How To Help Family Members Understand Open Adoption

Open adoption is a fairly new idea, so it can be hard for others to understand.

Annaleece Merrill January 21, 2017
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Open adoption is a fairly new idea, and for those that are not directly involved, it can be hard to understand. When I placed baby R with her adoptive family, many people, including family members, had questions. After all, your birth child is your mother’s birth grandchild, your nephew’s birth cousin, and so on. So how can you help them understand?

First, educate them on proper terminology. This shows respect for the adoptive family, and makes it less confusing for both family members and the child. For example, “I went to visit my birth daughter and her adoptive family,” is clearer than, “I went to visit my daughter and her family.” Using proper terminology makes it easy to explain the people and relationships involved in an open adoption.

Next, be patient. Sometimes it takes awhile for those you love to understand. They may inadvertently say hurtful things. Most people mean well and want to be helpful. Kindly explaining how their words make you feel will help them understand how they can help and strengthen the relationship. Some people just won’t get it. And that’s okay. It’s perfectly all right to say, “I don’t feel like talking about this right now, but thanks for asking,” and change the subject. You do not have to explain yourself to anyone, but if the question is coming from a loving place, usually it’s worth answering.

Finally, prepare yourself. You will find that you get asked the same questions over and over again, and having answers ready for these questions can create a great dialogue between you and your family members. Here are some questions and answers that I have found to be typical when explaining open adoption to friends and family.

Open Adoption FAQ’s

Q. What does “open adoption” mean?

A. Open adoption means that birth parents remain in contact with the adoptive family after they place their birth child with them. (You can also explain the level/frequency of your contact here, too.)

Q. Won’t that be confusing for the child?

A. As long as everyone is clear on his or her role, it doesn’t need to be confusing. The adoptive parents are mom and dad, and it is their job to be loving parents to her every day. I am the birth mom, not the parent. It is my job to love her and be there to answer questions about her story. These are two very different relationships, so they’re not confusing.

Q. Won’t it break your heart to see your baby with someone else?

A. Sometimes it is hard. But I think open adoption is the healthiest option for my birth child and me. I won’t have to wonder where her and her family are or if they are okay. I will be able to be around for my birth child to reassure her of my love, and to answer any questions she may have

Q. Why do the adoptive parents let you come around? Aren’t they threatened?

A. We both love this child, and have their best interest at heart. I respect them, or I wouldn’t have placed with them. They respect me, because I gave their child life. There’s no need for competition, and there can never be too many people to love a child.

Open adoption is hard to understand at first. But with your help, your family members can see how simple it can be, and how wonderful it is for them, your birth child, the adoptive family, and you.

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Annaleece Merrill

Annaleece Merrill is a birth mother to the cutest little girl on earth. She loves being an advocate for open adoption by writing, mentoring, and speaking at adoption panels. She attends Utah State University in Logan, Utah.


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