Monday, May 30, 2011

Could Not Have Said It Any Better

Please take a moment to read this and consider these etiquette guidelines.  I can say that we have actually heard some of the following negative comments and they can be hurtful and counterproductive.  Thank you.

Supporting Families Considering Adoption

Please say/do these things:
*Say You can do it! or I'm excited for you!
*Say My (friend/relative/etc) adopted and it was a really great thing for them
*Say If you need support I know of a great book/forum/person who can help
*Be available to listen and talk about it as they're making a decision

Please don't do/say these things:
*Act like we're crazy
*Make critical comments
*Write it off as a foolish or impossible idea
*Assume that since you're not personally equipped or called to do this that they aren't either

Supporting Families in the Adoption Process

Please do/say these things:
*Say "Congratulations"
*Ask "How can I encourage or support you during this process?"
*Ask how things are going, what step they're on now, etc.
*Listen when they need to talk about the process, their progress, their feelings about delays and roadblocks, etc.
*Throw a baby (or big kid!) shower to show that you're excited about the new arrival

Please don't do/say these things:
*Try to talk us out of it
*Act like you know what it's like (because you don't until you've been there)
*Make placating comments like "it will all happen in God's time" or "try to just relax and enjoy the process"
*Tell us horror stories about long adoption processes or failed adoptions or troubled adopted children
*Think that we are saints, angels or otherwise put us on a pedestal. 

Supporting Families Who Have Just Adopted

Please do/say these things:
*Bring a meal, paper plates or gift cards for takeout food
*Offer to run errands or help with housework
*Bring a small gift, make a card or otherwise celebrate the arrival of the child(ren)
*Treat the family the same way that you would if they'd just had a baby - expect that it will take at least 6 weeks (probably longer) for them to get back into the swing of life
*Be respectful of the attachment process.  If the parents say "please don't hug/hold/feed/etc the child" then follow their wishes.
*If they seem overwhelmed, be encouraging and remind them that they can do this and that things will get better

Please don't do/say these things:
*Assume that the child is just like any other child (no child who has been in an institution is going to interact with the world like one who was raised in a loving family)
*Assume that you know how they feel or what it's like to be an instant parent to a traumatized child
*Give advice if it isn't requested
*Say "I told you so" if things are hard or don't go as expected

Supporting All Adoptive Families

Please do/say these things:
*Treat them like a normal family.  They are a family first, an adoptive family second.
*Don't refer to the new kids as "adopted kids" or biological kids as "their own".  They are ALL their own!
*Be patient as they learn to be a family and work on behaviors or habits picked up in the orphanage
*Be encouraging and accepting
*Ask how you can help make life easier
*Be patient with the child as he/she learns appropriate ways to interact in a family, manners, etc...

Please don't do/say these things:
*Ask questions about the child or their background in front of them
*Respect that there are aspects of our children's pasts that we may choose not to share
*Criticize parenting techniques that seem strange or unnecessary to you (almost all adopted children must be parented differently than those who have grown up in a loving family)
*Expect the family to fall right back into their old routine or to immediately take up past commitments

Supporting Families Experiencing Hard Times (an adoption that falls through, behavior problems, unexpected special needs, feeling overwhelmed, adoption disruption, etc)

Please do/say these things:
*Be compassionate
*Offer your help
*Say "I'm sorry that happened"
*Pray for them

Please don't do/say these things:
*Say "I told you so" or any variation of that
*Criticize their reaction or decisions (you never know what you'll until you're actually in that situation yourself)
*Imply that you could have handled the situation better
*Tell them that they did it wrong, didn't try hard enough, etc
*Offer platitudes like "everything happens for a reason" or "there are other children out there"

Specifically for Professionals Who Want to be Supportive

Please do/say these things:
*All of the encouraging things above!
*Offer your help and a listening ear
*Give suggestions if you are asked and have experience in that area
*Support the parents in the decisions they make for their child
*Realize that the parents and child are still adjusting to each other and that this process takes time
*Realize that you can be a powerful influence and support to an adoptive family!

Please don't do/say these things:
*Don't assume that you know the child better than the parents do
*Don't assume that what works in the classroom will work at home
*Don't assume that the child you see at school is the same child the parents see at home (this is especially true for children with attachment problems - they can present a completely different set of personality traits and behaviors at home vs at school!)
*Don't assume that what works with a child who has grown up in a loving home will work the same way with a post-institutionalized child

Rachel Whitmire
Post-Adoption Care Coordinator for Reece's Rainbow

1 comment:

Ellie said...

This is good stuff. I hope you don't mind if I link to your post from my blog! (I have heard some of these negative comments too)