Conflict is not new nor is anyone immune to its wrath. Conflict will inevitably arise in any relationship. It is ignorant to believe it will not happen in your open adoption relationship; that’s why it is better to prepare for a conflict rather than ignore it.
Conflict is something that many people try to avoid at all costs. There are also some out there who seek conflict and drama. However, for most people, conflict makes us cringe. The idea of fighting with people we love is hard and should be hard. This can be especially difficult when the people affected by this conflict are your children. In an open adoption situation, you want what’s best for the child, but you may have different ideas of what that is. You can also often let pride get in the way of the relationship. This can be true when it comes to any kind of relationship.
Whether you are an adoptive parent or a birth parent, you will have to work to make your open adoption survive and thrive. There will be a lot of give and take that happens throughout the situation. It is important to remember that you are on the same team and part of the same adoption triad. The ultimate goal is to raise a happy and healthy child. You want to be able to provide your child with the opportunity to know herself and her family as a whole. Open adoption is an incredible opportunity and one that should be protected when possible. The relationships involved in open adoption are worth fighting for.
In order to deal with conflict in an open adoption situation, you have to remember that your children come first. Their safety, their needs, their emotions, and their relationships are all at stake. You must take inventory of all of these things to make the right choices and to take the right approach. Placing your child first and setting your pride aside will be incredibly important. Avoiding conflict will have a lot to do with being honest about your feelings and also communicating well. Building a relationship built on trust and honesty will go a long way as you grow with your child and grow with each other.
One of the first things you should do when establishing an open adoption situation is to sit down and talk about what that means for each of you. You shouldn’t just simply agree to an open adoption and not know what that looks like for each party. Establishing communication from the very beginning will mean the world when it comes to your relationship moving forward. If you are able to establish a relationship of give and take early on, this will definitely help in the event that conflict arises in the future.
In any relationship one of the key steps to making a relationship work is to establish open communication. When conflict arises, have a system or a plan in place on how to address that. It would be amazing if you could discuss this before the adoption finalized. Talk with other parties to find out what conflict resolution will look like. You know yourself best and know how you best address conflict in your other relationships. Utilize some of these tools and express these tools to the other party. When the other person knows how you handle conflict, you may find that he or she knows how to approach conflict better when it comes to your relationship. You will also know how to approach conflict and how to approach the other party in a wise and productive manner.
Another way to communicate more effectively in an open option situation is to talk to other birth parents or adoptive parents who are in an open adoption situation. They have likely had to learn to communicate through conflict within their own open adoption. Speak with those who have come before you as they will have a lot of the answers that you seek. Speak with your adoption agency or adoption professional to connect with some of these families and support groups. There are even often support groups online that will allow you some anonymity and allow you to get advice on a situation or conflict as it arises.
If you take an inventory of the best and healthiest relationships that you know of, you may see a common theme. The best relationships are those where each person involved puts in the work to build the relationship. This starts from the very beginning of a relationship. Take the time to get to know one another and to know how each other interacts in a relationship. Be considerate of each other’s feelings and the consequences of each other’s actions. The more you get to know each other in the beginning and the more you spend time to build your relationship, the more likely it is to thrive when things get hard.
Getting to know each other in an adoption situation goes above and beyond so much more than grabbing dinner or meeting at an agency. If you plan to have an open adoption, you are not only committing to a lifelong relationship for your child, but also a lifelong relationship with your child’s birth or adoptive parents. If you are going to spend a lifetime with these people, it would only seem logical that you would spend time getting to know one another. You would spend time together learning about each other and spending time having fun together. Bonding will be important for each other just as it will be for your child.
It is advisable to talk to your adoption agency about how other families have bonded with each other in open adoption situations. You can also make a plan for if your open adoption will include certain big events or holidays or how you are going to celebrate those. You will want to build a relationship based on more than just the relationship you have because of your child. Figure out a way to bond as friends and as extended family.
