Category Archives: Adoptive parenting

Open Adoption on Trial: Amy Seek’s “God and Jetfire”

Note: Though tempting, please do not comment on the headline only, without reading the full post.

Recent publicity for Amy Seek’s new memoir, God and Jetfire: Confessions of a Birth Mother seems to have put open adoption on trial.

Amy Seek, a landscape architect and writer living in London, gives readers an account of her unintended pregnancy 15 years ago, her selection of parents for her son, and the complex — even competing — emotions she experienced during and after placement with her son and with his adoptive parents.

At first I’d envisioned this post with a courtroom-type presentation of the two sides. It might start something like this.

amy seek's god and jetfire: open adoption on trial

Amy Seek’s Vogue Article: Defending Open Adoption

Court is now in session *gaveltap*. The defense may present its case [we switch things up around here].

Defense: Your honor, we call  the first witness —  a Vogue article, adapted from God and Jetfire — titled  “One Writer on Helping to Raise Her Son in an ‘Open’ Adoption.” Continue reading Open Adoption on Trial: Amy Seek’s “God and Jetfire”

My Kid Has No Adoption Issues. That a Problem?

Question:  My daughter is 8 and really, it feels as though she’s having no adoption issues. None at all. Is it possible for her to just be well adjusted about adoption?     — Laurel

open adoption adviceDear Laurel: I do believe it’s possible. We should welcome, recognize and show gratitude when our kids are seemingly well-adjusted. Enjoy the ease you are experiencing in parenting.

But wait — there’s more!

Adoption Attuned Parenting Gets You Partway There

So congratulations, Laurel. Not only do you have a child who seems to have a high EQ (emotional intelligence quotient), I surmise from knowing you online for years that you are a parent with a high AQ (adoption attunement quotient). With these two ingredients — a child’s EQ and a parent’s AQ — you may experience smoother sailing than some other adoptive families. (And that’s OK, in spite of the groans of envy that may ensue.)

Let me make a few more points.

Myth: If Parents Do Things “Right,” There Will Be No Problems

You deserve a pat on the back for your ability and willingness to attune to your daughter — truly, like tuning an old-school radio until you’re able to hear things just right. She is no doubt benefiting from having such a close relationship with you, from feeling safe and connected through your attention and efforts.

aq adoption attuned parenting

But I also want to dispel the notion people sometimes have — subconsciously — that if you do things “right” your child will have no issues.  And the other notion that If your child has issues, it’s because you are not doing things “right.”

While it’s great that you’re doing things “right,” the other part of the equation is that your daughter is able to do a lot of her own work, tuning in to herself, tapping into her own resilience. I wrote about resilience — why some have it and some don’t — in this excerpt, the foreword to the book Adoption Therapy. Like so many innate traits and talents, some kids come by it more easily than others do.

You get some of the credit but not all (not that you were asking for credit).  And parents with struggling kiddos don’t get all of the blame.

Drop Pebbles Every So Often

One thing we know about people and relationships is that things are always in flux; things can change over time as people go in and out of stages of life. While we never want to plant or create issues where there previously were none, we do want to detect issues if they arise.

For this reason, I suggest you keep “dropping pebbles.” This is a a technique covered by Holly van Gulden and Lisa M. Bartels-Rabb in Real Parents, Real Children: Parenting the Adopted Child. In essence, it means you throw out possible conversation starters and see if your daughter is ready to pick up any. This is a way of spreading out the emotional charge for your child (and maybe for you).

Dropping a pebble might look like this, while driving by The Hospital: Oh, look. This is the hospital where you were born. Wait, be silent, and see if your daughter picks up your pebble with thoughts/feelings on her birth, her birth mother, her coming home with you, or anything else.

The goal of dropping pebbles goes beyond discovering what she thinks, however. That, of course, gives you a keyhole into what’s going on in her mind. But even deeper is helping her access what she feels. The more we can help our children bring forth their emotions in a safe way, the less likely the emotions are to be suppressed and come out later in surprising and uncontrollable ways.

