Navigating a relationship between adoptive and birth parents sounds like a challenging task, doesn’t it? Both adoptive and birth parents experience a wide range of emotions through the adoption process. Add in the feelings that adopted children face as they grow older, and maintaining a relationship between all parties in the adoption triad can seem like a tricky situation.
Believe it or not, the traditional adopted parents vs. biological parents dynamic rarely exists today. Unlike years ago, when many adoptions were closed, open adoption is now widespread. Ninety-five percent of adoptions are now open in some way, according to research done by The Donaldson Adoption Institute in New York City.
Having an open connection between adoptive parents and birth parents brings value to all adoption triad members. It also allows for ongoing disclosure of information. This is essential as adoptees grow, especially when medical, educational, or other developmental questions arise.
Still, anyone new to the open adoption process may wonder what creating a bond really looks like. Is it healthy? Can it last? This article will discuss how to develop valuable relationships in an open adoption and some of the challenges you might face along the way.
Fostering a Relationship Between Birth and Adoptive Parents and Children
The initial thought of an open adoption can be overwhelming. Will the relationship between both sets of parents be tense? Can parents experience emotions that negatively impact the child? How will the child feel juggling relationships with two sets of parents? Will there be an adopted parents vs. biological parents dynamic, or can we all work together?
While these are all valid questions, open adoptions are more common than you may think. Only about five percent of adoptions today are entirely closed.
Before you let all the “what if’s” consume you, it’s essential to understand the term open adoption. There is no golden set of rules that dictates what open adoptions should look like. Your open adoption plan can be drastically different from someone else’s. Just like no two families are alike, every adoption plan and family’s journey is unique.
Some families choose a fully open adoption with ongoing and direct lines of communication as well as shared time with the child. Others plan a specific number of visits each year with updates provided during developmental or life milestones. Some families choose a semi-open adoption where communication happens through email, private communication apps, texts/calls, or written letters. Others work with an adoption center that serves as a third party for communication.
The only “right way” to do an open adoption is to define what works best for you and your child. Just as all adoption journeys are different, so are the relationships that exist within the adoption triad. Adoptive parent and birth parent relationships will look different from one family to the next; so will each set of parents’ relationship with the child.
While there is no textbook method to manage these connections, some tips can help you foster a healthy ongoing relationship between all key players in the adoption triad. Whether you are just starting to build a relationship or you want to strengthen your bond, here are some ways birth parents and adoptive parents can grow closer.
Take It Slow
Just as you should do with any new relationship, it’s essential to take it slow. Many birth parents need time to cope with the challenging emotions of placing a baby for adoption. At the same time, adoptive parents are getting adjusted to life with a new baby.
Even if you are both excited to embrace the adoptive parent and birth parent bond, give yourself and each other time at the beginning of the journey to get adjusted. Open adoption can be complicated, so it’s best to ease into the relationships slowly and see how the dynamics work.
Even the closest relationships require boundaries. Boundaries are an integral part of any healthy relationship. Most families involved in open adoptions say that their relationships change drastically over time. In some cases, families become closer as the years go on. In others, they grow apart.
If you want to maintain a close bond that gets stronger as time goes on, you should sit down and be open about what works and doesn’t work for your family. If you need help setting healthy boundaries for your relationship, a local adoption center can offer some excellent resources and advice.
Be Understanding and Flexible
It can’t be stressed enough that there are so many moving parts to the adoption journey. Another great way to strengthen your bond is to be understanding and flexible with each other. When it comes to schedules, visits, and calls, be open to adjustments. Between work, school, activities, and other family commitments, plans can change.
While it’s easy to take things personally, you need to be sensitive to other families’ responsibilities and obligations. At the same time, you should also understand that feelings can get hurt, and people will be disappointed when plans are disrupted. Awareness and empathy are crucial.
As with any relationship, people make mistakes. The relationship between birth and adoptive parents is no different. The adoption process is not easy, and feelings will get hurt. Worries, concerns, fear, sadness, guilt, and even resentment can surface and take control. Be prepared to forgive often.
There is a lot of healing going on from all sides of the triad, so give yourself some grace as well. In the end, the time and effort you put into this relationship will be worth it for everyone involved. As time heals wounds, your willingness to forgive can be the glue that brings you all closer together.
Keep the Child as the Primary Focus
Most importantly, make sure you all keep the child as your primary focus. What works for both sets of parents might not work for the child. Adoption centers report that fostering a healthy relationship between birth and adoptive parents gives adoptees the opportunity to cope with and process the complicated emotions of adoption.
As they process those emotions, adopted children need both sets of parents to focus on their feelings. Remember, the child is the center of the adoption triad. Make sure to make them the center of your relationship as well.
Challenges to Building a Close Connection
Of course, there will be many challenges along your journey. Some parents struggle with resistance as the other parents withdraw from the relationship. Others simply grow apart over time or get caught up in their own hectic lives. Like any relationship, your bond will take work.
If you are willing to put in the effort, your connection will evolve. If you feel that you’re putting in all the work, the best thing you can do is sit down and have a conversation. Most of the time, the other parents don’t even realize that their actions negatively impact the relationship. Communication is vital.
Another common challenge many parents face in open adoption is the feelings of insecurity. Adoptive parents struggle with various questions. Does my adopted child love their birth parents more than me? Will they still want to be a part of my life when they’re grown?
Birth parents struggle with their own set of questions. Does my child resent me for placing them for adoption? Do they even want me to be a part of their life?
While these thoughts are normal, it’s important to remember that each of your relationships is unique. Whether you are an adoptive parent who never misses a sports game or a birth parent who shares the same sense of humor, you each bring something to your child that no one else can.
No matter what your relationship looks like, you will always hold a special place in your child’s heart that no one can fill. The most important thing you can do is love your child as only you can. Although everyone’s love will look different, your child will be surrounded by more love than you could have imagined. Overcoming the challenges only adds to the beauty of these family relationships you’ve all worked so hard to build.
Do You Need Advice on Building a Stronger Bond With Your Child’s Other Set of Parents? We Can Help!
Creating a bond between adoptive and birth parents can be a challenge, but the happiness and well-being of your child make it worth it. Since no two sets of relationships are the same, it’s crucial to find a connection that works for your family.
Take it slow, set boundaries that work for your family, and understand each other’s feelings. When you prioritize your child as the primary focus of your relationship, you can build a long-lasting relationship that serves as the foundation for a beautiful family.
If you are a birth or adoptive parent looking for advice on strengthening your bond in an open adoption, Texas Adoption Center is here to help. Our supportive team can help you build an adoption plan that fosters healthy relationships between all members of your adoption triad.
We’re here to give you the advice and resources you need to support you through every step of the adoption process.
Contact us online today or give us a call at (512) 893-7943.