The Granddaddy Fear of Many Adoptive and Foster Moms

The subject of birth parents is a frightening one for many moms with adopted kids. Time is changing that, however, with the growing movement of open adoption.

If you are in a closed adoption, or semi-open, you may struggle with this fear, so let’s talk about it.

Let’s discuss it so that you can do the all-important job of honoring your child’s birth mother, without fear and with a healthy sense of entitlement.

Unique Dynamics

First, your child does have two sets of parents—biological and adoptive. That is part of the unique dynamics of adoption. Your child is an exact mixture of ingredients from the biological parents and you to make him into the incredible person he is today. Both influences are vital!

Your child already knows he has two sets of parents—it’s encoded within him. After all, the biological mother provided her womb as the first home and your child’s first conversation was with her. To disregard her presence in his life is to deny the reality of your child, which I am fully aware is not what you desire.

Verbal Boundaries

Should you talk about the biological parents to your child? Of course! They are an integral part of his history. However, in order avoid confusing your child, I always suggest making a verbal boundary. Say this, “You have a birth mother and a birth father and a birth family. We are your mom and dad.” I believe you are the only one that should be called “mom.”

If yours is an open adoption, or if there is intermittent contact with the birth parents, don’t make the mistake of calling them “Aunt Sarah” or “Uncle John.” This will only erode future trust between you and your child.

Timing

When should you talk to your child about his birth parents? On the day you bring him home, whether he is an infant, an older child coming from another country or from foster care. Some say, “Infants aren’t going to understand the words!” You’re right, but they’ll understand your welcoming spirit. There’s more to life than words! With the infant or toddler, say, “I’m so glad your birth mother (and the workers at the orphanage) let us adopt you. We want you to know that we’ll be your forever parents, and will always love you and never leave you.” With the child adopted from foster care, it’s a delicate balance to talk about the birth family, which has probably been abusive, and I would seek professional counsel as to the most appropriate timing and method for accomplishing this.

If your child someday wants to reunite with his birth parents, will he love you less? Even in the best-case reunion, I can guarantee you that his love, respect, and admiration for you will only deepen. After all, you’ll always be his mom, so fear not! Step into that role with confidence.

 

  • Kids are smarter than we often give them credit for, and they actually figure out family relationships pretty early. How they internalize them may be difficult to know, and if or when you get to find out differs from kid to kid. Our younger (adopted) son was particularly difficult all through the 8 years he lived with us (he’s now 19 and moved out last year), and although he knew the family members and their “titles,” he was not demonstrative in any personal connection with them. But recently when my dad passed away, upon receiving our notice of that, our son’s response was, “Damn! I count him as the only grandpa _____ and I ever knew.” Both of our adult (adopted) sons traveled with us to the services and were extremely concerned for and attentive to grandma. It was a rich time together under tough circumstances.
    Our boys knew their birth family; we never hesitated to talk about them; and they have reconnected with a few of them. It has been very good.
    All that to say, talk about families and promote relationships, whether they be birth or adoptive. Our kids need to have those connections for their mental, emotional and spiritual health.

  • Lovely and critical info. Thanks

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