Congratulations! Your friend is about to have a baby, making you an honorary aunt or uncle.
Imagine the excitement you would feel if that happened. You might go shopping with or for your friend, picking out precious baby items you know the parents-to-be will love. You eagerly await the arrival of this child, and meet the new parents at the hospital or shortly thereafter to offer your love and congratulations.
And if your friend is considering adoption? The excitement is the same.
Though 119,514 children were adopted in the United States in 2012, there’s a good chance you don’t know many parents who have adopted a child, considering there are nearly four million babies born in the country every year. You likely have never had an opportunity to support a friend through the adoption process.
Understandably, you might have questions about how best to do that. Here are some tips to help you support a friend who is considering adoption or has decided to adopt a baby.
Be Careful with Advice
Listen first, as a good friend always does in any situation. If your friend is just starting to think about adopting, he or she might have some fear and hesitation and is simply experimenting with how the idea sounds out loud. There might be an extra layer of emotion involved if they have experienced infertility before choosing to adopt.
Learn About the Process
A little bit of online reading will give you a better idea of what your friend will go through, from choosing an agency to filling out paperwork, completing the home study to waiting to be matched with a child.
If your friend were to say, “I’m pregnant!” you would be thrilled, right? You can have the same response when your friend has made that definitive decision to adopt a child. It’s a major life decision and it’s likely that your friend has wanted to be a parent their entire life. Be excited for them and share in their joy.
Offer to Help If She Needs It
You could offer to be a personal reference or to look over her family’s adoptive profile after they’ve finished it. (The profile offers photos and information about the family that will help them be matched with a child.)
It can take some time before an adoptive family is matched with a birth family and child. This waiting period can be nerve-wracking for your friend. Continue to listen to her concerns, and be ready to encourage her if she is faced with other less-than-supportive people in her life.
Use Positive Language
Words have power. Refer to your friend’s new son or daughter as their son or daughter, not their “adopted son” or “adopted daughter.” “Adoptive parents” and “birth parents” are appropriate terms during the adoption process for clarity and understanding, but remember that your friend is the child’s parent.
And one more thing: adoption is an event, not a condition. After the process is complete, you would say your friend’s child “was adopted” rather than saying he or she “is adopted.” There are a lot of subtleties that can have a big impact. Check out our Using Positive Language: Giving a Child Up for Adoption vs. Placing A Child for Adoption blog post for more examples and tips to handle your word choice.
Throw a Baby Shower
It’s important to first understand the mother’s wishes on this, in case she doesn’t want one (which could be true if she were pregnant, too!). Becoming a parent is a momentous occasion no matter how it happens, and marking it with special events like a baby shower, a gender reveal, or a photo shoot is important. Not only that, but a new baby always requires a lot of equipment, and the parents might really appreciate the gifts and support!
Make a Meal for the Family
When the baby arrives, the new parents, like any new parents, will be overwhelmed by the changes to their lifestyle and the sleep shortage they’re sure to experience. You can offer to cook, clean, walk the dog, or babysit to help them adjust to their new routine.
Love the Child
This is the most important part. Welcome the new baby as a member of your community, and enjoy watching him or her grow.
If you have any further questions about how to best support a friend or family member who has decided to adopt a child, please contact us. We’re glad to help.
If your friend is ready to begin the process of adoption, we’re here to help every single step of the way. Get started today.