“How do meals help families returning home from adopting a new child?” One of my friends came to visit us after we had returned home from Thailand with our daughter and asked this sincere question. It’s true, I think most people don’t fully understand the stress that an adjustment period brings when a new child is added to a family through adoption. Most can identify with bringing home a new infant and how much work and weary that can be; but few really understand adoption unless they have walked the same road.
So let me just shout from the rooftops that adoptive families need you! They need grace , they need to be given time to focus on home and immediate family. They need your prayers. They need friends who send texts of encouraging words, notes saying they are being prayed for, meals they can put in the oven on challenging days, sidewalks scooped/lawns mowed, groceries delivered….they need friends and family who will simply let them know that they have their backs for… whatever. Judgement free, loving support.
Here are a couple reasons why:
1. Travel and Those They Left.
In the case of international adoption, families return home after upwards of 30+ hours of travel. They have ridden for hours on a plane over the ocean, with a child they barely know. They have spent hours in airport terminals, in security and immigration lines entertaining a tired, crabby, but somehow energetic toddler who most likely does not understand English. We are talking about jet-lag and exhaustion at its finest.
When they do arrive home, the children they have left behind will be needy. They have missed their mom and dad and will require full-energy attention. They have been out of routine and now will have to find where they fit in the midst of a changing family. They will test the limits again and some discipline issues that were nipped in the bud before will resurface. Life in the home will be challenging and it will take some time to settle into a new normal.
2. Who They Bring Home
The fact is, most adopted children have endured more pain and loss than you or I ever will. Being adopted into a family does not automatically make everything better. In fact, for a period of time things appear worse as they live through yet another disruption they have no control over. They have experienced things like abandonment, neglect, abuse, exploitation, institutionalization, and a level a fear and terror most of us cannot identify with.
The first weeks home are weeks of major adjustment. Even though the new child may not be an infant, nights will still be sleepless, full of rocking and crying that won’t be consoled with warm milk. An adopted child has no history or trust established with their parent to draw comfort from. They haven’t spent 9 months in a womb listening to their mom’s voice. They are surrounded by the unfamiliar, making trust and comfort something that will have to be earned. Not an easy task if they have tasted betrayal and abandonment in their short past.
In order to establish this trusting relationship, the parent must be available and able to respond to every need of the child immediately. Insecurities run deep, and they manifest in many ways–ways that are taxing. The new child might want nothing to do with the parent because they are afraid of being abandoned again. For the same reasons, it may manifest in the child clinging to the parents’. every. single. move. Adoptive parents have few moments where they are not aware and tending to their new child.
So you see, adoption is no easy thing. Come to think of it, most things that are worth doing aren’t. Adoptive families make many sacrifices and experience many trials when they open their hearts and homes to an orphan. As brothers and sisters, let us bear one another’s burdens. Let us tell them they are not alone but can draw strength from the support of you and I. Can you lighten the load for a returning adoptive family? They need you.