I recently wrote about our love and devotion to my daughter’s birth mother. After it posted, I received quite a few messages of longing and confusion from adoptive parents who wished that their child’s bio-parents wanted to be involved in the lives of their kids. “What,” they wondered, “if my child’s birth parent doesn’t want us?” Here are some “do’s and don’ts” to take into consideration.
- Don’t give in to the temptation to make them the villain in your child’s story. When your sweetheart is crying because “why doesn’t my birth mom want to meet me?” your inner Mama Bear might want to burst out growling, “Because she is a dummy and doesn’t know what she is missing.” But remember this: That “dummy” made your sweetheart and your kid feels an allegiance, whether or not she will admit it to you right now. (Plus, you are better than name-calling.)
- Don’t take it personally. Adoption is traumatic for all involved, and everyone copes with grief in different ways. It may be that the only way your child’s birth parent can make it through the grief is through closing the channels of communication, and that is an incredibly hard choice for them to have made. If you have mutual contact through an agency or through an email address, consider letting them know that you respect their choice, but will also be there should they decide on more openness.
- Don’t give up hope: Some of our kids have first parents that are struggling with issues that we would never wish on our worst enemies. Time and love can change many situations. Stay open and stay as available as you can, and remember that they placed their children with you because they knew you would be able to parent in tough times.
- Do talk in age-appropriate terms that your child understands, and let them guide the conversation. One family with an open birth mother relationship phrased the absence of the birth father like this: “I am not sure why he hasn’t met you. It makes me pretty sad, because I think you are a great kid, and I wish everyone could meet you. I think he must be very sad and uncertain about adoption. I hope that one day he will be brave enough to contact us.” Another family I know has a first mom with significant substance abuse issues. They have framed the conversation with their little one in terms of health and wellness, waiting to talk about drugs until their kid is old enough to understand.
- Do encourage letter writing and journaling. Consider keeping the letters for a future date, when and if first parents reach out or seek contact. Sometimes the act of writing down hopes and feelings is enough to provide the comfort that a lonely child needs.
- Do consider visiting a counselor who specializes in adoption issues. Sometimes our kids are worried that, because one parent has ceased contact, you will too. A trained therapist can help navigate those big feelings and anchor your family.
Have you experienced a birth parent withdrawing from your child’s life? What is your advice for those who are in similar situations?