Interacting with Your Child Through Open Adoption

Tips for Setting Appropriate Boundaries

In an open adoption, a birth mother can have a relationship with her child while he or she is growing up. Depending on the level of openness, there may be more or less contact with that child. Just like any relationship, healthy boundaries need to be created, maintained, and respected. And just like in any parent-child relationship, age-appropriate conversations must be considered as well.

Openness in Adoption Requires Healthy Boundaries

A birth mother who chooses open adoption will make an agreement with the adoptive parents regarding the level of openness with the adoptive parents. This keeps expectations clear, and while adjustments may be made, everyone remains on the same page.

Establishing healthy boundaries with the child who has been placed for adoption requires a birth mother to ask herself what type of relationship she desires to have with the child. Does she want her child to know he or she was adopted? What type of relationship do the adoptive parents want their child to have with his or her birth mother?

What Type of Relationship Do You Crave with Your Child?

Once the initial boundaries and level of openness have been established, and it’s time for the relationship to begin, a birth mother can determine, based on her agreement with the adoptive parents, what type of relationship is appropriate to have with her child.

In an open adoption, the child will be educated on where they came from, who his or her parents are, and who his or her birth mother is. This is the level of openness I have with my son and his parents. My son knows that adoption was chosen for him and who his birth mother is. When he has questions, his parents answer them honestly as is appropriate for his age. I tell him that I love him and that I’m proud of him every time we talk.

What If I’m Not Sure What Is Appropriate?

If you are not sure what your child knows about you, ask his or her adoptive parents. They know better than anyone what level of maturity their child is at, what is appropriate to discuss, and what isn’t appropriate to reveal depending on his or her age.

The best advice I can give for healthy boundaries in a relationship with an adopted child is for a birth mother to discuss what is going on in the child’s life with his or her parents.

General Guidelines for Boundary Setting

For every level of openness, there will be different conversations and boundaries. However, here are some general tips on establishing healthy boundaries with the adopted child:

Do not express regret.

Regardless of how difficult your adoption decision may have been for you, do not express any thoughts of potential regret to the child. This is highly inappropriate and may greatly confuse the child who has been placed for adoption. If you bring up any feelings of regret, and eventually they subside, you may have found that you have initiated trauma for the child without intending to.

Do not project difficult emotions onto the child.

It is not the responsibility of any child to take their parents’ emotions into their own hands. If you find that you are having an especially hard time, you may consider taking a break from communication with your child until your emotions are under a bit more control. Putting adult emotions into the responsibility of a child will leave them with feelings of inadequacy and co-dependency. Instead, consider seeking out counseling, therapy, or another form of emotional support until you are ready to continue a healthy relationship with the child.

Tell your child that you love him or her.

It is so important that an adopted child know that the decision for adoption had everything to do with love and nothing to do with not being wanted. A simple “I love you” can spark feelings of love and security within a child. Three simple words can mean the world!

Tell your child that you are proud of him or her.

Let your child know that they are amazing and wonderful. Encourage them in their lives. Speak life and love into their hearts. Just because he or she is not with you doesn’t mean they still don’t wish for your approval. Birth mothers, let your children know you are proud of them and accept them no matter what!

Respect the parenting style and wishes of the child’s parents.

The most crucial boundary that a birth mother can have with her child is to respect the healthy boundaries that the child’s parents have put in place. When boundaries are disrespected, a birth mother may find that she has less contact, or no contact, with her child until she can respect the boundaries that the adoptive parents have set up. Having less contact with a child is not punishment, but it is a way for parents to protect their children when they are afraid they will be exposed to something that may be unhealthy for them.

If you keep these guidelines in mind, along with age-appropriateness, you will find that a healthy relationship with your child is much more likely to develop. Whether you are semi-open or very-open, your relationship with your child can be magical.