Open Adoption: Is it Confusing for Adoptees?

Adoptees in an open adoption

The decision of whether or not to maintain an open adoption may weigh heavily on the minds of both the adoptive and birth parents. While this arrangement may, at times, seem like it could be confusing for the child, recent research shows that it actually has the opposite effect. The children of open adoptions seem perfectly capable of understanding the different roles that their adoptive and their biological parents play in their lives. However, no two adoptions are exactly the same and there are a few actions you can take to help the child understand and adjust.

Talk About the Adoption Early On

It is good to start talking to your child about the adoption as soon as you think they can understand it. Talking about it early on can make it seem more like a normalized aspect of their life rather than a surprising blow with feelings of betrayal if you wait until they’re older.

Establish Titles that Your Child is Comfortable With

As early as possible, you may want to decide what titles you want your child to use for each parent in their life. The actual titles will depend purely on your preference and perhaps the adopted child’s age. 
A child who is already accustomed to calling their adoptive parents “mom” and “dad” would have a really hard time calling their birth parents by those titles. For this reason many birth parents will let the child know they can call them by nicknames or by their actual first name.

Make Sure the Child Knows the Topic is Always Open for Discussion

Whether you had a domestic adoption or an international adoption, you want to make sure your child feels safe enough to be able to discuss the adoption. While of course you should make sure the details are appropriate for the child’s age, you have the ability to either normalize the topic of adoption or make it seem like a taboo topic.

Ask Your Child Lots of Questions and Allow Them to Ask Their Own

It is inevitable that your child will eventually reach the age of curiosity. There is no doubt that they will have questions that may require delicate answers. If your child seems hesitant about bringing up the topic of adoption themselves, you can encourage them by asking questions about how they feel or thoughts they have around it. It is okay for either side to answer, “I don’t know” if that is the honest truth. The point is that the lines of communication be open for everyone.

Allow Your Child Access to All Photos and Letters

Not all open adoptions look the same. Some birth parents might remain heavily in the child’s life. However, it is generally common for the birth parent to mostly keep their distance except for writing letters, writing emails, sending photos, and sending gifts for holidays. Never withhold these items for the child unless you deem them to be harmful to the child’s wellbeing.

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Angel Adoption, Inc. provides marketing and advertising services that assist biological parents considering adoption and prospective adoptive parents to connect with each other, and provides support and referral services throughout the process. Angel Adoption, Inc. is an independent contractor and provides services under the supervision of Lutheran Child and Family Services of Illinois, License #012998, One Oakbrook Terrace, #501, Oakbrook Terrace, IL 60181; 708-771-7180.