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Helping Extended Family Embrace Your Adoption

Baby Toby McKenna BinderMaking a new child comfortable in your home will undoubtedly be stressful, and new adoptive parents should not have to worry about the acceptance of their relatives. It is important that your relatives share the same love and understanding for your adopted child as you do. However, they will not have been nearly as involved in the process as you have. Although they might be excited to welcome a new member into the family, some may be unsure of how to act. Still others may have deep personal feelings about adoption that need to be hashed out. Adjusting to a new family may take some time and might take a bit longer for those unfamiliar with the adoption process.

Your child will value the relationships they have with your relatives, so it would be a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page as soon as possible. Here are a few ideas you might use to ensure your family is ready for the arrival of your little one.

Active Communication and Positive Language

Your relatives are concerned for your health and well-being, but also want to respect your privacy. If you are secretive towards your family about your decision to adopt, they could sense that this is a sensitive or unapproachable subject. Try being as open and honest with them about the process as you are comfortable. Once they know your reasons and intentions, your family will have an easier time opening up to your child when they arrive.

Your relatives might be wary of approaching questions about your child’s birth mother. They may not know if they should avoid speaking of the birth mother in front of you or the child. If you are comfortable, disclosing at least some of this information can help put everyone at ease. Explain the implications of open and closed adoptions, and be careful to preserve the birth mother’s anonymity when discussing their desired level of involvement going forward.

The language your family uses with you and your new loved one is very important. Encourage the use of positive terms that affirm the rightful place your child has in your family. Make sure your family knows to refer to them as “your child”. Your child “was adopted” implying the past tense, and not “is adopted” implying a lingering, othering identity. Your child was not “given up” by their birth mother but was instead “placed for adoption”.

Involve Your Family with Your Child

Keeping your family up to date with the adoption process can allow them to feel included. They will be able to be there for you in times of waiting and celebrate with you at important milestones. Your family can provide advice to new parents and help console worry and concerns. If you are open to it, social media may be a fine option for updating friends and relatives. 

Nothing can replace quality time. If you feel that your family might be uncomfortable with your new child, actively invite them to participate in their life. Include them in play time at family gatherings. Share stories of new parenthood and of your child’s growing personality. The more time they spend growing a relationship with your child, the more quickly they can be seen as a member of the family.