Sunday, August 14, 2005

So, Your friend is adopting...

A do/don't list for folks with friends who are adopting. These are not necessarily based on my own experiences or reactions, but on the collective experiences of some adoptive parents I have been in contact with.

When they announce they are adopting:
DO: Share your excitement (assuming you are excited. If not, a kind word of affirmation is lovely.)
DON'T: Share adoption horror stories. (The aforementioned lack of logic in such comments aside, these words are inappropriate because they are just unkind. I liken it to women who share their birthing horror stories with pregnant women - especially those who are expecting their first child... why do we do this, ladies???)
DO: Follow whatever the prevailing baby shower ettiquette is. If a biological child would get one, then the adopted child should get one too.
DON'T: Ask about the couple's ability to conceive, or whether older children are "theirs." (If you don't know the couple well enough to know the answers already, then you don't need to know.)
DO: Feel comfortable to talk about pregnancy. (Some women feel guilty talking about their pregnancies around women who are adopting and may be infertile. Though I have read of at least one adoptive mom who advises the opposite, I can't figure out what reason an adoptive, and even infertile, mother would have to NOT share in the happiness of someone else. Easy for me to say, I suppose, since it hasn't happened to me. But, if the adoptive mom can't handle hearing about someone's pregnancy, then I am guessing she has some unresolved issues related to her fertility and, IMHO, needs to deal with that before the adoption is completed. Though the case can be made that pregnant moms who talk incessantly about their babies are annoying, said mom should also realize that there might be other moms in the room who would like to talk about their babies just as much.)

While they are waiting:
DO: Make time to listen to "expectant" parents who might want to talk, but don't have regular exams, ultrasound photos, or enlarging bellies as conversation starters.
DON'T: Offer advice about how to handle adoption situations. (Chances are, the adoptive couple has done a whole lot more research/thinking about adoption than you have. Not only do you risk making yourself look silly, but you also risk offending the couple.)
DO: Read up on adoption issues or (assuming international adoption) the country they are adopting from. Share what you know and let them know you are interested in hearing their thoughts.
DON'T: Ask how much it costs. (Unless you are a very close friend with a desire to help defray the cost, or you are considering adoption for yourself, this information is useless to you... and the couple may get the message that you think they are buying a child.)

When the adoption nears completion:
DO: Ask how you can help the couple during the transition. (Mow the lawn or get the mail if they will travel to bring the child home. Plan to make a meal after the child is home. Parents who are traveling may need help preparing for travel. Parents with court dates to attend may need a babysitter for their other kids, etc.)
DO: Be prepared for whatever information you may learn about the specific child. (The name may sound silly to you, or the child's appearance may not be what you were "expecting." The important thing is not to dampen the excitement by saying something, well, dumb....)

When the child comes home: (I could probably add more to this in a few months, but these are what come to mind:)
DO: Offer to help in specific ways. (Jet-lag is a problem for parents returning from China, I know. Offer to help out in some way while parents rest.)
DON'T: Assume you will get to see the child right away. (The transition can be traumatic for the child. Parents may want to limit the number of new faces/places that the child has to take in.)
DO: Be prepared for children in orphanage care to be lagging, developmentally. (People who understand this will be able to support adoptive parents, instead of criticizing them for "babying" or being overprotective.)
DON'T: Assume that the child is grateful for being adopted. (They may be really angry about it... or develop those feelings as they get older.)
DO: Treat the child like every other member of their family.
DON'T: Refer to the child as adopted unless the "adopted" part is necessary information. (Necessary (and ususally stuff that very few people would need to discuss) would be: The medical records from before the adoption are very sketchy. Unnecessary would be: That is her adopted daughter.)

This is just a short list. A lot of other things are coming to mind, especially regarding the way people respond to transracial families. But, I think that is going to have to be the subject of another post. Besides it's 2:30 in the morning. I need to go to bed. And I hope you all enjoy watching Phil win the PGA Championship today. I will be loving every minute of CBS (!!!!) coverage. Go Phil!



Anonymous HeatherG said...

Lori, great list. Thank you.

Tue Aug 16, 06:49:00 PM  

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