Dealing With Family That Reject Your Choice To Adopt

What do you do?

Denalee Chapman May 10, 2017
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One would think, in this day and age, that how you choose to grow your family shouldn’t matter to anyone but you. But, just like many other things, even though it’s surprising, there are some whose opinions are so intense they just can’t help but share. Especially if they disagree with you.

Take, for instance, basic parenting. I’ve been around when a perfect stranger has told a young mother that she should dress her child differently. Or another who asked the age of her child, then said that the child was too small and if she was nursing, she should supplement. Sheesh! But when it comes from strangers, it’s not nearly so hurtful as when it’s family. This is especially true when a family member doesn’t support your choice to adopt.

We love our families. Sometimes we don’t like them, but generally we do love them. We desire their acceptance and support. So what do you do if you’ve made the choice to adopt and are at any point in the process when a family member objects? I found myself in this situation, and I tell you, it was tough.

My first instinct was to disown the family member, never to speak to, speak of, or acknowledge again. But the reality was different than that hateful, hurtful fantasy. Family is family, so I learned how to move forward. It’s true that I did distance us to a degree. But when I got myself to a healthy place, in regards to my feelings toward that individual, I was able to set boundaries to protect my child, and still have a familial relationship. Boundaries included:

  • Do not leave the child alone with this individual. I didn’t fear for our child’s physical safety.  But I did fear for his emotions. I was always nearby and always protective.
  • Do not ever discuss adoption again with this person. There’s nothing more to say about that.
  • Get rid of all expectations. I didn’t expect birthday recognition or anything else from this individual towards my child.
  • Protect my child from ever knowing how this individual feels. This was a little more tricky. I had to focus on allowing a normal relationship development between this individual and my child, while still protecting him. It was hard, but doable.

When there’s someone you are close to who doesn’t approve of your choice to adopt, setting boundaries (and maybe even sharing them with that person) will go a long way towards creating an acceptable long-term relationship. Your boundaries may different than mine were. But once you do that, you’ll have greater peace, and you’ll be able to set aside the hurt and move forward.

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Denalee Chapman

Denalee is an adoptive mother, a motivational speaker, a writer, and a lover of life. She and her husband have adventured through the hills and valleys of life to find that the highest highs and the lowest lows are equally fulfilling. Book Denalee to speak to your group, or find Denalee's writings, including her books on her website at

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