My adoption journey as a parent began centered around my feelings and what I hoped the outcome would be. I wanted to provide a loving home to a child that didn’t have one. I imagined there would be a unique road to attachment as we would get to know each other, but I didn’t think much about other people who would be important to my children as well. I didn’t consider their birth or first parents and the various ways that they may be present in my children’s lives. As the years have progressed, we have navigated different relationships and found what benefits my children.
1. Tell the truth
Some of my children did not know the circumstances that lead to the separation from their first parents. That lead to imagined stories that were often their fault or based in shame. We have been age appropriately honest about what we know which frees them from guilt and has strengthen our relationship and also the relationship they are able to have with their first families. Every situation is different but with us, there were no safety concerns so we have openly discussed what we know. We also do not speculate or try to guess details we don’t know, which is just as important. In speaking with adult adoptees, they have always emphasized truth even if it means that there is no story.
2. Give them language
I have experienced that the average person does not use adoption sensitive language. “Why was she given up?” “Are they real brother and sister?” are just a couple of the questions I’ve heard in a grocery store check out line. Personal much? My children receive curious questions from class mates and I want to equip them with the answers that suit them best. There are many great resources for adoption sensitive language, here is one resources from Show Hope that covers the basics.
3. Be open to open adoption
I am living proof that open international adoptions happen. It wasn’t what we planned but as we met some of our children’s first families, I knew this was a blessing not everyone receives. I know families who also learned about their children’s first families and chose either by action or inaction to close the adoptions. In the long run, my children have benefited from this openness even though I’ve had to change my perspective and expectation.
4. Allow space to mourn the separation
In our home separation from first family comes out in various ways and each child has found their ways to express this loss. One child likes to write letters but doesn’t want to send them. Another child chooses to pull me aside for talks. The loss shows ups in unexpected spaces and situations. Children do not have to “get over it” or finish mourning any loss in their lives. Some children do not seek out that place and as a parent to create it for them is important. How they use it may change over time, but it’s always there.
5. Loving birth parents is not rejection
I have watched several adoption documentaries where adoptive parents were hesitant during a birth parent search. They express worry why the (now adult) adoptee would want to find their birth parents and why the adoptive parents aren’t enough. There were discussions where the adoptee had to explain why this was important to them and how there was love for both families. For our family, open adoption has only grown our family, not developed any jealousy or rejection. In fact, I believe my children trust me more, because I have tried to maintain a relationship that is important to them. It’s far from perfect due to culture and language barriers, but we do all we can to keep it going.
Now on to the Adoption Talk Linkup!
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