This relationship may have ebb and flow. Not all relationships are easy. They take continuous work. Commit to each other to build your relationship even through conflict. Work on your relationship daily and try not to sweat the little things. Pick your battles and approach conflict with the understanding that you would have in any relationship you truly value. Nurture your relationship as something precious to you and something that is worth fighting for when things get hard. If you are able to see the value in your relationship, it will be way easier to overcome any obstacles.
Have you ever experienced that honeymoon phase in the beginning of a relationship? This is the part of a relationship where people put their best foot forward. They may tell the best attributes about themselves and leave out some of the more unappealing facts. It’s easy to look past things that would frustrate them after a while and not see little transgressions. They may even be more forgiving and more open. However, as time goes on and you get more comfortable with each other, these negative attributes show themselves. Frustrations arise. Disagreements become more of a big deal. It is how you deal with these that will matter and will determine whether the relationship will stand the test of time.
Part of this honesty will be beginning a relationship with honest terms. Because of the fact that you are trying to impress one another or put your best foot forward, it is easy to overpromise or make statements that you may not be able to hold up to. You are not necessarily trying to lie but are not exactly facing reality either. When you are discussing your open adoption agreement, do not create an environment where you will have to encounter conflict or tension because you are not holding up your end. Agree to terms that are realistic for you and for everyone. It does not mean that you can’t change this as your child grows, but it does mean that you are setting yourself up for a more realistic and honest relationship moving forward.
It may be tempting to give excuses or to lie about reasons for actions that you take or feelings that you express. However, lying for the sake of avoiding conflict can often backfire. When you establish a relationship based on honesty, a relationship can survive past hurt feelings. It is better to be truthful and be in a relationship where you know the truth will be told. Trust will build a relationship whereas dishonesty will create betrayal. Gaining back trust is a really hard thing to do. Healing from a bit of hurt feelings or some disappointment is much easier. Weigh the price of sparing feelings before you do so. Honesty and trust matter much more in any relationship.
Sometimes, conflict happens, and sometimes you get to a point where you just can’t resolve it on your own. As open adoption has become more popular, more adoption agencies and adoption professionals have been willing to stick by their families well after the adoption has been finalized. These adoption professionals are great resources when it comes to mediating conflict. I have spoken with multiple families who have used their adoption agencies or adoption professionals to be a third party in a conflict to help each side talk it through a bit better and see things from an outside perspective. This can be incredibly useful when conflict arises.
You can think of this in terms of a marriage or romantic relationship. People often choose to go to marriage counseling or to talk to someone when they are experiencing conflict and feel like they are not communicating well. This is where adoption agencies and adoption professionals come in as mediators. It can be an incredible resource to have a third person who appreciates and understands the well-being of each party to help you try to figure out and sort through the conflict. Adoption professionals are also great in this aspect as they have likely worked with multiple families, and this is likely not the first time they have dealt with this sort of conflict. Reach out to your adoption professional to see if they will offer any sort of mediation or assistance after your adoption has been finalized.
In the end, the biggest thing to remember is that your child comes first.You have likely committed to an open adoption because it is what is best for your child. This relationship will be important for your child as they grow. Keeping that in perspective will help to sort through almost any conflict. When you communicate with each other, begin by reminding everyone that you are going to work through this for the sake of your child. It is okay if you need a mediator. It is okay if you are struggling to resolve a conflict. However, it is important to do all that you can to sort through and maintain a healthy relationship.
Conflict in any relationship is hard. This is really why the relationship industry is a billion-dollar business. There have been thousands of books written about relationships. This is because conflict arises so often in relationships. Sometimes, learning to navigate those conflicts can take a professional. There are a million techniques and ways to navigate relationships and to navigate conflict. However, communication, honesty, and perspective will be stepping stones to build a firm foundation for any relationship—keeping in mind that your child comes first and that all of this is because of your child will help to sort through any feelings and conflicts you may have in an open adoption relationship. Conflict will happen, but it does not have to be a big deal when you prepare for it from the beginning.