Debunking the Myths of Open Adoption
Let’s explore some often heard myths….
1) Open adoption is co-parenting.
Myth. Especially with adoption agencies, there are well thought out policies and procedures that help define the openness within an adoption relationship. There are usually defined, intentional boundaries in place for all members of the triad (birth family, adoptive family and adoptee). In fact, most open adoptions begin as semi-open, and as the trust level between parties grow over time, the relationship changes and more openness is realized.
2) As an adoptive parent, open adoption will make me feel less like a mom, or competing to be a mom to my child.
False again. That vein of thought really originates from an old mindset that there is only one set of parents for a child. If you think about it, many children from divorce have two sets of parents, and in many cases two sets of grandparents. Adopted children have first parents, and forever parents. We should embrace the fact that there are more people who love this child, and there is always room in a child’s heart for more love. There’s no need to fear their first parents- embrace them!
3) Open adoption is confusing to children.
Not true. What is confusing to children is not having all the pieces to a puzzle- the puzzle of their origin, and first parents. Our imagination is always bigger than the truth. Openness simply means loving your child enough to answer their questions about being adopted, their birth parents, the circumstances surrounding the birth parents decision to place, and how much they are loved. Anything a child knows about their birth parent(s) is welcome news. We all want to know our history- it is the same for adoptees.
4) Open adoption is easy.
Never true. Adoption is full of intense, complex relationships. These relationships can be complicated. Open adoption is always changing- just like the nature of any relationship. There are joyous times, and hard times. Great conversations, and difficult conversations. Open adoption is a great arena to practice grace – something we need to give, and receive more of in each of our lives.
5) Open adoption is not worth the trouble.
Have you ever talked to an adoptive parent, who attempted to reach out to their child’s birth mother with no response, and then the birth mother says “yes”? All that adoptive parent can talk about now is how great it was to connect, the joy of her son meeting his birth mom for the first time, and how many questions were answered from that simple connection.
Open adoption can be messy, complicated, and is constantly evolving. But it is necessary to help your child integrate all their pieces- the integration of their biology and their biography. A relationship with your child’s birth parent(s) is going to be a relationship like many other relationships you have. Apply the same rules you do when negotiating relationships with in-laws, grandparents, and others. We can have boundaries because every relationship of value needs boundaries.