Adoption. We’ve GOT to talk! Adoption is complicated and overflows with coexisting ambiguities. It both creates and fractures a family. Adopting parents gain a child. Birth parents lose a child. The adoptee loses his birth parents and family. He also gains adoptive parents and an adoptive family.

This causes an inherent contradiction in how each person in the triad experiences adoption. Although it is commonly assumed that the benefits of adoption erase the losses of adoption. They don’t. Plus, the way each member of the triad experiences, processes,  and views adoption is not static. It changes over time. The losses are permanent, influential, and they spiral throughout their lifetimes. The impact constantly shifts.

The only way to know how each person is currently feeling and processing the impact of adoption is to talk about it. And, most importantly for others to attune and listen. Without judgment. Without refutation. Without minimizing. It’s important to recognize that this kind of intimate, honest sharing demands vulnerability and can only occur in a trust-based relationship. They must feel safe–physically, emotionally, and psychologically.

Trust grows in the context of affection, attachment, and connection. The process takes time to grow and requires intention, attention, communication, trust, and commitment. All of which must be expressed not only through deeds but also through words. We cannot assume we know how one another is feeling, what they are thinking about and struggling with, or what fears plague them unless it is discussed openly and honestly. Encouraging conversations is only one requirement. Intention must partner with action. Talk about it! Ensure that the conversations do occur and meet with the deep empathetic listening they deserve.

Adoption creates conflicting points of view. so, unsurprisingly, most folks find such conversations difficult, or uncomfortable. However, these conversations are indispensable. How does this unfold in our families? Accept that each triad member can feel, believe, experience, and understand the same circumstance or event in polar opposite ways. And, as we mentioned earlier, all of them can be true at the same time. Talk about what is true at that moment in time. Talk and listen!

For example, the adoptive parents sought the adoption and consider it a blessing. Simultaneously, the birth mother consented to the adoption and yet feels grief over the loss of her child, not joy. She considers the adoption a necessity and likely does not think of it as a “blessing.” Depending on many factors, the adopted child may feel a spectrum of emotions. Much of his experience will be shaped by how well he feels seen and heard, to what degree—if at all—he feels a profound sense of belonging and welcome.

Unsurprisingly, these conflicting, coexisting experiences create forces that can divide and polarize, especially if they are glossed over, never expressed, or dismissed. This paradoxical conflict is often rendered invisible, taboo, and unspoken. This is not healthy.

But, for the sake of all involved, especially for the adoptee, we’ve got to talk about the many complexities of adoption. Attentive, intentional communication is vital to the mental, emotional, and physical health of all not only the child but also his parents–birth and adoptive. The issues are too significant to remain unaddressed, minimized, or ignored.

Each adoption is unique, personal, and transformational. For the adopting parents, adoption brings joy. For the birth parents, it brings sorrow and alleviates a responsibility they cannot currently accept. and heartache. The adoptee has their distinct experience. The birth parents have a different experience. The adoptive parents have their own experience. Although these various experiences impact all the other triad members, such raw, emotionally deep conversations are often avoided, repressed, or shut down.

This is why Growing Intentional Families Together works so consistently to encourage triad members to talk–and listen–to one another. As part of our commitment to encourage dialog between and among triad members, we have created an award to honor individuals who are striving to build conversations across the triad. We titled it the Shaping the Future Award. Our first recipient will be announced soon. Watch for our announcement celebrating this important individual.

If you are interested in exploring this topic further, consider reading Adoption Unfiltered: Revelations from Adoptees, Birth Parents, Adoptive Parents, and Allies Hardcover by Sara Easterly, Kelsey Vander Vliet Ranyard  Lori Holden. Their book explores the impact of adoption through each of the triad perspectives.


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