Our church family and friends flooded our family with kindness, practical help and tremendous support after our daughters came home from India. But sometimes people don’t know how to help when a family is going through a difficult transition or season, and as a result don’t get around to doing anything. Here are some simple ways you can be an abundant blessing to a family whose dynamics are shifting as they become a Safe Family, open their home to a foster child, or complete an adoption.
1. Bring a meal. On the afternoons when a meal is coming, I am able to relax more, engage with the children more effectively, get more things done around the house, and live in the moment.
2. Pick up frozen dinners that can be popped into the freezer. Trader Joe’s entrees such as Mandarin Orange Chicken, burritos, pizza’s or lasagna’s have been readily accepted and always enjoyed. On the days when nothing seems to go as planned, opening up the freezer to find something ready to go into the oven is wonderful blessing.
3. Go grocery shopping. A dear woman and fellow adoptive mama dropped off a grocery sack filled with a gallon of milk, a loaf of bread, grapes already washed and and in snack-sized Ziplocks for the kids to take to school, homemade muffins, a box of cereal, and Pop-tarts for a quick breakfast. Incredible.
4. Take kiddos to the park. When our baby was first born, a friend took our older two to the park for two hours so I could have down time with the baby. It was one of the first times I was able to breathe after my mother went home.
5. Buy clothes. When our two daughters came home from India early last summer, our precious babysitter asked if we were low on clothes. Who would have thought to ask that? We actually were in desperate need for more jammies, and thus she went out to the store and stocked us up. She did buy a new set for each girl, but she also went to the thrift shop and picked out another half a dozen sets that were in good shape and ready to wear. It was tremendously helpful, especially considering that our girls still have a hard time going into a store without a major tantrum.
6. Mow their lawn. A darling church mama arranged for young men from our church to mow our lawn all summer, once a week. It was one less thing that my husband had to worry about. Even when our home felt laden with chaos, our neatly trimmed lawn was a visible reminder that we were cared for.
7. Drop off a coffee. A friend swung by with a latte one afternoon. One of my favorite tee-shirt’s says “with enough coffee I could rule the world,” and by buying a friend a coffee, you are empowering them to do so.
8. Recommend a book that has been helpful or encouraging to you. A friend recently loaned me “Parenting the Hurt Child” and I am more interested in reading it, and it has more credibility in my mind because it was helpful to her family.
9. Offer to watch some of their kiddos. As everyone adjusted to the new family dynamics, different kiddos needed more attention at different times. When a friend offered to watch some of them, it gave me the freedom to meet the needs of whoever needed focused one-on-one time the most, while not pressuring our friends to watch everyone.
10. Give the parents a restaurant gift card or Groupon. When a family grows, there isn’t always money in the budget leftover for date nights. When a friend gave us a gift card to an Italian restaurant, we felt so refreshed by our night away over candle light, homemade bread and fresh pasta.
11. Invite their whole family over for dinner. I think a lot of people were intimidated by the new size of our family and the emotional needs of our children. But a few special families didn’t let that stop them from inviting us over for a meal or play date. Yes there were tantrums and tears, but knowing that those families loved us despite our messiness, made us feel loved.
12. Send over a mothers helper. A handful of young women came over last summer to play with our kids and help me out around the house. Together we helped get everyone snacks, folded laundry, cleaned up toys, and put away dishes. Having an extra set of hands was helpful.
13. Take their children on an outing. Dear friends of ours took our kids to the zoo and left us sitting on our porch swing with fresh hot donuts from the farmers market. As they drove away with our children, our kiddos were thrilled, our souls were at peace and our bellies were full. With donuts. Amen.
14. Just ask. When you are unsure of how you can help, send a quick email or text asking them what they need. Some friends just text me on their way to the grocery store asking if I ran out of anything. Perhaps the parents just need to go for a walk or run and you can supervise playtime in the backyard while they take the time to exercise or talk. Or maybe having someone sit on their porch and pray with them could transform their day.
They may not need anything at all, but at least you have asked, and they are reminded of God’s kindness to them through the visible, practical and tangible body of Christ. As they journey through a dark and difficult season, your kindness and service to them could be the light that carries them step-by-step to the other side.