Explaining Your Decision to Family and Friends
Adopting a child impacts not just you, but your whole extended family, your spouse, and other children if you have them. While choosing to adopt a child is essentially a personal, private decision, your new child will come into a new family that will affect him deeply, and vice versa. When you adopt a child or children, your entire extended family's culture will change.
Celebrate your changing culture right from the start. Send out announcements and have a party. Then, when the adoption becomes final, invite your family to court to witness the process and go out to lunch or dinner afterward.
You might be asked by family or friends to explain your decision to have an open adoption. Be aware that there is a chance they may not react as you wish. They may think you're being foolish and exposing yourself and your child to potential dangers.
Research and some anecdotal evidence indicate that adoptive parents in semi-open adoptions are more fearful about birth families than those in either completely open or closed adoptions. The reason could be that semi-open is a sort of a compromise that may not satisfy either party.
Rehearse a simple explanation about why you chose an open adoption that you can use when somebody who has a right to know asks questions. However, don't get into a debate or argument about your particular decision. Sometimes, it's best to say, “I appreciate your concern, but we thought long and hard and know this is right for us.”
Closed adoptions are still the norm for nearly half of all domestic and most international adoptions for many reasons, especially for children adopted through the foster care system. Your family and friends may ask for details about your child's past, but remember that your child deserves privacy, and sharing information about a birth parent's conduct that resulted in the termination of rights is only appropriate for those with a need to know. These people may include your pediatrician, your child's teacher, and very close family members. Again, be careful about whom you tell what; once your child is school age, discuss with him what he wants to share with others — it's his choice.
Whether or not the adoption is open can present unique concerns for siblings. Your biological child may be jealous if your adopted child has an additional set of parents and grandparents, and the situation may drive a wedge in family relationships. The best way to handle this is to explain how the adoption came about and why the new child has birth parents who are involved. It is important to stress that the new child is an equal member of the family, even though he may have birth parents that are somehow involved. Explain that it does not make him any less of a family member to have these ties to other people.
A closed adoption might seem mysterious to existing children, who may ply you with questions about the new child's history. All you can do is give age-appropriate answers rooted in honesty. Siblings can also take advantage of a closed adoption to taunt the other child or make up wild stories that the adoptive child will believe. It is up to you to make sure everyone in the family understands what the truth is, but you have to remember that siblings frequently find something to tease each other about, and an adoption is just one more factor.
As you raise your child, you will likely spend a lot of time talking about the adoption, answering your child's questions, and discussing the situation. Whether the adoption was open or closed is just a small part of that discussion. When your child is old enough, you can explain the difference between the two choices, and why the choice was made in his situation. From the very beginning, though, you can talk about your child's birth mother, and possibly father, in a way that relates to the open or closed nature of the adoption.
If your adoption is closed, you can tell your child about a birth mother who loved him but wasn't able to raise him. In an open adoption, what you say will depend on the relationship with the birth mother.