There are a lot of considerations when pursuing the idea of adoption. What type of adoption will we choose? Does birth order matter? How will I answer my child’s questions as he grows older? Is there something to nature vs. nurture? How will I handle my child’s early trauma? What if we don’t bond?
The list of questions is very, very long. Today we’ll address one that may seem to be inconsequential on the surface, but can have a lasting impact at the core. What if my parents/in-laws/siblings and others don’t accept my child? For so many, LOVE IS THE ANSWER. And while there’s some truth to that, sometimes love isn’t enough. At least, sometimes just my love isn’t enough. Let me explain.
Rejection, whether real or perceived, is hard for anyone to handle. Even with a remarkably stable self-esteem, it takes some work to get past rejection from anyone! Even perfect strangers have an effect on some of us. So try to imagine being a child, growing up wondering why some children in the family are favored over you. Not understanding adult bigotry or prejudice, it can’t be logically explained away. So, solidly fixed in your heart are feelings of insecurity, inferiority, and rejection. That’s a pretty big burden to try to fight through. And although you’ve got the complete love and support and encouragement of your core family, it doesn’t make rejection disappear. Especially if that rejection is from others who should love you.
So what do you do if your extended family refuses to accept your adopted child? I suppose the answers could vary from individual to individual. But I would suggest that you have a choice to make: Your child or your extended family. I would suggest that it’s really not fair to bring a child into your family who will have to fight for acceptance.
If that’s the case, what can be done?
Ultimatums may be necessary. Tell the offending family member that they have a choice: accept your child fully and completely, or lose all of you. Be firm and mean it. Be prepared to halt visits, phone calls, and any other contact wherein your child might be subjected to rejection.
Consider physical distance. Maybe relocation is in order. It might be possible to maintain a façade of acceptance for a few years if you live half a world away from those who are not accepting.
Fake it ’til they make it. This requires hypervigilance on your part. Although children are great at seeing past lies, it is possible to be around the rejecting family member and not give them opportunity to show favoritism. Besides extreme focus, it also requires shortened time around family members who refuse to accept. I’ve known of situations where the family members have come around and have repented of their prejudice. The parents did well in protecting the child and they all appear to be happy and at peace.
So if you’re meeting with resistance from your extended family or close friends, pre-adoption is the best time to address the issue and resolve what you can. Your love is essential to your adopted child’s well-being . . . but the love of others is also important.