Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Guest Posty by Zoe Saint-Paul: When You Meet Newly Adopted Children

Hi! This week I am so excited to share another guest post with you! Zoe Saint-Paul wrote a fabulous post about what family and friends should do when meeting newly adopted children. Parents you may want to share this post with your family and friends. Enjoy!

Girls at Play

A good friend recently admitted that she’s a bit nervous to come and meet the girls. She’s aware that, especially in these early weeks, we’re advised to keep their world small and not allow anyone else to feed, clothe, clean, or comfort them, and that we should limit their social time with new people and refrain from bringing them into new environments for a while. So all this has made her a tad nervous about what to do — and not to do — when she visits.
She may be over-thinking it a bit, but there are some helpful guidelines to consider when meeting or spending time with families who have newly adopted children. Here is my advice:
  • When a family first comes home, don’t assume that you should rush over — or that you should stay away. Ask the parents if and when they’d like visitors. I know that, for us, short visits with helpful friends right from the beginning have made a tremendous difference. But other families may not want visitors until everyone is more settled.
  • Be as friendly as you want with the children: greet them, talk with them, even play with them. But leave the primary care-giving — like feeding, holding, carrying, comforting, dressing, etc. — to the parents.
  • If the child is over-friendly with you, wants to sit on your lap, or be held by you, redirect them to the parents as much as possible — but don’t fret about it. When in doubt, follow the lead of the parents.
  • Your main job as a friend is to support the parents. Believe me, they need it! Practical support is a lifesaver at the beginning — bringing meals, offering to run errands, picking up groceries, etc. But moral/emotional support is just as important; a listening ear can be a godsend. One friend has checked in with me pretty much every day since we got home, by phone or text, and it has been so helpful.
  • Be sensitive when it comes to asking questions about adoptive children’s backgrounds. Be aware that information about their birth family, or how they came to be relinquished for adoption, may be something the family would like to keep private. If you are curious about something, simply ask the parents whether they can share it. For example, you might say, “Are you sharing anything about what you learned about the girls’ background?”
  • Before bringing gifts or giving candy to adopted children, be sure to ask the parents. Newly adopted children can be overwhelmed by lots of toys, clothes, etc., and not every parent (like me!) wants their child to have candy. The gestures are always appreciated, but it’s best to check in first and see what would be most helpful.
  • Be positive. In the early days, adoptive parents often feel overwhelmed by their new lives and may even be questioning their decision to embark on the adoption journey. It really helps if friends and family are positive and supportive.
  • At the same time, don’t try and make everything rosy. The children may be adorable, but behind closed doors, they may be tantruming a lot and displaying challenging behaviors (ahem). Parents may need to vent or talk about how hard things are. Telling a parent when they’re stressed, “Well, you asked for this!” isn’t at all helpful. Take it from me.
When meeting newly adopted children, just remember that anything done in the spirit of wanting to be supportive and caring will be appreciated, no matter what. When in doubt, just ask!
Adoptive parents: What else would you add to the list?

Image: Zoe Saint-Paul

Reposted with Permission. Originally Posted on October 24, 2012 by Zoe Saint-Paul on her blog, Slow Mama. You can view the original post here:

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