This guest post is by Paige Knipfer, an adoptive mother and adoption consultant.
There are lots of blog posts out there about what NOT to say to someone who is adopting or has just adopted.
But there aren’t many about what you should say to them.
When we were adopting, we tried to enjoy the “waiting” or “pregnancy” stage of our adoption journey as much as we could.
But we felt like some of our family members and friends didn’t know how to react or show their support.
They didn’t have any first-hand experience of what it was like to adopt nor did they know anyone who had been adopted.
In short, they had no idea about the journey we were going through or how to get behind our decision to build our family through adoption.
And so, when we were matched with our daughter’s birthmother, we decided to announce the news with the help of some fortune cookies we made. (They’re actually a lot easier to make than you think, thanks to these YouTube instructional videos).
When they cracked them open, their reactions were incredible. I wish I would have recorded them.
My husband’s mom squealed with joy, and my mother cried. My husband’s grandma had the best reaction of all.
She asked what was the birthmother’s name. I wanted to cry because someone had cared to ask. It turns out the birthmother’s name was the same as her grandmother’s, something we all took as a good omen.
When you’re adopting, it’s so easy to be consumed by the worry, the wait, and the paperwork.
Our announcement allowed us to be excited for what felt like the first time in our adoption journey.
It was so incredible to see the love and support we received. We had hundreds of comments on our post announcing the news.
You should never feel scared to talk to adoptive parents or ask them questions.
If you don’t know what to say when a loved one announces they’re adopting or has just adopted, I hope this list will help you.
1. Congratulate them!
Be genuinely thrilled for them Tell them, “Congrats! I’m so happy for you”
2. Be supportive.
Encourage them and show them how much you respect their decision to expand their family via adoption. Tell them, “You will be amazing parents”
3. Acknowledge their struggle.
If you know they’ve been waiting a long time or have had difficulties, recognize that. Tell them, “I know this hasn’t been easy for you but you will have a new member of your family soon and it will all be worth it.”
4. Tell them funny parenting stories if you have them.
Break the ice and normalize the situation by sharing inspirational stories. Show them that no matter how a child comes to them, every parent has their ups and downs, .
5. Act just like you would if they were pregnant and expecting.
Ask if they know the gender or have a name picked out or if they have an ultrasound picture to share! If they are adopting from another country or an older child, ask if they know the age or about the country of origin. Show interest.
6. Be positive.
If you have any negativity towards adoption or their decision to adopt, keep it to yourself. Just like any expecting couple, they have enough things on their mind. They don’t need to hear anything negative.
7. Ask if they need help.
Find out if there is anything they need a hand with. If they are adopting a newborn and you are a seasoned parent, offering to help with selecting registry items is a great way to start!
8. Inquire about how they are feeling.
Listen to their worries, their joys, their fears, etc. Sometimes all they need is just someone to talk to.
There are also lots of things you can do to help and support a person who is adopting or just adopted during this exciting, yet stressful time:
9. Take an interest.
If you know nothing about adoption, ask. Read a book on the topic. I usually recommend “In on It: What Adoptive Parents Would Like You to Know About Adoption” (It’s a short read. You can see a review here, excerpts here, and an interview with the author here.) The more you learn about adoption, the more comfortable you will feel talking about it.
10. Learn positive adoption language.
We adoptive parents appreciate this more than you know! For example, say “adoption plan” instead of “gave baby/child up” and “birth mom” instead of “real mom.”
11. Ask about the birth parents.
It meant the world to me when our family asked what the birth mother’s name is. They are a part of our adoption story, too.
12. Offer to throw a shower!
Plan a shower the same way you would if they had announced they were pregnant. Or offer to throw a baby/new member of the family celebration!
13. Make signs and decorate for their arrival home or at the airport.
Nothing says you’re “home sweet home” more.
14. Offer to bring a meal over.
It’s easy yet this little simple act speaks volumes.
15. Offer to pick something up at the store they might need.
They’ll have their hands full so every little bit will help.
16. Respond to a birth announcement if one is made or sent out.
Show them that you’re as excited about their new child as they are.
17. Call them and check in.
It doesn’t have to be long or anything elaborate. It’s the thought that counts.
18. Visit them.
That is, when they’re ready to allow visitors. Take an interest in the new member of the family!
There you have it, what to say and do if you know someone who is adopting or has just adopted. Bringing a new child into your home is an exciting but challenging time.
Share in your family or friend’s excitement by showing an interest in their newest member and helping out in any way you can. It will mean more to them than you ever know!
Paige Knipfer is a trainer for a financial institution, an adoptive mom, wife, mentor to a foster youth, and owner of Love Grown Adoption Consulting. She loves to share her adoption experiences and assist anyone interested in learning more about the process @PaigeKnipfer.