So, previously, we talked about the questions NOT to ask (read here) and Part 1 and Part 2 of what adoptive parents want you to ask.  

Today we’re going to talk about the question,  “How can we help?”

Just a reminder – today, as I did in part 2 yesterday, the discussion is in regards to extended family and close friends.   If you want to read the definition of what I mean, look back at yesterday’s post (see links above).

“How Can We Help?”   Isn’t that the most shallow and non-helpful question ever?   It’s like saying, “I’m going to say I want to help but I really don’t, so don’t ask me for help.”

So, with “How can we help?” what do adoptive parents really want you to ask?

“How can we help – because we really don’t know what you need?”

From personal experience and talking with others, here’s what a lot of adoptive parents do and don’t need help with – especially in the first few years after their kids come home:

Things we do need:

  • Things that will help us have more time with our kids – bring us a meal, mow the lawn, if you are going to Costco, call and ask if you can pick anything up for us?  Especially kids who have suffered trauma (virtually all adopted kids) typically require a lot more time and bonding with their parents.   If we have other kids at home, offer to help with carpooling to school activities or church activities.  
  • Things that will help us have even small amounts of time to ourselves.   This will vary greatly based on the children and their ages and their needs.   If they are really young and still nap, come over and “watch” them while they sleep and let us do something for ourselves.   If they are older, take them out for ice cream – without Mom and Dad.   I know she’ll read this, but I have often told my mom that what my kids need most as young teenagers from her is “positive grandma experiences.”   What does that look like?   Going out for ice cream.   Taking them out for lunch.   Baking cookies at Grandma’s.     Even just picking them up from school and bringing them home.   It’s a positive experience with grandma and it gives the parents a little time to themselves.
  • Things that will reinforce that we are the parents.   Respect the rules that we’ve put in place – even if they seem ridiculous to you.   They might even seem ridiculous to us –but our kids need to learn what a Mom & Dad are and do.    Ask us if they can do something – don’t just assume.   If we’re at a family picnic and they want a second piece of pie, tell them to check with mom or dad first – and follow through on that.   If they fall and skin their knee, if we’re there, let us comfort them.   If we are in the back yard, bring them to us so we can be their source of comfort.   Support our efforts to teach them not only what a Mom and Dad are but who Mom and Dad are will pay huge dividends for all of us throughout the years.

So, how do we NOT want you to help?

  • Don’t offer advice based on what worked to parent your kids 20 to 30 years ago.   As someone who has both biological and adopted kids, I can tell you, what you have to do to parent them is often totally different.   If you don’t believe me, I have a 23, 25 and 28 year old who will testify to that fact.
  • Don’t assume that my kids could do better.   Many, if not most if not all, of the times they misbehave, it’s not because they want to, it’s not because they are bad kids, it’s because of all of the junk that they have been through before they became part of our family.
  • Don’t label a troubled child as a trouble maker.   There is a big difference between a troubled child and a trouble maker.  
  • Don’t judge our parenting based on what you see from our kids.   Unless you know what they have been through and what we’re working on, you can’t accurately assess what we’re doing and how it’s working.   One of my children had an hour long screaming fit in the middle of a campground once.   I would have been mortified if my older kids had done that – and the looks from some of the other camp ground visitors said they were. 
  • Don’t contradict what we say to our kids in front of our kids.   If we tell them something, don’t make it appear that they can triangulate and hope for a “better deal” out of someone else.

We value your family and your friendship.   You mean a LOT to us.   We need your help because especially at first, this whole process of becoming a family with children who don’t know what family means is a LOT of work.

Help us in the “right” way, help us by asking questions and letting us take the lead, help us by letting us tell you how you can help and we’ll all be better off.

Thanks for being there……

TJV