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6 Tips for Communicating with Birth Parents with Addiction

Sleeping Baby Boy - Adoption MythsFamilies with adopted children will often have contact with birth parents who struggle with the demons of addiction. While most adoptive parents want a positive relationship with the birth parents, addiction can make this a challenge. In this article we’ll be looking at some tips to help maintain what may be a strained relationship at times.

 

  • See Them as Equals: While addiction can be a hard thing to understand, it is important to remember that we’re all humans, and to treat the birth parents as equals and work on a relationship of mutual respect. The highs and lows of addiction may make interactions challenging at times, but it is important to remain respectful and positive so as to set the best example for your adopted child. 
  • Set Ground Rules: Be clear and consistent with the ground rules regarding interactions with your child. Meet with the birth parents regularly to discuss how things are going, your concerns, and to reaffirm these rules. Keep these discussions focused on the child’s best interests.
  • Flexibility: Addiction often means that birth parents can be unpredictable, potentially turning up under the influence, or forgetting meetings entirely. Try your best to work around their habit and find out the best times to meet. Be honest but kind when communicating to your child why, for example, their birth parents haven’t shown up. They may be feeling rejected or unloved, so reaffirm that they are loved by both sets of parents.
  • Positivity: Try to view the positives of the birth parents. The fact that they want contact with their child shows their good intentions even if substance abuse can make this difficult to see at times. Speak positively of the birth parents around your child. Reinforce the fact that they love the child, but just have some struggles which can make showing this hard sometimes. 
  • Be Willing to Change: Addiction is like a rollercoaster — sometimes things might be great, but then a bad patch might hit. Because of this you may need to alter the types of contact the birth parents get with your child. However, it is important to never set these restrictions in stone, so you can allow the birth parents to work to regain your trust and increase visitation. 
  • Be Open: Sometimes face to face contact or even phone or video contact will not be possible with the birth parents, potentially for an extended period of time. However, it is important not to close the door on the birth parents during this time, as their child may be the only thing motivating them to make positive changes. Instead, get creative with how to can keep the contact alive such as:
    – Emails or texts
    – Contact with other members of the birth family such as grandparents or aunts and uncles
    – A closed Facebook group for the birth family with pictures and updates

 

Just like breaking free from it, addiction can be a difficult monster to manage. Just remember that with strength, compassion, and teamwork, it is possible for your child to have a positive relationship with their birth parents no matter their addiction struggles.