November is always a special month in the Alexander home. Yes, there is Thanksgiving and all the joy that comes with celebrating that holiday but November is also National Adoption Month. If you know us, you know adoption is close to our hearts. Our first child entered our family through the miracle of adoption 4 years ago. I am thankful this month is set aside to help the church focus on adoption and foster care. No doubt, it is a much needed ministry in the culture today! Especially since the overturn of Roe v. Wade churches need greater education and resources to care for those in need of adoption and mothers considering adoption placement. I feel like I could talk for hours on this subject but for the task at hand I would like to take a few minutes and speak to how the church can love adoptive families well in the most supportive way.
Adoption is difficult. Granted, parenting is difficult. Yet, there are challenges that come with adoption that only those who have walked the journey can fully understand. Adoptive families are constantly working to heal hurt, trauma, maybe abuse, and a host of adoption related triggers and "disorders" that come with the joy of receiving a child into their home. There have been many days in our home where the only thing we could cling to was the firm conviction that we know God called us to this journey. I would be lying if I said there have not been some dark days. The hardest part has been experiencing this trauma while those on the outside world have no clue what is going on. During those moments of despair as we have shared many of our struggles with those closest to us it is hard for them to believe because what they see on the outside is nothing close to what happens on the inside. I share that to say, if you live close to an adoptive family I promise you they are or will experience struggles that you have no clue about. How can you love and support them through those struggles? Though, I feel that I could write a book on this question I will simply share 4 top ways that I hope will help you love well.
First of all, listen. When they need to talk, you listen. Don't listen with the intent to provide an answer, just listen. Please don't share with them what they should do different or how you did it with your own children. No matter what - children who enter a family through adoption are special needs children. They need a different type of love, discipline, and boundaries than children born into a family biologically. Their parents have been educated on this and are simply doing their best to work through it. Listen to them.
Secondly, respect their wishes. You most likely will not agree with some things they need from you. Their needs are not traditional needs and probably make no sense to you. Yet, they have a very educated reason for what they are asking. That reason is ultimately for the good of the child. They are doing their best to parent in such a way that one day that child is a well adjusted child, teenager, and adult who can function with emotional stability. So much comes into play and adoptive families need to be surrounded by people who respect their boundaries. Boundaries that are placed not to restrict but to renew a healthy spirit in the life of their child.
Thirdly, always ask the parents before anything. Words can not adequately describe how crucial this is. Research shows that it takes an adopted child at least the amount of years to adjust to their new parents as they were old when they were adopted. For example, in our case that is 4.5 years. When our son was 4.5 years old we took him away from the only foster family he had ever known and moved him to a new country. Yes, we have given him unconditional love from day 1 but some days that alone is simply not enough. There is a great trauma in his life that takes years to overcome. He needs time to learn that only dad and mom are truly, forever dad and mom. No more snatching away! You help these children learn that quicker by always going through dad and mom before giving or doing anything. Yes, it may sound a bit extra but that is precisely what is needed, a whole lot of extra.
Lastly, pray. Ultimately only God can bring about the kind of nurture and lasting attachment that is needed for adoptive parents and children. Pray for them daily. Not only that, but ask God to help you love and support them in the way that they truly need. The last 4 years for us have been filled with joy of getting to know our son better with each day. Yet, they have also included great moments of pain, stress, and sometimes heartache. We have watched the trauma unfold before our eyes. We recently received professional support to begin a new journey of healing for him. There are a number of things that we now have terminology for, though we have seen the effects day to day. We are doing all within our power to implement the necessary changes and to heed the professional advice so that the next 4 years hopefully look much healthier for our son. Prayer is the main thing that has got us here and will carry us forward.
Particularly the holidays can be difficult. Christmas marks the anniversary of when we took our son away from the only life he knew. Every year we have had some type of major behavioral setback as a result. We are praying this year will be different and are confident that with the right actions from us and those around us, it will be! I have come to understand that most adoptive families experience added stress around the holidays. It brings out a sense of great loss in their children.
As painful as the process can be, I would do it all over again because I know God has called us to it. I have made it an ambition to help other families in any way that I can and to help educate those around them on the process.
The call to care for the orphan has been a command of Scripture since the dawn of mankind. Not everyone is called to adopt but everyone is called to support those who are. By taking the above tips seriously I am confident that we can see healthy communities that support adoptive families for the greatest good of the child.
This month, reach out to an adoptive family and let them know that you love them but show them how much you love them by asking them what you can do to best help them on this journey. Then do it.
I promise you, they need it!
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