey with anything other your own adoption journey is not helpful. It is easy to redirect the conversation from something you know nothing about to something you that has happened to you, but if you cannot identify, it is better to let your loved one direct the conversation. Adoptive families do not always need answers, they may need the space to vent.
-When the time is right, ask them to do something.
Just as was mentioned in several of the previous points, it is important to let your loved one direct this step as well. Some adoptive parents need time alone or with close family and friends after an especially stressful season of their adoptive journey. Eventually, they may be ready to get out and do something fun. Based on what that person needs, a coffee date, a movie or even a quick hike may help them to relieve stress and reconnect with their environment. Do not be discouraged (or insulted) if the invitation is turned down, but be cheerful and let them know that the invitation still stands when they are ready.