You may have read A Portrait of Open Adoption: Part 1 and had some questions or reservations. Maybe Open Adoption seemed like a strange concept or maybe it’s something you hope to pursue but just aren’t sure how. In today’s post, Sue Reardon talks more about what she believes has worked for her family.
Let’s start with goals. I think we can agree that, as parents, our goals are typically centered around “doing what’s best for our children”. We read, we talk to friends, we observe what others have done right and where they have gone wrong. My husband and I approached the idea of an open adoption much the same. After talking to countless families and perusing piles of books and articles, we truly believed that an open relationship with our children’s first families would be highly beneficial.
I often think of it as my children may be everything to me, but that doesn’t mean I am everything to them- and that is OK. It is crucial that an adoptive parent understand this. I am to my children what their birth mother is not, and she is what I am not. Only together are we whole. Lori Holden puts it this way in her book The Open Hearted Way To Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, “Adoption creates a split between a child’s biography and her biology. Openness is an effective way to heal that split and help your child grow up whole”.
Once we knew that we desired an open adoption, the next question was how. With this, we have had two very different experiences. We have one set of birth family who did not wish for any contact and one set who we maintain an ongoing and fulfilling relationship with.
In some cases the adoptive families wish for a relationship with the birth family but the birth family is not in a place to establish or maintain contact. A family may not have contact, but has what we call a “spirit of openness”. They are “open to being open”. Even though contact might not exist, they can still embrace their child’s birth family in other ways.
For the sake of today’s post, we are specifically addressing how to achieve an open adoption relationship with contact. Here are some key components that I think are necessary when birth and adoptive families are looking to forge a meaningful relationship with one another.
- It is important to accept this other person and the role they play in your child’s life. Don’t only accept it, but celebrate it. Their presence does not mitigate your role, but rather compliments and completes it. Validate one another.
- Envision yourself in the other person’s shoes. Ask yourself what things might they be experiencing, feeling or thinking. Display empathy.
- Acknowledge that the other person brings a story, and history, with them. Understand that they have traveled a road unknown to you. Show compassion.
- As with any relationship, honesty is critical. The truth may not always be easy to share, but it is necessary. Trust and prove yourself trustworthy.
- The relationship may or may not be easy. It may be natural or it may take work. Sometimes you may even need to remind yourself why this relationship is so important. Stay committed.
- Relationships are not built or strengthened over night. You can’t expect this one to be any different. Give it time.
Each open adoption relationship is unique. It will come with it’s own set of strengths and challenges. For additional thoughts on open adoption, please check out some of our previously published pieces.
Read More about Open Adoption: Talking to Lori Holden on the Topic of Open Adoption, A Clear Definition of Open Adoption, isn’t it a spectrum?, When What I Knew about Adoption was Wrong, Open Adoption, Learn about Open, Semi-Open and Closed Adoption, One Family; Two Different Adoption Plans
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