Choosing to become a parent through adoption is one of the most exciting journeys you can undertake. So, it makes sense that you want your parents and extended family to share in your excitement, and to be there to emotionally support you through the ups and downs ahead. But what if they aren’t as excited as you’d hoped?
If a family member is unsupportive of your decision to adopt or seems disappointed, it’s probably not out of cruelty! First, they’re probably still adjusting to the idea. They’re also likely concerned for you; after all, adoption can be expensive, take a great deal of time and possibly result in some heartache.
Most of the time, hearing a different perspective and having someone ask “the hard questions” is good for us. But sometimes it goes beyond that.
If you’ve received negative feedback from a family member, it’s possible that you won’t gain their approval — as sad as that is. However, trying to understand why they’re unsupportive may help guide the conversations you will have. Who knows? They may begin to feel more positively about your choice to adopt.
Here are four questions to consider when understanding your family’s point of view:
1. Do they understand what modern adoption is like?
A lot of fears about adoption come from a lack of knowledge or from unfamiliarity. Your family member may have an outdated image of adoption or have false information from inaccurate portrayals in TV and movies. They may be afraid the birth parents could “take the baby back,” that all adopted children have problems, or that they wouldn’t be able to love an adopted child as much as a biological child — all of which you know is untrue, but are persistent myths. Offering up information about what adoption is like today may soothe some anxieties.
Your family may be initially unsupportive because they knew birth parents, adoptive parents or adoptees who struggled with closed adoptions or from a lack of adoption support. Explain what the process is like for expectant and adoptive parents today, explain why you’re looking forward to sharing a relationship with your future child’s birth family via open adoption, and then be prepared to answer questions.
2. What are the fears that are holding them back?
Before fully choosing adoption, you likely had fears of your own that you had to come to terms with. If your family member can put a name to what they’re worried about in regards to adoption, you might be able to talk through it together.
If they’re having a hard time pinpointing what it is they’re concerned about, ask them to take a little time and think about it, and then come back to you. They may still be processing the news and need time to reflect on what it is about adoption that makes them uncomfortable — and more importantly, why it makes them uncomfortable.
3. Do they understand how excited you are to adopt?
You family member may be worried that you’re adopting out of desperation. They may see adoption as a second-best choice or a consolation prize. Of course, none of this is true.
Assure them of how excited you are to adopt. Even if adoption wasn’t your original plan, you’re “all in.” There may be some unavoidable unknowns involved in the process, but any fears you have are far outweighed by your excitement and joy.
4. Would they feel better if they talked to someone and asked questions?
Depending on what your family member’s specific concerns are, they might be comforted to talk to someone who has been through the process — your adoption specialist, a family who has previously adopted, an adult adoptee, grandparents of adopted children, or birth parents —. It can help to hear firsthand that it’s going to be okay, even though it seems scary and foreign at first.
Some of these people may understand the emotions your family member is experiencing and can better reassure them that everything will fall into place.
It’s Still Your Decision
Ultimately, your parents or extended family may not support you through your adoption journey. This is always a hard thing to face when you’re about to experience something as monumental as parenthood. But it’s your life and your decision.
You’ll need to ask yourself: “Am I still 100% committed to adoption at this point, even without my family?”
As long as you and your spouse are both fully committed to the adoption process, then there’s no reason why you shouldn’t keep moving forward in your pursuit of parenthood via adoption. If, however, you’re not sure that you can do this without the emotional support of your family, it’s best to put the adoption process on pause until you’re certain you’re ready.
Remember that, with or without your family, you’ll always have the support of your American Adoptions specialist, so reach out if you need to talk about unsupportive family members. Rather than the small number of people who are unsupportive, continue to focus on all the support that you do have.