Interacting with Adoptive Parents Through Open Adoption

Tips for Establishing a Strong Relationship

These people you have personally chosen to raise your child have become your family. Whether you see or speak with them often, or if your only communication is via email or letters, healthy boundaries are important. Right from the start, the relationship a birth mother has with adoptive parents needs to have healthy boundaries established. This relationship will last for at least 18 years for most members of the adoption triad, and the healthier the start, the healthier the relationship.

From the Start

Birth mothers will find their first conversation with adoptive parents rather intense. While all parties may seem calm, even reserved, inside they are both holding intentions for the same child: to place the birth mother’s baby with the adoptive parents. There is no way to avoid all the emotion that comes with this first interaction, but there is a way to ensure that the conversation establishes healthy boundaries.

For the Birth Mother

Birth mothers may be experiencing a complicated plethora of emotions that range from fear and depression to exceptional joy and peace. Regardless of which end of the spectrum the birth mother finds herself on, it’s important that she go into the discussion with a motivated and purposeful mindset. There is a goal in mind, and that is to make sure the right fit for adoptive parents are found.

Here are some ways to establish healthy boundaries with the adoptive parents from your very first discussion:

Don’t make everything in the conversation about you.

A birth mother may be feeling as if she is being put through the ringer. Between pressure from friends and family members, societal expectations, the weight of pregnancy, and the idea of healing through an adoption decision, a birth mother is dealing with a lot of stress. However, there are healthy outlets for such stress. Using conversations with adoptive parents to talk about everything you are going through does not make for a healthy boundary.

Don’t divulge excessive personal information.

While there is certain information that needs to be disclosed to adoptive parents, that does not include excessive personal information. Adoptive parents don’t need to know about a birth mother’s intimate life, intricate details of her family life, or every little hardship she has encountered. A description of what a birth mother’s life is like is sufficient for the adoptive parents during your first meeting with them.

Respect the adoptive parents’ right to some level of privacy.

Remember that as a birth mother, you are essentially interviewing adoptive parents for the purpose of them raising your child. They are not being interviewed about their personal or intimate life. Their lives have already been assessed through a home study. What is important is to look at their parenting styles and values, not how intimate their personal lives are.

Use exploratory phrases and questions.

If you ask only yes or no questions, you may receive only yes or no answers. Ask questions that open up the dialogue so that a back-and-forth can occur with adoptive parents. Birth mothers who allow for adoptive parents to open up in conversation will find it much easier to make the adoption decision.

Don’t attack adoptive parents for potentially different beliefs.

It is not required that a birth mother agree with every value that adoptive parents hold. Perhaps a birth mother wants her child to have different values, or perhaps she is looking for adoptive parents with similar values as her. These values may adapt over time as well. It is always important to respect different beliefs, even if you don’t agree with them.

If you keep these suggestions in mind, it is more likely you will have healthy boundaries established right from the start. Next is to maintain these boundaries throughout the life of the child who is being placed for adoption.

The Blissful Moments

There will be moments in which your adoption decision is pure bliss. You will have amazing interactions with your child and his or her parents. You will find yourself wanting to bottle up the genuine joy and open it up when you feel down to duplicate the desirable emotions. Those moments are my favorite moments, but they are not the expectation.

The Lonely Moments

There will be occasions when you feel terrible about missing your child, and will want to have contact with the child or the adoptive parents just to feel like someone understands. These are some of the hardest moments. Instead of reaching out to the adoptive parents for support, it is crucial to create your own support network. While receiving updates about your child may be helpful, adoptive parents are responsible only for the child and themselves, not the emotional healing of the birth mother. I have learned from personal experience that it is inappropriate to use adoptive parents are some form of therapy. Trust me, it helps no one.

Smooth Water

Eventually, you will find, as a birth mother, that your relationship with the adoptive parents becomes easier to navigate and begins to just flow. These are the best times. Life is calm and peaceful. Everyone is content with the relationship. This may last years, months, or days, but eventually, the periods will grow longer and longer as a birth mother and adoptive parents learn how to have a healthy relationship while maintaining boundaries.

The Transition Moments

Finally, there will be periods of adjustment. These periods typically occur when the child reaches a milestone, the adoptive parents are going through something emotional, or the birth mother is going through a transition. Of course, there are other reasons that the relationship will enter a transition period. For example, the adoptive parents could decide that it’s better for their family if there is more or less interaction between a birth mother and a child. These periods are temporary, and it’s important to remember that the best way to get through them is to respect the healthy boundaries that act as the foundation to the adoption triad relationship.

Seeking Out Support

Regardless of the level of openness in an adoption, it is crucial that the birth mother set healthy relationship boundaries with the adoptive parents from the start, maintain them throughout the life of the child, and respect the boundaries that the adoptive parents have set up as well.

If you find that you don’t understand how to set and maintain healthy boundaries, I advise seeking out some form of post-placement support or adoption counseling to guide you through, what can be at times, a challenging relationship. Otherwise, just enjoy the ride.