This post is by Maxine Chalker, the founder of Adoptions From The Heart and an adoptee.
It would be odd, if not inhuman, to approach an open adoption with perfect rationality—a cool head and nothing else.
No matter how placid we appear on the surface, everyone enters this strange new world of parenting with their own fears and concerns.
Developing strong relationships is the most important project in any open adoption.
It’s also the part that most of us, whether biological or adoptive parents, worry about more than anything else.
The key to establishing successful open adoption relationships, from my viewpoint, is right in the name.
At Adoptions From The Heart, we believe that openness is the essential element in every successful open adoption.
Biological and adoptive parents will have to commit themselves to clear and compassionate dialogue, while keeping the child’s well-being at the forefront of every conversation.
Your Child’s Well-Being Is More Important
Open adoptions are about children.
That probably doesn’t seem like an earth-shattering revelation, but it can have a major impact on how parents approach the complex relationships within an open adoption.
What I mean is that any disagreement should be resolved in favor of your child’s well-being.
Never stray far from this core value, a value that can never truly be realized until parents approach one another with mutual respect and empathy.
Nothing could be more damaging than thinking about open adoption as a battle, or power struggle, between two sets of parents.
Setting boundaries, though, is crucial. Keep in mind that open adoption isn’t the same as co-parenting.
Adoptive parents have an ultimate responsibility to establish boundaries that are in their child’s best interest.
Some boundaries will not please all members of the triad equally.
The potential to create imbalances in power, however, should be obvious.
Whether inadvertent or intentional, the temptation to exploit a power imbalance within the adoption triad should always be avoided.
This is not about winning; it’s about creating healthy relationships that your child can rely on for the rest of her life.
In a healthy relationship, no one feels disempowered.
Empathy And Honest Understanding
Of course, conflict and disagreement will arise inevitably. That’s true for any family.
You do not need to agree all the time, even though every decision should ultimately be one that every person affected can accept.
Humans, by and large, want one thing out of their relationships: to be understood.
Acceptance, agreement, giving in—all that comes later.
Strive to understand first, not only what the other person is saying, but why they are saying it.
There may be another way to achieve his or her goal, one that everyone can agree on.
Just as important is to understand why you are reacting poorly to what the other person has suggested.
What feelings, worries or concerns did their idea trigger in you?
Open adoption can be wonderful, but it’s work.
This should be in the back of your mind all the time, whether you are an adoptive parent, a biological parent or an adopted child.
Open adoption is a process, one that no one does perfectly.
Perfection isn’t really what we’re after anyway.
Maxine Chalker is the founder of Adoptions From The Heart and an adoptee.
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