How To Address Adoption with Grandparents ~ From Both Adoptive Parents and Birth Parents

By Michele Fried, founder and CEO, Adoption STAR

I remember countless stories of expectant parents I met with over the years who cried at the thought of sharing with their parent or parents that they were pregnant.  It had nothing to do with their age.  I sat with young teens and women in their forties who just were frightened or embarrassed to share the news.  Of course if they weren’t going to share the news that they were pregnant, sharing an adoption plan was out of the question.

What is it about parental support that is so important to us no matter how old we are?  For those women who allowed themselves the peace of mind to sit down with their parents, I found that their adoption process, now no longer clouded in secrecy, appeared healthier and stronger.  For those women who still today have not shared their story with their own parents, I worry that they are still suffering in silence.

For adoptive parents who begin the adoption journey, they too have the decision whether or not to share with their parents that they are beginning the adoption journey, and how much detail if any they plan on sharing.

For adoptive parents there are two decisions to make:

  1. Will we share the fact that we hope to adopt?
  2. How will we break the news that our child has arrived?

Typically number one should be more like “when will we share the fact that we hope to adopt with our parents?” rather than, “will we share this information?”  It would be awfully challenging to share the news of a child’s arrival with their new grandparents if these grandparents didn’t previously know their adult child was looking to adopt.

Now “how we break the news that our child has arrived or is arriving” has been done using some creative ways.  From one couple who invited both sets of parents over for dinner then said they were going out to get dinner, and came back with a baby! To another couple who surprised their parents and guests at a birthday party with the new addition, and so on!  While the majority of the stories I have heard over the years are heartwarming, a few are heartbreaking.   One adoptive father thought that his elderly mother would come around when he and his wife brought their daughter home, but she never did.  She only chose to accept her two grandsons, children that her son and daughter-in-law gave birth to, causing great grief in the family.

Just as “we” (birth parents and adoptive parents) prepared ourselves for the process, we should permit our parents to be introduced to the journey allowing them the time to learn and grow.

Many of us have experienced insensitive comments arriving knowingly but also unknowingly by loving family members.  These comments, especially arriving from our parents, can be painful.

For birth parents you have dealt with silence or with blame, with uneducated comments like, “How could you?”  “I would never give up my child.”  “Aren’t you afraid he will hate you?”  “Did you get paid for the baby?”  “I would have helped you if you asked.”  “I saw this terrible story on TV about adoption.”  “Why would you want to see her again?”  “How can you trust them?”

For adoptive parents you have dealt with those who support and those who “don’t get it.”

Before adoption, many have heard:  “Why don’t you try to get pregnant?”  “Why don’t you try harder to get pregnant.”  “Maybe it’s not meant to be.”  “Don’t you want to have your own?”  “Too bad, you’re children would have been beautiful.”

During the adoption process, many have heard:  “Once you adopt, you will get pregnant.”  “What are you going to do about the real parents?” “What is taking so long?”  “What is the baby going to look like?”  “Why don’t you try to get a healthy white baby.”

After the child is placed:  “Will you tell him that he is adopted?” “How much did you pay for her?”  “You aren’t going to see her mother again, are you?”  “Is she American?”  “He looks like he could be yours.”  “Can they take him back?”

Adoption is a Family Affair is a book by Pat Johnston and provides basic education on the psychological aspects of adoption and the adoption process. It starts right off with common fears about adoption, such as, “Will it last? What is open adoption? What if our grandchildren look different than we do?” Readers learn about the adoption process from the point of preparing for your adoption, through the home study and paperwork process, and the challenge of “the wait” as well as the arrival and settling in of your child.

A number of other important topics for your family are also addressed within this interesting book including the private nature of your child’s personal history, how spending time with grandchildren facilitates deeper bonds, and including adopted grandchildren in inheritance decisions. 

We love our parents and our parents love us, we just don’t always love what they have to say.  But you know what?  They don’t always appreciate what we have to say or the choices we make.  The most important thing is to develop a foundation of healthy communication especially now that you have entered a new journey in your life.

Whether you are an adoptive parent or birth parent you have the right to be respected for your decisions and choices, but it would probably work out best for all if you allowed your parents, your child’s grandparents (by birth or adoption) to have the same ability that you had, to receive the education and counseling necessary to understand, explore, and possibly fall in the love with the process.