So how do you handle birth parents that want zero contact?
My wife and I adopted our two daughters last year on National Adoption Day. What a day that was! It was the culmination of three years of foster care. As happy as we were and continue to be about our adoption journey, one fact is inescapable. Our forever family was built from the ashes of a broken one. For our girls, there will always be a part of them that feels a loss. As much as we try to protect them from it, it is a part of the process, one that must be dealt with in a loving and effective way.
Regardless of how your children came to you on this journey, you will have to deal with the reality that there is a birth family out there somewhere. While there are adoptions that are open and contact has been maintained with them, in some cases, the birth family may choose to have no contact. In other cases, the circumstances prevent you from safely facilitating contact.
So what do you do? You cannot prevent your child from wanting to know where they came from. It is perfectly normal, and the questions will come. Where are my birth parents? What do they look like? Where are they now? Can I call them? Can I write them?
The age of your child and specific circumstances will dictate how you handle this situation. No one knows your child better than you. Here are some helpful tips on helping your child deal with birth parents that choose to stay out of their lives:
- Always be truthful – This can be very hard at times, especially if the circumstances which resulted in your adoption are not pretty. But children have good memories, and hiding the truth will only lead to anger and resentment. By all means, be age appropriate. Our daughters are young, but they still know they have a “belly” mommy. They know they are adopted, even if they still don’t know all the details.
- Never speak negatively about their birth family – Trust me, this will come back to haunt you. Remember, this is the family they come from. Negative talk about them may cause your child to feel shame about where they came from. Don’t go there.
- Don’t invalidate their feelings – Try never to make your child think their feelings of loss are not valid. Let them know it is okay to be sad, frustrated, and even angry. Encourage them to talk about their feelings in a constructive way. For example, after a good cry, share a time in your life when you felt loss, and how you dealt with it.
- Use books and media – There are many books and movies that deal with adoption. Be an avid researcher online, and be on the lookout for books that will help your little one deal with issues like these.
- Write letters and draw pictures – Drawing and writing are some of the best ways to relieve frustration and stress. Encourage them to start a diary or a journal. If they are very young, have them draw out their birth parents to tell a story. I am not adopted, but when I was a teenager, I would write letters to my parents in my room to tell them how mad I was. When I was done taking out my frustration on paper, I found I almost always had a better outlook on the situation. Very few of those letters were read by anyone but me, yet they still helped me deal with my feelings in a positive way.
Unfortunately, we cannot control what our child’s birth parents choose to do. The reality is they may want no contact today, but years from now may have a change of heart. Then again, they may never want to see your child again. Your job does not change. You are the parent, and parenting can be hard sometimes. We must allow our hearts to be broken in the hopes of protecting our child’s heart. Our family was created not with biology at its core, but rather love. So love must dictate our course of action, as we travel through the adoption journey. When birth parents choose to be silent, let the love in your heart bang a loud thunderous drum that says you are in it for the long haul. You will be the constant in your child’s world when there seems to be no easy course.
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