Friday, June 20, 2014

If you are contemplating contact

If you are an adoptive parent who is just beginning to think about contacting your child's first family, you probably have a lot of questions and doubts in your mind. You may not be sure that contact is a good idea and you may be worried about what a relationship with this other family would be like. Here are some thoughts that I hope will be helpful to you.
  • In order to feel comfortable contacting your child's other family, you need to accept the truth about your own family. You may have always told yourself and your child that there is no difference between her and a biological child. You have to accept that there is a difference. Of course you love her just as much as you would if she were yours by birth. But her story is different. She was not yours "from the moment she was conceived." She was not "born in your heart." She was conceived in another woman's body and was born to another woman. You may long for a reality in which your child was only ever yours, but wanting something - even desperately wanting it - doesn't change the past. Honor your child by accepting the true story of her life.
  • Change your definition of family. In my last post I compared the role of a parent to "any family relationship in which a role is filled by more than one person." Maybe this description makes you cringe. But I am her mom, you might say. If She is her mom, that makes me Not the mom. That's because mainstream America sees family like the first circle below. The role of the mother and father can only be filled by one person, so in order for a new mother and father to step in, the old one has to step out.

         But what if instead we saw family like this?

After adoption

Before adoption

        A big circle of love surrounding your child. No one has to be replaced. We
        just add new people to the circle. If you can think of family like this, you
        won't feel your role as a parent in any way threatened by the existence of
        another parent.
  • Recognize that you have 99% of the power. Especially if you've adopted internationally, you've got to stop and ask yourself what you find so threatening. The family who relinquished your child is not going to get on a plane, come to America, and take her back. You control the what, where, when and how of the relationship. You also decide where your child lives and goes to school. You teach your child your language and your values. If your child loves, misses, or just knows about another parent, none of those things change.
  • Understand that you don't have to like them. You might not want to acknowledge the other family because they are so different from you or hold values you do not like. I will admit that if the people who share the most genetic material with my children lived in my neighborhood - and weren't my children's family - they would almost certainly not be my friends. We have very little in common and I find some of their cultural practices abhorrent. That does not make them exist any less or lessen their connection to my children. Your child may have come to you from a family with different beliefs than you, from neglect, from abuse. Your acknowledging their past does not mean you like it. It's just telling the truth. 


  1. I thank you also, Kyra. Those "thinking maps" above are so simple, yet hold so much truth.

  2. This is great. I'm not sure what the hesitation is, particularly since so many who adopt from Ethiopia meet at least some birth family members on their trips. But for many it will require looking at the situation in a different way, and you've provided some good guidance on that!