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Your Family's Reaction to Adoption

Be prepared for a range of reactions from parents and family members, when you announce your plan to adopt.

In this article, you will find:

Your parents' reaction
Your children's reaction

Your parents' reaction

Your Family's Reaction to Adoption

If you have no children now and you plan to adopt, you can bet that your lifestyle will change. Your parents probably realize it. They know parenting isn't for sissies. Here are a few issues that might concern your parents and some thoughts that might be running through their minds:

  • How will your relationships with them change?
  • After you adopt a child, you'll have to make some major shifts in your relationships with your parents and friends. You'll learn that parents must (usually) put their children ahead of other people outside the immediate family.

  • Will you need and want their help with the adoption, or should they try to step back and wait until you ask?
  • Most people assume that a woman who has just given birth needs plenty of extra help because she is so exhausted from the childbirth. Yet, they don't often give this same consideration to parents who adopt a newborn infant.

    Adoptive parents with a new baby can become extremely exhausted, too. Taking care of a new baby is hard work, whether it was born to you or adopted by you. Those 2 A.M. feedings and the 24-hour-a-day responsibility can get overwhelming. A little help if you can get it, especially at the beginning, can help you catch up on sleep and maintain a positive outlook.

    Telling your parents that you would like their help when the baby comes might be a very good idea, even before a child is found for you to adopt. Another advantage of having your parents help you with child care is that they will become emotionally involved with the child. You probably will find yourself drawn closer to your parents, too. Don't expect all to be perfect, however! You may have a few disagreements about what's best for the child. But remember, you are the parent, and you may need to assert yourself in that role.

  • Will you have a really long wait for your child? Will the adoption go through smoothly, or will there be problems ahead?
  • Your parents may be concerned that you'll have to wait some incredibly long period to adopt—and that will be difficult for you. Assure them that your plan is to adopt much sooner than that and you have developed a good strategy to reach that goal.

  • Will the birthmother change her mind about the adoption?
  • Tell your parents that it's true that a minority of birthmothers change their mind about adoption, but in most states, when the birthparents sign their consent to an adoption, it is irrevocable, or they have only a brief period of time to change their minds.

Familybuilding Tips

Some parents can be tremendously supportive in the preadoption phase by clipping articles, cheerleading you when you're down, and keeping their eyes and ears open for the latest information. Of course, this can be carried too far, and if your parents and friends are burdening you with adoption information, it's perfectly okay to tell them to lay off—you've got enough.

    If you are adopting a child from another country, explain to your parents that the orphanage (or other organization or individual) has custody of the child, and it would be almost impossible for the foreign birthmother to rescind her consent.

    If you are adopting a foster child, explain that the state or county did a formal “termination of parental rights,” and the birthparents are not allowed to interfere with that court order.

  • How should they explain this to others in the family?
  • You may think that you receive far too many probing questions about adoption, but you probably don't realize that when people hear about the fact that you are planning to adopt, your parents often get interrogated, too.

    Tell your parents what you want them to know about the adoption and be sure to emphasize that you want to create a family. You might want to add that you hope to be good parents like they were. Also tell them what information you want shared and what information is “off the record.”

    Adoption Alert

    You can bet that if you do tell family members you're planning to adopt, you and the adoption will be very hot topics of the day.

    Resist the common prospective adopter tendency to tell all to anyone who asks anything. Put your brain in gear before your mouth starts moving. Why? Because the sad fact is that people tend to remember anything “bad” that you have to say; if it has something to do with the child, you probably don't want them repeating it later on when that child is a member of the family.

    Sometimes when people don't have the nerve to ask you something, they have no qualms at all about calling up your mother and asking her the same thing. So your parents and other family members need to know what is not open for discussion with others. (If something is really off limits, maybe you shouldn't share it with your parents in the first place.)

  • How will other children you already have be affected? And what will this child be like? What if he turns out to have problems? Or what if she just doesn't fit in with the family?
  • If they express such fears, or hint at them, you might tell them that children don't come with warranties, whether born to you or adopted. If they persist, you might gently mention a few people who are biological relatives and yet have had serious problems. Biology is no guarantee of a happy parental experience, and adoption doesn't foredoom one to an unhappy experience. Parenthood is a challenge, either way.

What if you're a single person and your mom thinks your plan to adopt a child is the craziest idea she's ever heard? To handle this emotionally, you might think about circumstances in the past that turned out okay, even though she disapproved of actions you took at that time.

You might also want to try to determine the underlying fear. Does your mom think she'll be constantly trapped into on-call babysitting? You can reassure her by telling her you've developed a child-care plan. Or she might think adopting will prevent you from ever marrying. Remind her that single people do get married.

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