Adopting parents frequently tell us that their extended family members are negative or anxious about the idea of an open adoption. How do you help them get on board?
It’s important to remember that your parents are from a different generation where closed adoption and secrecy were the norm. In the past birthmothers were typically viewed negatively for being pregnant out of wedlock and for “giving away” or “abandoning” their children.
Your parents may also view the birthmother as a threat—someone who could change her mind and take away your baby, leaving you in pain. So some of their worries stem from their desire to protect you.
In reality a birthmother is much less likely to change her mind and reclaim a child if she has the peace of mind that is inherent in open adoption. In open adoption, birthparents select the adoptive parents and have an ongoing relationship with them. Birthparents know first hand that their child will have a good life.
To move past their stereotypes and fears, your parents will have to learn more about open adoption. It’s an evolutionary journey—for adoptive parents and their families. Think about what convinced you that open adoption was right for you. Was there a particular book that helped dispel any myths you had? If so, lend it to your families. Share photographs, letters and information so the birthmother becomes a real person to them. Even better would be for family members to meet her in person.
As family members learn more about open adoption, they will realize that the birthmother is not a threat. Fears and stereotypes are replaced by a loving reality.