Open Adoption Roundtable: Talking to Extended Family

How did you talk to your extended family about open adoption prior to adopting/placing? How did they respond? For those with non-receptive family members, were you able to have more successful discussions with them post-adoption?

from the Open Adoption Roundtable #43

I don’t actually remember discussing open adoption very much with our family members before our daughter was placed with us. I remember talking about the process and about the agency’s policies, which were supportive of semi-open adoption (the agency as a go-between and the cards and letters post-placement) and there was an understanding that this was how domestic infant adoption was done nowadays. We grew into our fully open adoption and our extended family, for the most part, grew with us.

There have been times when we had to sit down and be more direct in our explanations and other times that our loved ones just went along with the reality of our lives. Not everyone in our families understands or is totally on-board with openness as we live it but they do appreciate that ultimately we’re the ones who make the call about what’s best for our kids and we believe absolutely without question that our brand of openness is what’s working.

One of the things we’ve talked about in the All Adoption Support Group meetings is how challenging it can be to manage our own expectations and at the same time cope with the expectations of our extended family members. When we are feeling particularly vulnerable or unsure, any criticism from the people who we love and who love us is that much more challenging. Or if they are pushing us to shape our adoption experience in ways that mirror their own values more than our own, we may feel shaken in our belief that we’re doing the right thing.

What helps me is knowing that my decisions are based on gut instincts but also on research. I know what the studies say about openness (all of it good) and it bolsters my faith. And I look beyond adoption-specific research to general child development so that I can feel confident about how we manage openness at each stage of our kids’ life.

I also try to remember that when we do field criticism, it comes from a loving place. We are fortunate to have family members who genuinely care about our welfare and the welfare of our kids. When they express concern, they’re doing it because they care about us. This makes it easier to stop our sometimes heated discussions from getting out of hand.

Comments 1

  1. One of my extended family members had a knee-jerk anti-openness reaction. The tiniest bit of well-chosen research made all the difference. I told her that statistically, adopted girls in closed adoptions were more likely than their non-adopted peers to have unplanned (often teen) pregnancies. She immediately reversed her opinion.

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