Tuesday, June 19, 2018

5 Ways to Mess Up Open Adoption

In April, I shared with you five ways to help create a successful open adoption.  So today, I want to re-visit this important topic, but share with you five ways I see parents messing up open adoption.

First, open adoption is defined as the triad (that's the birth family, adoptive family, and adoptee) having some level of an ongoing relationship, usually through direct-contact.  This might mean texts, phone calls, e-mails, and visits. 

1:  Too much, too soon.

Whether this is during an adoption match or after a placement, some parents give out too much, too soon.  This can be everything from contact information (address, cell number), to life details (where you work, what you believe in, etc.), to contact itself.  Why is this problematic?  Because all good relationships develop healthily through organic growth.

2:  Holding back.

While you don't want to give too much, too soon, you also don't want to hold back too much.  This person is planning to, or has already, entrusted her child to you.  Therefore, you do need to be "open" to have a successfully open adoption.  This doesn't mean you disclose every little life detail (your income, your weight, your social security number---duh), but you do need to be vulnerable and willing in an open adoption relationship.  Otherwise, you are hampering its ability to succeed.

3:  Tit for tat.

Just as you disclose information to the expectant or birth family, you want some information from them.  This can be positively motivated:  you want to be able to convey information to your child (the adoptee).  But interrogating an expectant or birth family member, or demanding information because you somehow feel entitled to it, can have negative consequences and damage the relationship

4:  Guessing.

You do not know how the other person is feeling.  They do not know how you are feeling.  Therefore, if you are unwilling to communicate rather than guess/suppose, you are setting the openness up to fail.  Ask questions.  Check in with each other.  Be honest.   But don't guess.  There are too many factors and circumstances in every person's life for guessing.

5:  Taking everything personally.

Once again, things happen in the other person's life.  Things happen in your life.  Every single emotion or question or statement or reaction isn't always (or even often) rooted in you.  This is why we need to go back to #4.  Guessing doesn't work.  Ask, but again, as I shared in #3, don't enter into conversations feeling entitled to every tidbit of information. 

And when a birth parent is struggling, you need to point him or her back to the social worker (hopefully the very ethical one).  You cannot and should not assign yourself the role of birth parent counselor AND mom to your child.  I go into detail about this in my latest book.  Because your #1 job?  To be your child's mom.  Trying to be counselor can hinder or even harm your relationship with your child, with your other children, and your partner. It can take a toll on your own health.

You cannot bypass the work, time, commitment, authenticity, and grace that open adoptions take.  Please don't try to "fast pass" or bypass or ignore.  Do the work.  Make the changes.  And avoid burning bridges that cannot be repaired.

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