Open adoptions are easy to ruin. Simple misunderstandings can lead to arguments, broken trust, and sometimes even severing the relationship between birth and adoptive parents. Most people I know don’t want that to happen. But it seems that the possibility is always looming somewhere in the background. So what can you do to prevent and overcome difficulties in your open adoption relationship?

1. Communicate

This is by far the most important aspect of keeping your adoption relationship stress free. Most problems that arise between birth and adoptive parents are a result of a lack of communication. If you aren’t open about your expectations or feelings, the other party cannot possibly meet your needs. Sometimes opening up is scary – you don’t want to offend or do anything to harm the relationship. But bottling up your thoughts and feelings will likely do more harm than good. Another essential part of communication is listening. Really trying to understand a situation from another point of view will not only make it easier to solve the issue, it will make the other person feel valued and bring you closer together.

2. Compromise

Lack of compromise is another one of the biggest issues in open adoptions. You will not always be 100% satisfied. Just like any other relationship, there must be give and take. Especially when it comes to visitation, finding a middle ground that both parties agree to is so important.

3. Set Boundaries

While it is important to be open in your communication, some things are just not up for compromise. If you didn’t set up boundaries before placement, set them up now. For example, I have agreed with baby R’s adoptive parents that I need to respect them as parents. That means I don’t criticize the way they raise their daughter. I will never try to go behind their backs or undermine their authority, even if I disagree with some of the things they do. We have also agreed that they will notify me if they have communication with my friends and family. These boundaries are not arbitrary. They create structure in our relationship, and ensure that both parties feel respected. Every rule we have is to make sure baby R comes first.

4. Give them the benefit of the doubt

Sometimes even with good communication, compromise, and boundaries, your feelings will get hurt. Adoption is an emotionally sensitive thing for everyone involved, and words really do hurt. Rather than holding onto those words and hurt feelings, forgive. Most likely, those words were said thoughtlessly rather than vindictively. Giving the benefit of the doubt is so much more easily said than done, but it’s easier than bickering over small things.

5. Suck it up and apologize

There is no room for pride in an open adoption relationship. Everything you do will directly affect the life of an innocent child. If you know you have hurt the other person, you need to apologize. It doesn’t matter whether you did it on purpose or not. Children will notice tension between their birth and adoptive parents, and they will feel torn. It is your responsibility, whether you are a birth or adoptive parent, to do all you can to restore peace to the relationship.

6. Do everything in the best interest of the child

Strain in an open adoption is not good for the adoptee. While open adoption definitely influences adoptive and birth parents, in the end it’s not about them. It’s about the beautiful children who need all the people that make up who they are. They need to be able to love each of you. They need to hear their adoptive parents speak highly of their birth parents, and vice versa. If that doesn’t happen, it can create resentment, shame, and loneliness. When your open adoption gets overwhelming, go back to the basics. Honestly ask yourself, “Is what I am doing going to benefit the adoptee?” If the answer is no, don’t do it. Adoption is all about love. If both kinds of parents keep that in mind, there is nothing that can’t be overcome.

Open adoptions are easy to ruin. But maintaining a positive relationship can be easy, too. For birth parents, remember that the couple that adopted your child is trying their best. They love the child you bore, and they deserve to be loved and respected for that. For adoptive parents, your child’s birth parents are the only reason your child exists. They deserve your gratitude and respect. Love each other, and love the child. Everything else will fall into place.