Tuesday Topic: How do you Handle Pre-adoption Friendships?

My friend, Jennifer, sent me this Tuesday Topic.  It will likely strike a chord with many of you.

Does anyone have advice on how they’ve handled pre-adoption friendships with people who were “high need” themselves? I just don’t have the bandwidth for some old friendships anymore – one particularly where the friend has no understanding of our new life and is always in crisis herself (not to mention a couple family relationships too but I do what I can when I can in those with some pretty solid boundaries). I feel like a jerk – but our life is hour-by-hour even in good times. Like a finely tuned ship that will sink if it takes anyone else on, you know?

Any thoughts or experience with this? Did you expect this challenge when you began the adoption/foster parent process? How have you handled it?

It would be great to see a good discussion about this question.  Do you have thoughts to share, or even a story? Leave them as a comment, even if your idea seems small or you just want to offer support.

Do you have a question for a Tuesday Topic? Email it to me at lisa@onethankfulmom.com  Please include “tuesday topic” in the subject line.  I would love to hear from you.

Encourage one another,


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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.


  1. Angela Arnett Stone
    October 29, 2013

    We we are in the midst of foster chaos in our home, outside relationships do fall by the wayside if they are not mutually beneficial. That is not to say I am not a supportive friend but rather this: if over the history of the relationship there have been times where we each have proven we can support each other when it is the other's turn to fall apart, then the friendship tends to continue. If it is very one-sided as yours sounds, it is not possible for my family to include that. The only counsel I could share would be to ponder it out, write your thoughts, then take them to Father in prayer. I would imagine you don't want to offend or insult but you have to draw in the wagons.

  2. Deborah
    October 29, 2013

    Honestly – my best friend in the world tends to have a very high drama life that (at times) has been a bit draining and caused us to lose touch for short periods of time. In the end, we have always been there for each other no matter what, and if we lost touch for a period we always picked right back up as if we had never missed a single day. We were in touch, but distance limited our contact, when we adopted our children from hard places. I found, that my high drama best friend was among a very small group of friends who could stomach my highly intensely drama filled new life and support me while in crisis. She actually grounded me during the worst of it (to date) and helped me make solid decisions about what was in the best interest of the WHOLE family. This is a very special and highly unusual friendship – so by no means do I think my outcome is representative of the norm – but I guess my thought is to give your high drama friend a chance to step up and be your rock. If she doesn't you might just have to avoid the extra drama for a while and see if this is a friendship that can stand a test of time and seperation.

  3. Kohana
    October 29, 2013

    Having a very high needs friend/relative was really challenging when we started our family through adoption. I just couldn't drop everything during this person's crisis anymore. I was sleep deprived, and emotional, and needed support myself. Over the years the relationship has lost its closeness. If I wasn't leaning in to support, there really was no reciprocal gesture. I feel badly for not being able to support this person I love, but I just couldn't take care of my little family, and another adult. We stay in touch from time to time, but I had to acknowledge that the relationship was one sided, and I just couldn't carry my side anymore. My friend would do more if they were able, but being heavily wounded in life, I realize they cannot at this time. It's a loss, and sometimes I miss this person terribly.

  4. Kimberly
    October 29, 2013

    Don't take responsibility for a grown up. Invite them over. Keep being mom… she will catch on. Pray for your friend often. Be in the same Bible Study even if you can't attend it helps to be doing one. You can point to the One with the best help and counsel.

  5. SleepyKnitter
    October 29, 2013

    We applied for our first adoption, then moved to another state, and our first child came to us six months later, so our “local” friendships were not that impacted because they knew from our first meeting that we were waiting to adopt. We have noticed, though, that now we have very few friends who are not adoptive or foster parents. The nature of our “social network” is completely different than it was just six years ago (pre-adoption), and we find it hard to build friendships outside of the adoption world. “High needs” people are still attracted to us — maybe that’s the nature of being adoptive parents and the personality type that often goes with it — but we are unable to reach out to these people as much as we used to because of our kids’ needs. This is a frequent topic of conversation between my husband and me. What is our responsibility to our precious treasures, and what is our responsibility to needy people around us? I think of the Blocks and the Tweitmeyers taking their large, high needs families to Honduras to serve at Village of Hope, and I am humbled by that — it helps me think through the idea of serving others outside of our family even though our own treasures are so consuming.

  6. Brianne
    October 30, 2013

    This exact situation happened when we adopted our son. I've actually lost several friends just due to being in a completely different place now. But, I have an extremely high-needs friend. To be honest, the relationship was always pretty one-sided. When my son entered the picture, I tried to keep the friendship going but it fizzled pretty quickly. If the friend is that high-needs, I would guess she will be similar and drift away.

  7. Tricia
    October 31, 2013

    I love these words by sleepyknitter "High needs" people are still attracted to us — maybe that's the nature of being adoptive parents and the personality type that often goes with it . I believe there is a great deal of truth in this as we are all working out our "stuff". Karyn Purvis talks about how many people who adopt have an ambivalent attachment style which I am sure leads us to less than healthy relationships and draws us to adopt. Thankfully, the crash of adoption has led me to get more help for myself and become a healthier person overall. There have been friendships that have changed dramatically – there just wasn't enough time and energy to be mom to children from hard places and to be in these relationships. In one particularly dysfunctional friendship, the healthier I got and more boundaries set up, the more crazy it got. It was very hard, but I had to pretty much cut it off. Interesting topic, for sure.


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