Friday, July 5, 2013

Day 5: Prayers for the First Days Home

Today's wisdom-filled guest post is by Jennifer Peterson, mother of 10.

My children have been the very best teachers in my life! While my oldest taught me how to BE a parent, the rest are teaching me HOW to parent. 

Twelve years as a foster parent and seven adoptions later, I have learned that a boatload of prayer and keeping the faith that life will get better are the two best ways to get through the inevitable rough spots. How you respond to the stress and tension of those first few months can impact your newly forming relationship with your adopted child for years to come.

Using God’s Word as a guide, let’s look at how we can pray for our children, our families, and ourselves after the arrival or “birth” of an adopted child.

The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, 
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Galatians 5:22-23

Pray for Love.
Love at first sight is a bit of a myth. Sometimes it happens, but often it doesn’t. 

Early on, I had to acknowledge that I wasn’t feeling that blissful loving heart connection with my new child like I imagined I would.  Don’t let guilt have its way. Pray for your relationship to grow at the pace that will be best for both of you. 

I’ve fallen deeply in love with every one of my kids at different times over days, months, and even years. Yes, I will admit to years before I felt that abiding, protecting love that only a mother has for her child. A long time, but we got there in His timing. 

Pray for Joy.
Pray for the ability to see everything (the present, the past, the future) as a journey; especially on the hard days when the tantrums are loud, the crying won’t stop, insults are hurled, a sibling is bit or hit, the language barrier frustrates, no one sleeps through the night. These temporary hardships show us the deep needs of our children and provide many opportunities to show them unconditional love.

For me, adoption is beauty out of ashes, and when we persevere on the most difficult of days, joy does come in the morning (Psalm 30:5).

Pray for Peace.
When you mesh two worlds, two cultures, two people, there will always be the inevitable surprise. Pray for acceptance of what you discover in those early months.  

There is not much you can do to prepare for the medical, emotional, and developmental issues that will surface, but taking them in stride will help your child feel accepted and loved at a time when their world has turned upside down. 

When we met our tenth child, we were floored at her global delays, a special need that we specifically didn’t want. We weren’t prepared to parent a six-year-old like a one or two-year-old. We prayed for peace about what we would face in the future with our daughter, and only then did the plan become clear. God was teaching us about His kind of love.

Pray for Patience.
People are always telling me how patient I am, when in reality it is the Fruit of the Spirit that I struggle with the very most. When God gave me 10 children, clearly He knew that I needed lots of extra practice in the patience department. 

When your child first comes home, no matter what age they are, you will feel tied down like you have an infant. Pray for patience during those first days and months of settling in. 

Whenever we introduced a new child into our home, my rule of thumb was this, “They get me 24-7 for the first two weeks.” Everyone and everything else took a back seat to the settling in of the new child. Many a night have I sat next to a bed or crib stroking an arm or patting a cheek. Others have picked up the slack of meal preparation so I could sit on the couch and cuddle a distraught and grieving child. I found that if I patiently gave of myself up front, the bonding process began sooner and our family dynamics improved at a faster rate..

Pray for Kindness.
Showing kindness by respecting the differences in culture will go a long way to helping your child adapt to your own family culture and rules. Try to remember the every single thing is different for your child, and they will feel like they are constantly walking on eggshells. 

When our Chinese kids came home, we learned to love Chinese food. If my kid wanted to put his shoes on to go 10 steps from the bed to the bathroom, we let him. Pick your battles; the more accepting you are of your child’s way of doing things, often the quicker the child may be open to change.

Pray for Goodness.
Prayerfully ask for help. I am still learning in this area. People want to help but are at a loss of how to help. Pray about who might come alongside your family/child. 

Over the years, God has supplied mentors for our children who needed extra support as they transitioned into our family; someone who helped them feel special especially when times were tough. Friends and family want to be part of the goodness of adoption. They want to contribute but just don’t know how.

Pray for Faithfulness.
After integrating twenty children (some foster children) into our family over the last twelve years, we have learned that faith is better caught than taught. Yes, we teach our beliefs when each child is ready to receive the Good News, but more often they see the light and love that comes from living in a way that honors God, and they decide they want that for themselves. Pray that you can strengthen your own walk so that your children will see the Fruit of the Spirit in you.

Pray for Gentleness.
Not everyone will be accepting of your choice or your kids. After our first biracial child was placed with us, good inner-circle friends said they could never adopt an African American. They didn’t think they could accept a child of a difference race or color. Our first inclination was to be indignant. Praying about a gentle and respectful response goes a long way in advancing the kingdom idea of  “all God’s children have a place in the choir!” 

Pray for Self-Control.
After patience, self-control is definitely what I work on most. When (not if) a behavior in my new child develops that triggers my hot button, I pray for the ability to turn the other cheek, seventy times seven, if necessary. When I can exhibit grace towards a struggling child, they will feel more secure, and only then will they open up and be willing to allow their hurts to heal.

Pray for Forgiveness – An extra prayer.
I didn’t know whether to put this first or last, but I believe there is nothing more important than the prayer of forgiveness

Pray that you can forgive the birthparents/country/orphanage for the choices they made. You will feel righteous anger when you see the affects of those choices on your child. When we practice forgiveness, it becomes much easier to help your child find their way through the maze of grief they must travel to become whole and independent. I remember the first time I truly forgave and realized that without these two very special people, I would not have had the privilege of raising the gift of life entrusted to my care.  

As you prayerfully navigate those first few months with your newly adopted child, keep your expectations low, your arms wide open, and love will come!

Thanks, Jennifer, for giving us so much to think -- and pray-- about. I'm definitely pinning this to my Pinterest adoption board. I plan to share it on Facebook as well. You can find Jennifer blogging at Peterson Ponderings.

Shared at Missional Women.


  1. I like the idea of giving a newly adopted child the same level of attention as a newborn, regardless of age. How did your other children react to having less attention, even though the new addition seems so much more capable than a newborn? I imagine you did quite a bit of preparation with them beforehand. We also talked a lot about what was coming with our then-two-year-old when we were expecting our younger daughter, but when reality hit, it was tough.

    1. Thanks for the question here. What we eventually figured out is there are always two sides to everything. 1) We can never be totally prepared - I think that's what keeps life exciting! And 2) Acceptance is easier when you know there is a beginning and an end - thus the two week guideline. My mother-in=law just had her knee replacement and while rehab was tough, she knew it would eventually be better. When a new kid arrived, we tried to remain realistic about how long it would take our family to find our groove in the new normal, usually about three months. Learning to roll with the ups and downs is a valuable life skill that I hope they will all take with them when they leave.....someday.

    2. That's true- having an end in sight does make things easier!

  2. I loved your beautiful post. We had one foster daughter, and my brother-in-law (same age as our son) lived with us and our three, we enjoyed a house full of teen agers. We are an empty nester today and enjoying a certain amount of peace. (dogs do bark at times). May God bless you and grant you everything on your list of things needed to be the parent God desires of us.

    1. Thank you for the blessing. We are a work in progress but I don't think God would want it any other way. Enjoy that nest and peace!

  3. Yes to all of this. And the kindness words especially rang true to me. Your older adopted children will NOT be exactly like bio kids that you may have at home. PICK YOUR BATTLES might be some of the wisest adoption advice ever.

    1. Expectations are everything, aren't they? No two kids are alike, that's for sure and when you add in a traumatic background and lots of transitions, fireworks are sure to ignite here and there along the way. Respecting those differences between all my kids helps us avoid the us and them stuff and we can appreciate the individual gifts we each bring to the family.

  4. What a fantastic post. Thank you!


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