How American Adoptions Can Help Strengthen Your Long-Distance Adoption Relationships
The ideal adoption match is rarely in your own neighborhood. That’s why most adoptions are long-distance, with birth and adoptive families living in separate states or even thousands of miles apart.
When you’ve found the right family to share an open adoption with, the distance doesn’t matter as much.
However, you still want to build a strong relationship between your families, even across that distance. A strong long-distance adoption relationship that lasts a lifetime not only benefits the birth and adoptive families — it benefits your child most of all.
Here are five ways that birth and adoptive families can keep their partnership healthy and strong, regardless of distance:
1. Communicate your needs
The other person can’t read your mind, so you’ll have to express your feelings regarding communication and openness in your adoption.
Feel like you need to increase or decrease frequency of contact? Decided that you prefer emails to texts? Would you really like to try to take a road trip and visit one another this year, if possible? State that, then calmly and kindly explain why you feel that way, without placing unrealistic expectations on anyone, or suggesting blame.
Sometimes one person will carry on with a certain level of contact thinking it’s what everyone wants. The other partner in your relationship won’t know your needs have changed unless you tell them.
Needs do change, sometimes. That’s perfectly fine. What’s important is that you take the time to communicate when they do.
2. Stay connected through social media
Not everyone in an open adoption is comfortable sharing a connection through social media, so make sure you ask before you hit that friend request, and don’t sweat it if they say that they prefer to keep things offline.
Remember that not every person in each of your lives will know the full details of your adoption stories. Sharing personal details about your adoption situation or even hitting the “like” button on every photo could accidentally “out” triad members to people who aren’t in the know about specific private family matters. Keep that between you, just in case.
Social media etiquette can always be a little complicated — and especially so in adoption. However, if you’re both comfortable with connecting on social media, it can be a great way to stay casually updated about each others’ lives. You can easily see the latest photos of each others’ families and life updates, chat and more — without the formality of scheduled contact and even when you live far apart.
3. Send it in the mail
Even if the majority of your contact happens digitally, it can be nice to have something special to hold from time to time. An annual typed or handwritten letter, a postcard from your state, some printed-out photos, cards sent on birthday or holidays, small gifts — they can all make meaningful keepsakes for both parties, but especially for an adopted child as he or she grows up.
The things that you mail can be used to make a scrapbook for your child. Photos and cards are wonderful physical reminders of the love that exists between your families in your open adoption — and the love that all of you have for your child. Taking the time to send these things, and taking the time to keep them, are small but powerful gestures.
Plus, all children love sending and receiving things in the mail!
4. Try to be consistent
Life can get in the way. People get busy, or maybe they need to pull away from contact for emotional reasons. But to the best of your ability, try to maintain consistency in your open adoption. This will be helpful for both parties, but especially for your child.
Consistency builds trust between your families, and it also makes it easier to know when and how to expect communication or updates. Some birth parents know that the adoptive parents will email the latest cute photos of the child during the first week of each month. Some adoptive parents know that the birth family will always call on their child’s birthday. Whatever works for you is great — just try to:
- Consider what you can realistically commit to. Living far apart means that regular visits probably aren’t realistic.
- Communicate your plans and make sure everyone is comfortable with that.
- Follow through with those plans as regularly and consistently as possible.
Consistency in an open adoption is especially important for children. If they always talk to their birth mother on Christmas, but she or the adoptive parents forget to arrange the call, a child can be confused and hurt.
We all get busy, but to the best of your ability, try to stay steady with whatever type and amount of contact you share.
5. Give grace and the benefit of the doubt
Once again, life happens. Something unexpected pops up and gets in the way, or there’s a particularly crazy month and people lose touch with one another for a while. It happens to the best of us. When it happens in your open adoption relationship, try to be understanding and forgiving.
If one party hasn’t been very responsive lately, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean that they’re trying to pull away from you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re probably just busy with their own lives.
If the other person hasn’t been very forthcoming with communication or hasn’t greeted you very warmly lately, give them some grace. They may have a lot going on right now, and they didn’t realize they were coming across as standoffish.
If the other party’s behavior is consistently upsetting to you, then it’s time to have a gentle conversation with them about it, without assigning blame. Always remember that everyone goes through rough patches and everyone needs some grace and patience during those times. The needs of the child must always be the primary focus.
Distance Matters Less Than Your Emotional Connection
Just like when you’re far from friends or family, being far from one another in an adoption relationship can be tough. But there are so many ways to keep in touch these days!
Video chats, texts, or photos and videos can be shared in seconds. Rather than focusing on how many miles are between you, focus on strengthening the relationship that you share. It’ll make the space that separates you feel much smaller.
Remember that you can always reach out to your American Adoptions specialist if you’re worried about entering into a long-distance adoption, or if you need help navigating post-adoption communication. With a little time, support and effort, we can help you share an adoption relationship that benefits your child for a lifetime.