Whether you’re in an open adoption, or the parent of a child who has been in a closed adoption but has since searched and found his birth parents, how do you best help your child whose birth parent decides to opt out of the relationship? When dealing with the emotions of your child, sometimes it’s hard to step back enough to not let the Mama or Papa-Bear come out and stage an attack. But trust me. Step back.

Realizing we really can’t control another person, it’s best to set aside the decision of the birth parent, recognizing the choice is theirs to make. With compartmentalizing that, your head will be clearer to help your child cope.

  1. Invite your child to express any and all feelings. Recognizing emotions are neither positive nor negative–they just are emotions–encourage your child to express, in words, his/her feelings often. Talking it out is a great release and can serve to bring the automatic perspective regardless of age.

  2. Be completely honest. As you converse with your child about the situation, don’t try to sugar-coat anything. Trust is important, so be completely honest. That’s not to say you have to be harsh. You can temper your words to be stated in an honest way that is also sensitive.

  3. Do not give false hope. Unless the birth parent has expressed their desires in regards to the relationship with your child will change, don’t even bring up that possibility with your child. Basing comfort on a hope that may not happen is not healthy and doesn’t help with day-to-day living. It is better to help your child face reality in the present and to help them see the good in their lives the way they are now.

  4. Find opportunities for your child to relate to others in similar situations. Even if those are fictional situations, like movies or books, it helps your child to feel less alone. As they find relatable heroes, friends and role models, they will learn to accept things the way they are and see the good.

  5. Help compensate. If you’re in a family situation with other adopted children whose birth parents are an active part in their lives, inviting one of the other birth parents to help include your child in activities and such may be good. For your young child whose birth parent is absent, this could make all the difference in feeling included.

Remember the circumstance doesn’t have to define your child’s life. As you remember that, your child will automatically believe it.