Much of building a relationship with your child’s birth mother will depend on the circumstances surrounding your adoption. It will also depend on if your child’s adoption is open or closed. There are a lot of variables at play in any type of adoption scenario. It is important to recognize that even though this article may be able to give great advice on how to get along with your child’s birth mother, there may be situations where it is simply not possible for a relationship to thrive. However, more often than not, you will find that any relationship takes work, and this relationship specifically will take a lot of work. Yet, it can be accomplished, and peace can be reached. There may be obstacles to overcome, but there are many ways to press on.
Learning to build a good relationship with your child’s birth mother will involve understanding the complexities of any relationship. Great relationships are built on good communication and trust. It is important to figure out ways that you can build communication and trust with your child’s birth mother. This will begin at your first meeting and continue throughout your child’s life. Your adoption agency or adoption professional may have resources for you to help strengthen this relationship between yourself and your child’s birth mother. They may also know other families who have a good relationship with their child’s birth mother who can give you advice on the best ways to build a solid and secure relationship.
Take some time to think of the best relationships that you have in your life and think about what makes them good. Many of those things you will be able to apply to the relationship that you will be building with your child’s birth mother. You will likely find that these relationships are good because you trust this person, and he or she also has great respect for you and your boundaries. Your friends know you well and treat you as though you are valued. This will be important and integral to your relationship with your child’s birth mother.
One of the first steps in establishing peace and creating a great relationship with your child’s birth mother will be to make sure that you respect her role as your child’s birth mother. Sometimes, that can take a lot of squashing down your pride and seeing the big picture. While your child’s birth mother is no longer your child’s parent, she will always be his mother. She won’t be a mother in the way that you and your partner may be mother or father. However, it is important that she knows that you understand she will always hold a special place in the heart and life of your child. This is more about respect and recognition over anything else. It is not giving her a role as a parent nor is it diminishing your role as your child’s parents. It is simply recognizing the fact that she is a valued part of your child’s life.
One of the first things that you will do in the adoptive process is to establish what your adoption will look like and how the birth parents will be involved, if at all. In order to establish a good relationship with your child’s birth mother, it is important to talk thoroughly about the adoption well before, and also once your adoption has been finalized. What will that look like for both of you? Do you have the same expectations? Does she have hopes that you do not have or do you have hopes that she does not share? It is imperative to make sure that you are on the same page before proceeding with the adoption. If you do not, the issue becomes a sore point moving forward.
There is little you may be able to do to get back trust and to establish peace if you feel that you have been lied to or your child’s birth mother feels like she has been defrauded in some way. Do not promise to have an open adoption if you do not intend to do so. Make sure you define what an open adoption looks like to your family if that is the route you are going to take. You may think an open adoption means letters and emails while she may think an open adoption means visits and video chats. Take the time to sit down before you have agreed on a match and make sure that you are on the same page. This will establish great communication which is imperative for any good relationship. It will also begin the relationship of trust and mutual understanding.
On that same note, it is important to keep up with the commitments to which you agree. If you agree to visit every six months, you should do everything in your power to make those happen. If you feel comfortable, you could go above and beyond with sending pictures and updates. I know as my children grew and milestones happened I had a desire to send their birth mothers multiple pictures and snippets about what was going on in their lives. This was not something we agreed upon, but rather I felt through my love for her that she should know about these things and get to share in my joy. I wanted her to experience their highest points as I did.
If part of your open adoption agreement is to participate in visits, one great way to show respect and appreciation is to respect that time that your child’s birth mother has with her child. Try to step back a little bit during those visits and allow her to have time with her child. Just as it is important that you grow a relationship with your child’s birth mother, it is important for your child to build a relationship as well in an open adoption situation. While your child will not see them as a parent, it is important to allow them the chance to get to know one another. Backing off a bit and allowing this to take place in a safe environment is incredibly valuable and life-giving.
