Are you considering an open adoption? There are many reasons why an adoption is closed, meaning no contact between adoptive and birth family. If the adoption was a foster care adoption, there could have been safety concerns or drug and alcohol problems. Perhaps it was a domestic adoption and all parties involved felt it was a good idea to end contact. Whatever the reason there may come a day when it's time to open up to contact with a member of the birth family. Whenever that day arrives, it is important to prepare your child for birth family contact.Ideas for preparation:
Present children's books for your child to read that address open adoption, visits, or other adoption themes. It's good to get a dialog started between you and your child about adoption and birth family. Here are some options:
Communicate the importance for your child to share feelings, whether good or bad. Remember your child's emotional and developmental age when discussing this tough topic. If you as a parent are struggling with strong feelings, it may be a good idea to take those feelings to a close friend. Your child has enough to handle with managing new family. The extra burden of making you upset wouldn't be fair.
Explain safety and boundaries to your child. Let her know what your expectations are for birth family. For example, "Birth mom needs to be clean and sober before we agree to contact." Explain why this boundary is important. Ask your child about her expectations. Also, let your child know if and when contact needs to end and why.
Teach your child what she needs to do to get out of an uncomfortable situation. If face-to-face contact is to begin, let her know that if she is ever uncomfortable how to signal you to her uncomfortable feelings. A code phrase or a question may be in order. This will let you know that your child may be feeling overwhelmed and needs a break or a quick end to the visit.
Consider the timing of the visit. If your child is struggling with other changes in his life, perhaps this is not the right time for birth family contact. Talk with your child to get a sense of his adjustment. If you are struggling with whether to open an adoption, consult a professional for an opinion, or trust your parental instincts, perhaps it's just not the right time.
Consider taking things slow. There are many ways to start contact, letters, emails and phone calls all can build up to face-to-face visitation.
Have respect for all sides of the adoption triad. Any belittling remark affects your child and your relationship with the child. Think before you speak. The adoptive and birth parent don’t have to like each other, but you are tied together through the adoptee. Be respectful of the roles each of you hold: birth parent, adoptive parent, and adoptee. Each role is important to the life of the adoptee.
Check your expectations, are they realistic? Are they considerate of all sides involved? Is it all about you?
The bottom line is to listen to your child. Remember, sometimes they speak in behavior. The toughest thing to understand is that even a positive visit can end in horrible behavior. It's probably grief, it will get better with time.