The love of a family created through adoption is just as strong as a family created any other way. But there are few ways that you can strengthen your family’s bond that are unique to adoptive families:
1. Keep the Adoption Dialogue Open and Ongoing
Talk to your child about adoption early, often, and honestly.
Here are a few tips to help keep the conversation about adoption open for a stronger family:
- Start talking about adoption in infancy. Talk about their birth parents and tell them about their adoption at bedtime. They’ll have no shocking memory of ever “discovering” that they were adopted. It’ll just always be a normal part of life.
- Never hide facts from your child. Even if you feel like you should “protect” them from uncomfortable truths, it’s your child’s history and they have a right to know it. Be honest.
- That being said: speak in an age-appropriate way as they grow. Those less-than-pleasant truths should always be spoken of as positively as possible, and in a way that your child can understand. You can continue to expand on things as they grow, if necessary.
- Answer any questions they may have. If you don’t know the answer, talk with their birth family, if possible. If that’s not an option, try to help them resolve their question as best you can.
- Be reassuring about the unconditional love that you and their birth family have for them.
- Don’t end the conversation over the years. As children grow into teenagers, they may stop talking about their adoption, but that doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about it. It may be up to you to keep the line of communication open.
- Listen! If your child speaks about their adoption, encourage and support them as they process their adoption. As their parent, they want to be able to turn to you. Being a good listener and encouraging them to talk about their feelings will strengthen their confidence in you as someone that they can trust and rely on.
Remind your kids that they’re not being “disloyal” to you by expressing curiosity about their adoption or birth family, or by talking about emotions related to their adoption. Strong and happy families talk to each other and listen to each other. For adoptive families, that includes talking about adoption.
2. Honor Your Birth Family
Speaking negatively of a child’s birth parents will weaken your family. Conversely, talking with your child about their birth family openly and with respect will show your child the confidence you have in your relationship with them and with their birth parents.
Most adoptive families enjoy an open and close relationship with birth family. Others may have a more closed adoption, or may have a more strained relationship with their child’s birth parents.
Regardless of the relationship you share, always honor your child’s birth family.
- Adhering to any post-adoption communication agreements you may have.
- Always speaking well of birth parents, in public and in private.
- If sharing negative or uncomfortable details with a child about their adoption, (drug abuse, neglect, etc.) you do so in an age-appropriate way, and remind them that even though birth parents make mistakes like everyone else, they still made their adoption decision out of love.
- Reassuring your child of how much their birth parents love them.
- Respecting your birth family’s right to privacy, and never sharing details of their story without their permission.
Choosing to ignore or downplay a child’s birth parents can make an adoptee feel as though the subject is taboo. Instead, talk with your child about their birth family regularly, and always do so with love and respect.
3. Celebrate Adoption Often
This can mean something different for everyone. A few ways to celebrate and honor adoption include:
- Re-telling the story of how you became a family.
- Getting involved in the adoption community.
- Visiting with birth family, calling them, sending them a gift or card, etc.
- Annually recognizing a child’s adoption on the day their adoption was finalized, and honoring the feelings of both joy and loss that may accompany it.
- Creating an adoption scrapbook, or including photos of your child’s birth family along with your other family photos around your home.
Promote a general attitude in your family that adoption is something to be celebrated and embraced. This will strengthen your family bonds, as well as strengthen your child’s confidence in how adoption is viewed within your family.
Celebrating adoption as a family will ensure that your child always views their adoption as a normal part of their ongoing story, and that it’s never something to be ashamed of!
4. Encourage Both Uniqueness and Sameness
Especially for adoptees, adoption can feel like something that sets you apart and makes you different. At the same time, being a family created through adoption doesn’t feel different than any other family.
Within a family, each member will have differences and similarities. Families created through adoption may have starker differences and similarities than in some families, because they may not be genetically related.
Encourage and embrace what you have in common as well as what makes you unique!
Celebrate your differences:
- Maybe your child doesn’t look like anyone else in your family. Do they have their birth mother’s beautiful eyes or her passion for rollercoasters? Tell them so.
- One child is the school’s fastest runner, while the other prefers tearing through books. Encourage their individual passions and skill sets!
And celebrate what you have in common:
- Try something new together. Take a weekend pottery class or take a trip somewhere no one in the family has ever been.
- Make time for your shared interests and hobbies, and you can never have enough inside family jokes!
- Do you have the same weird sense of humor, or the same flair for the dramatic? Let your child know.
Just like any family, you’re all going to have your similarities and differences. But as an adoptive family, taking extra care to celebrate both will ensure that your child appreciates all the different things that make them who they are.
There are many ways to strengthen your family that have nothing to do with adoption, too! Things like spending quality time together, taking part in family traditions, and taking the time to reconnect are all essential to having a strong family.
What are your favorite ways to bond with your family? Let us know in the comments!