One important facet of your adoption that you should always remember is to refrain from negative talk. In any good relationship, it is important to paint the other person in a good light to others. Part of that is about respect but also about maintaining a good relationship. With this, it allows for others to know that you are someone who values the relationship with your child’s birth parent. It also allows your child’s birth mother to know that she is valued in your eyes. In addition to all of this, it allows your child to know that you value his or her birth mother. When you support a good relationship between your child and his birth mother, it builds trust in your relationship with his birth mother. It also is important for your child to know that he came from a positive place and that his origin story began with love and positivity.
You really have to think about this relationship as you would any other relationship. The great thing is that a lot of solid relationship advice applies to any relationship. When parents get divorced, therapists will often recommend that they build some sort of friendship for the sake of their children. They will also recommend that they do not speak badly of the other parent and work as well as they can together to communicate and co-parent. This is similar to the advice that you will be given when it comes to getting along with your child’s birth mother. In any healthy relationship, you need to have open communication and trust.
You need to know how to navigate conflict and be able to come out stronger on the other side. Part of keeping that open communication and trust is to help avoid conflict before it arises. If you have a relationship where you can be open and honest with each other, it creates a foundation of mutual respect. Each of you will want to make sure that the other is feeling okay, respected, and comfortable. Each of you will likely try harder to do your part when it comes to resolving conflict and keeping that relationship solid. As in any relationship, it will be a lot of give and take.
One of the best pieces of advice that I have ever received in regards to a relationship is that it only takes one person to change a relationship. Even if you are in a situation where your child’s birth mother is hesitant to build a relationship or is someone with whom it might be difficult to build a relationship, it is important to still attempt and still try to keep the peace for your child. This does not mean that things will be easy, but rather that you do have the power to incite change.
In any relationship, building unity and respect will involve a lot of swallowing your own pride. This will involve learning to avoid conflict and picking your battles. With my husband and my children, I do a lot of picking my battles almost daily. Some things are just not worth fighting over. Sometimes, I let things slide simply to keep the peace. It is not about me not protecting myself but rather about the impact a fight might have on our family. Will it really be worth it in the end, or is it something I won’t even remember a year from now?
The same is true when it comes to your relationship with your child’s birth mother. If there are conflicts that arise that are not big deals, it is better to put those by the wayside and focus on what is truly important. Building a solid relationship with your child in your family will be most important. If it is something that you can live with, move on and discuss greater matters.
If you are in a situation where the relationship is one-sided and you feel like you are the only one trying, keep trying. It is important to remember that this is about your child. Of course, you will have to respect boundaries and have boundaries of your own. However, respect in this situation does not need to be earned. You can give respect without getting it back and still keep boundaries. It is important to be the bridge for a relationship with your child and her birth mother in the future. Even if that does not come to fruition, it is important that your child understands that you did everything you could on your end to facilitate.
Relationships are typically not ever easy. However, very healthy and very strong relationships are incredibly worth it. If you have the opportunity to build a strong relationship with your child’s birth mother, you should certainly do that. It will only benefit your child to know that there is a healthy relationship between his adoptive and birth families. It will also be an incredible example for him as he grows and begins to understand what relationships should look like and how conflict should be navigated. If you encounter specific issues or disagreements that you feel it would be difficult to move on from, it is important that you reach out to those you trust for relationship advice. Speak with your adoption agency or adoption professional about ways to navigate these disagreements. Seek professional help if need be. As in any relationship that you want to keep healthy, it is important to know when you need help and to seek that help. This will also teach your child to invest into and do everything he can in his relationships to keep them strong.
Your child’s birth mother will be an important part of your child’s life whether your adoption is closed or open. If you have an opportunity to build a great relationship, it will be one of the most important things you ever do for your child and for your family as you move forward in your adoption journey.
Lita Jordan is a master of all things “home.” A work-from-home, stay-at-home, homeschooling mother of five. She has a BA in Youth Ministry from Spring Arbor University. She is married to the “other Michael Jordan” and lives on coffee and its unrealistic promises of productivity. Lita enjoys playing guitar and long trips to Target. Follow her on Facebook.