When in an open adoption, does that mean that everything is wide open and nothing is off limits? Of course not. Every open adoption still comes with some boundaries. For some, just showing up at birth mother’s house without warning is completely acceptable; they can walk right in, make themselves comfortable, and act as though they live there. For others, it is agreed upon that the birth family must contact the family well in advance to schedule a time to see their child with the presence of the adoptive parents. And still for others, pictures, letters, calls, and emails are the most contact allowed for one reason or another. Fine. But when there is a very close relationship with the birth family and adoptive family, what is to be expected regarding physical affection? Is it appropriate to give the child a hug upon greeting? Can they sit on the birth mother’s lap while everyone sits in the living room talking? Can the birth mother give the child a hug and kiss goodnight before their parents send them off to bed so the adults can chat? What are the boundaries then?

I believe there are a few things to consider when figuring out how to show affection toward your child. I believe, first and foremost, that the child’s feelings should be considered. In adoption and in all other cases, I don’t think kids should ever be forced to hug, kiss, or have any other physical contact with another person if they don’t want to. Such force can cause confusion, insecurities, and discomfort. As with telling the child you love them, they should not be forced to say it back. Not only is a forced statement not genuine, but it can also create resistance in developing love for the other person.

Next, I think the birth mother and the adoptive parents are on the same plain. I do think the adoptive parents should be able to make the judgement call as to whether or not the birth mother can be physically affectionate towards the child, but it should also be considered whether or not the birth mother wants to have that relationship with the child. For adoptive parents, if they know there are struggles the birth mother is going through that could potentially cause contention or unsafety to the child, they should be kindly asked to refrain. But if the birth mother struggles with the adoption, and physical affection makes things more difficult to cope, it should not be pushed on her.

Though this is not always the case, there is the position of a court. There are some situations where the birth mother is to stay away from the child for whatever reason. Should they ever cross paths by chance, it is important to maintain the boundaries as outlined by the court. A wave and smile is not going to harm anyone, but to use that as an excuse to break court boundaries is inappropriate and can cause further legal issues.

Whatever the situation, it is never expected by anyone that you not love your child or that you may not be loved back, but physical affection can be an intricate dance between many people. Everyone’s thoughts and feelings should be considered and consent should be given just as it should be with any other kind of physical affections. No matter what the boundaries are or aren’t, just make sure the child’s best interest is always in mind, and that he or she is loved; either up close or from afar.