The idea that birth parent visits could upset my child was something that I hadn’t given a lot of thought to before I became a foster parent. In “A Hopeful Mom’s Guide to Adoption,” Rachel Garlinghouse, brought up long-term promises in open adoption. She asserted that you can’t really promise lifelong visits, because the child (the adoptee) may have a different opinion, particularly as they get older. And since the open adoption relationship is for the adoptee, they should have a say in how they feel about it and if and when visits take place.
My child was adopted as an infant. I had thoughts about what if he didn’t want to know his birth parents, but I figured that since we were engaged in a very open relationship with them that has always been positive and healthy, there was no reason that my child would feel anything other than love for them.
As my child is getting older and learning about adoption, I am thinking more about how he will view having been adopted. Couple that with being a foster parent, and I have some ideas about how to help your children when a birth parent visit upsets them.
1. Listen to your child.
If your child has had a really great time visiting in the past and now is not, ask them why. Maybe they are feeling embarrassed, angered, sad. Maybe someone at school made negative comments about adoption.
If you have had a long-term relationship with your child’s birth parents, had been seeing them, and are now going to take a break, tell them. Tell them the child needs a break to sort out their own feelings. You can keep the communication open without visits.
3. Remember all relationships ebb and flow.
Adoption is lifelong. Visits may be really tough at some points. They also may be really great. Communicate openly and honestly and remember that how things are today are not how they will necessarily be tomorrow.
Ideas to help children in foster care when birth parent visits upset them.
Kids in foster care are dealing with lots of really tough stuff. Seeing their birth parents for parenting time can bring along with it a lot of emotions. They also do not have a lot of say if the visits are upsetting them.
1. Do the same thing after every birth parent visit.
Routine makes us feel safe. Doing the same thing after every visit will let the child know what to expect. Maybe cook dinner as a family or go to ice cream.
2. Listen and observe their behaviors after visits.
Some kids may need to be at home relaxing to process their feelings. Others may want to keep busy. Try out different things to see what is best for your child.
3. Routine, structure, routine.
Routine and structure are what keep us feeling safe. If your child is getting upset by birth parent visits, after visits is not the time to veer from your daily routine. It’s the time to be really transparent and predictable.
4. Work with their social worker.
Always communicate to your child’s worker if birth parent visits are upsetting them.