If you are part of an open adoption triad, you are familiar with the boundaries and expectations of your situation. Sometimes, those expectations can feel overwhelming or sometimes boundaries aren’t respected. There may be times when other life events cause you to need to take time away from your normal routine. When these things happen, it may be time to take a break.
Taking a break from contact with a part of your adoption triad is sometimes necessary to maintain a good, healthy relationship. In any relationship, adoption or not, sometimes a person just needs a bit of space and breathing room to process their feelings. Adoption is not an exception, and sometimes a bit of a break helps when relationships get a little complicated. It can help the relationship allowing everyone to access their feelings and evaluate their expectations and boundaries.
The need for a break may make you feel a bit guilty. After all, if you are in an open adoption, there are likely expectations regarding the relationship, whether formal or informal. Some open adoptions have contracts regarding the relationship, while others are casual. In either case, the most important part of the relationship is going to be communication and honesty. Part of good communication will include setting the boundaries of the relationship and outlining expectations to be sure everyone is on the same page. When communication breaks down, relationships become difficult to maintain. It may be difficult to communicate that you feel overwhelmed and need to take a break, but if you don’t do so, things may fall apart when you become too overwhelmed.
Why might a relationship need a break? The first thing that comes to mind is safety. If, at any point, there is a question about safety, the openness of the relationship may need to be reevaluated. For instance, if any part of the triad is experiencing a mental health crisis, it may be necessary to focus on that and take a break from visits or interaction until the crisis is addressed.
The adoptee may wish to take a break from an open adoption if they need to work on processing some of their feelings. It may be necessary for them to have a bit of space, and that is okay. Taking a break does not mean that a relationship is ending. It may improve a relationship when someone is able to take some time to themselves to reflect on their feelings.
Birth parents may need a break if they are feeling overwhelmed with feelings too. Adoptive parents may also need time to adjust to open relationships and expectations. People often think they know how they will feel about situations. However, once they are in the situation, they may be surprised to find that they feel very different than they anticipated. This is sometimes cause for a need to take a break and process these unanticipated feelings.
There are often triggers for an overflow of emotions when it comes to adoption. Holidays, birthdays, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day are common times for emotions to run high. Family vacations or reunions may be a trigger for some. The birth of a family member on any side of the triad could be a trigger that necessitates a break.
I am currently finding myself needing a break and needing to reevaluate boundaries. I need a bit of a break from my open adoption situation. This does not mean I want to attempt to close the adoption or to end relationships. I just feel like I am dealing with a lot in my personal life that has me needing a bit of temporary space from my child’s birth family.
This year has been particularly difficult for us. We have experienced many changes and challenges. We moved to a different town in the middle of a pandemic. We have been experiencing some challenges with our older son and his mental health. Because of this, I feel like we need a bit of space as a family. I am choosing to take a break and not participate in holidays. We will exchange gifts another time after things feel settled down and become less overwhelming.
As an adoptive parent, I think there are a lot of expectations. Some of these expectations we create for ourselves. When we feel we are falling short, it can be a bit overwhelming. I know that I, personally, can create unrealistic expectations for myself when it comes to parenting. It is one of my flaws. I try very hard to get this mom thing right. But, what does that even mean? Nobody is perfect, and all we can do is our best. When I experience feelings that are contrary to what I expected, I feel very overwhelmed and need a bit of time to adjust to the situation.
My younger son’s birth mother has also needed some breaks from the relationship at times. It is important for her mental health that when she becomes overwhelmed with her feelings, we respect her boundaries and let her process privately. When she is ready to interact with us again, she contacts us and lets us know she would like to schedule some time together. I appreciate that our relationship is open and that we communicate honestly. It is so important to let each other know if we are struggling and need a bit of time to ourselves.
Open Adoption Arrangments
Having an open adoption can be complicated sometimes. Inevitably, there will be some bumps in the road. It is okay to express when you need to change a boundary or adjust a schedule or simply take a time out. We need to acknowledge changing feelings, evolving relationships, and changing needs without feeling guilty.
I think open adoptions are incredible. I love that my younger son is able to know his birth family. His birth mother faces challenges that sometimes require a break. It can be difficult to know when visits are appropriate and when we need to take a break. The length of the break varies and can be somewhat unpredictable.
However, not every adoption can be open. My older son is unable to have an open adoption due to safety concerns. If those concerns were addressed, I am not sure if I would feel comfortable changing our situation as I do not believe he would be able to process the situation in a healthy way.
There may be times when adoptions start one way and then change. Adoptions that have little contact may be able to expand and become more open with time. If factors that limit the relationship change, the boundaries may change too. For instance, if the distance was a factor, and one of the parties moved closer, the relationship may be able to change to accommodate some visit time. If mental health concerns were a factor, and they have been addressed, the relationship may be able to adjust to new boundaries. There are many factors that can change and impact the decisions regarding open adoptions.
Similarly, open adoptions may need to become less open for some of these same reasons. If there is a mental health crisis, putting some boundaries in place for safety may be necessary. This may include the need to stop visitations or other contact until the crisis is resolved. Safety for all involved, both mental safety and physical safety, need to be a priority. Another reason to change the openness may be relocation. If your adoption previously allowed for regular visitations, moving to another city or state may mean a change in the frequency of visits.
Relationships of all kinds will go through changes. Adoption relationships are not an exception. It is important to be open with communication, honesty, and allow some grace to all involved when things need to be adjusted.