Sometimes keeping a balance in life is extremely difficult. The same goes for open adoption. When birthparents and adoptive parents have a pretty open adoption, everyone involved wants what is best for the child. While open adoption is a very healthy option, allowing the child to know about his/her heritage and have contact with the birthparents, there are times when both sets of parents should be considerate of the child and his/her emotional needs.
For instance, one adoptive mom talked of making sure that adoption was talked about frequently in their home at an extremely early age. By the time the child was three the adoptive parents and child took a vacation in which the adoptive family spent a week in the birthparents’ state and a great deal of time with them.
Upon returning home, the three year old began having some trouble by acting out in preschool and not wanting to be apart from his parents. When they would tuck him in bed at night, he would panic and insist on being held like a baby. The adoptive parents sought adoption counseling and learned that the child was probably experiencing adoption loss. The child may be fearful of losing his mother again.
Through some counseling the adoptive parents learned to do some things different. They need to make sure that speaking to their child about his birthparents is welcome and wanted. They may just touch on the subject and see if the child becomes engaged in the conversation. For instance, “I received a letter today from Jennifer. She’s started a new job.” If the child does not further pursue the conversation, it’s ok to leave it at that. You have brought it up that you have heard from Jennifer and you are not forcing more information on the child then he may be ready for.
Calling the birthparents by their first names is a good way to begin when the child is very young. In this way, it won’t confuse the child be having two women be called mother. As the child grows, more technical terms and information can be given. So many adoptive couples want to honor their openness with the birthparents that they may be giving more information early on, than the child can process.
As adoptive parents have found, there will be times in the child’s life when he/she is more curious and inquisitive than others. It’s important to take your cues from your child. When they want to talk about adoption and ask questions, talk. When they aren’t that interested, let them be. One adoptive mother in a very open adoption asks the child if he would like to go get ice cream with Beth. Sometimes the child says “yes” and other times he will say, “You two just go Mom, I’m playing with my friends.” Both women respect the child and as the women stay in touch, the child decides when he wants to be a part of it. Everyone is ok with that. It’s all about finding that balance that works for the child. There is no “one way” to have an open adoption; it’s all about keeping the child’s best interest at heart.