There are quite a few posts out there that give ideas for supporting adoptive and foster families in their first weeks home with their new children. But I have found that the unique difficulties and fatigue faced by adoptive and foster families can stretch out for years – cycling back around time and time again. Here are some ideas that will encourage a family – whether their new children have been home for 12 days or 12 years…
1 – Bring a cup of coffee. This is so simple, yet can completely change the course of a weary mama’s day. Text mom for her coffee order while you are on your way to the barista counter (tall breve latte with sugar-free caramel for me, please). Letting her know you are already on the way makes it easier for her to say yes!
2 – When you bring the cup of coffee, stay for a few minutes if she wants to chat. But sweep a floor or wipe some counters while you are there. I will never forget the day my insightful friend, Michelle, told me she was going to sweep my floors, so I may as well just hand her the broom. I was letting myself become isolated and overwhelmed, and she knew I needed a friend to reach in. But she also knew I needed a hand to help out.
3 – Drop off a bulk package of just about anything. Laundry detergent, diapers, mac-and-cheese, paper towels, baby wipes, dishwasher soap, coffee. You get the idea. My favorite is paper plates (I gave up disposable product guilt the day we took our first infant foster placement). Whether you live near or far, you can have items delivered directly to a family. After all, who wouldn’t be cheered by a big box of toilet paper at the front door?
4 – Text to say that you will be by in an hour to pick up laundry. Take it home, wash it, fold it, and text when you’re bringing it back. Sometimes a text is the best way to let a mom know you are ready to help (phone calls are often difficult in the midst of child chaos). And be sure to text what you are going to do. Somehow, being told that someone is going to come get my laundry pushes me over the edge to accepting that help – when a simple and genuine “what can I do to help?” may not get a response because I either don’t know where to start, or I don’t want to be a burden. So simplify by telling your friend what you are going to do for her. It doesn’t have to be laundry. My sweet friend, Leslie, cleaned my house just before I arrived home with our new Liberian daughter – over nine years ago – it still warms my heart today!
5 – Organize a meal train (www.mealtrain.com). This is as simple as spending five minutes finding out any dietary restrictions the family might have and organizing what nights they would like meals dropped off and then setting up the calendar on the website (another five to ten minutes). Share the link through Facebook, email, church lists, school lists, etc. MealTrain then takes care of all reminders to those delivering the meals!
6 – Be a homework (or homeschool) helper. Let mom know that you are available one or two days a week to help with homework for an hour or so. This can be as simple as reading to the Kindergartner for 30 minutes and then helping her fill out her reading log. School tasks like reading logs drop so far down on the list during times of adoption and foster care transition. Those 30 minutes will take a huge burden off of a mama’s mind and will make a child feel valued and cared for.
7 – Take the kids out for ice cream, a movie, a trip to the playground, or a walk in the stroller. For the kids already in the home when a new child arrives (and in trying times down the road), there can be long stretches of weeks, or even months, where the parents don’t have extra time or energy to do all the little things that make their children feel noticed and cared for. We try. But we need the other adults in their world to step in and help us fill the gap. You have the power to make them feel noticed and remembered, no matter how old (movies and ice cream) or how young (the playground or a walk in the stroller).
8 – Have take out delivered. My dear friend, Kathy, has told me that she is not the friend who brings a meal, but she is the friend who will have one delivered. And she has done just that several times. I will tell you, there are few things that my kids find more decadent and exciting than Chinese food arriving at our front door! Text mom to let her know dinner will arrive tomorrow evening – and that the driver’s tip has already been included!
9 – Take over school or sports runs for a week or two. After our third foster baby arrived in the middle of frigid March snow, our friend Lauren took over school runs for a week. I will never forget what a blessing it was to not have to bundle up that sweet, brand new preemie to take her out in the snow every morning during that first week home!
10 – Hire their kids. Over the years, I have learned that there are few things I want more for my kids than mentoring and involved relationships with other adults in our community. I can name at least one adult for each of our kids who has taken a special interest in them, and I am so deeply grateful. Those relationships are a big part of carrying them through the times when they feel the stress of the constant changes in adoptive and foster care life. One way to start growing a relationship with kids is to hire them – let them rake your yard, pull your weeds, walk your dog. They will feel valued, trusted, and needed. It pours into their hearts and builds a bridge to relationship.
I am sure there are so many more helpful ideas – I would love to hear what you would add to this list! But in any situation, taking the lead to let a family know what you are going to do to support them may be just the extra step they need to be able to accept your help. And showing love in practical ways to the children already at home will always meet a deep need and fill broken places.
with hope and gratitude,
Why not send one of these to a tired mom today?