So bottom line, yes it’s possible for an adoptive parent to raise a child who is relatively issue-less. (a) It’s not all you, and (b) stay attuned in case issues do come up.

See also:

Dear Readers, what say you?

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About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • I may occasionally call on others to help with answers, to tap into group wisdom.
  • I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
  • Readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.

Send in your own open adoption question. I’ll either offer an answer or find someone who can address your issue.

We’re OK Letting Birth Mom In But Birth Dad is Scary

Question from Kate: I’m close to my son’s birth mother and a few of her family members. But his birth father is incarcerated and is a violent man.

I have some things I’d like to send to my son’s birth mom and her family but I’m concerned about disclosing our address because I don’t want it to get back to the birth father. I’m uncomfortable discussing it with his birth mom because it makes it seem like I don’t trust her with the information. I don’t know what to expect long-term with her and her relationship with my son’s birth father. Suggestions?              ~~ Kate
open adoption advice

How to Have Contact with Birth Mom & Privacy with Birth Dad

Dear Kate: Would it be possible to get a box at a nearby mailbox rental store? UPS and the US Postal Service offer them, as do other packing and shipping places (non-USPS ones look like street addresses). For an annual fee you may be able to keep in contact AND maintain some privacy, until the time you feel more comfortable.

How To Communicate with a Birth Parent

While an offsite mailbox may solve the surface issue, it doesn’t address the deeper issue of communicating clearly with your son’s birth mom. Perhaps the reason that it sounds like you don’t trust her with the information is because you don’t trust her with the information.

Would it be possible to take the very brave step of talking this over with her? Of telling her your concerns in a way you’d like to hear them if the roles were reversed?

I might say something like this:

I’m looking for ways to keep you in the loop, Gina, without exposing us to Rick. Because of all you’ve told us about him, I am sure you can understand why we’re not ready to give him access to us. One day we might be ready, but for now, we feel it’s best that he not have our contact information.

What are your thoughts on that? (pause to listen.) Are you in touch with him, or do you plan to be? (pause to listen.) Where do you think the line should be drawn on what information he has about us? (pause to listen.)

Listen to what she says and attune to her. Do you get the sense that she is able to maintain a wall of privacy for the sake of the son you both love? Do you sense that she doesn’t perceive Birth Dad as dangerous as you do (if so, why)? Do you get the sense that she is trustworthy on this subject?

Simply having this conversation has the potential to take you more deeply into a trusting relationship with Birth Mom, which will serve your son well in the coming years. If you end up still feeling unsettled about the safety of your son and your family, you can still fall back on the offsite mailbox solution.

See also: How to Set Adoption Boundaries
See also:  A Father’s Struggle to Stop His Daughter’s Adoption

Dear Readers, what say you?

~~~

About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • I may occasionally call on others to help with answers, to tap into group wisdom.
  • I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.
  • Readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.

Send in your own open adoption question. I’ll either offer an answer or find someone who can address your issue.

How to Explain to Children Differing Levels of Openness in Adoption

Question:    How do we explain different levels of openness to our children? We have a very close relationship with our son’s birth mother and his biological brother and grandparents but because of our daughter’s birth mother’s lifestyle our relationship with her and her other children is limited.

Our children are only 2 and 3 right now but I know soon enough they will start to question this.    ~~ Jamie

open adoption advice

Take Away the Adoption Charge

Dear Jamie:   First let’s look at HOW you decide what to say. To get yourself into a clear mindset (e.g., you’re not freaking out about the adoption part), let’s reframe things in a way that neutralizes the adoption charge. Here’s one way to do that:

Imagine that 10 years down the line one of your children qualifies for an advanced math class and the other doesn’t. Or one makes the team and the other doesn’t. How would you approach such a situation of imbalance with each child?

My guess is that you’d aim to meet both your children where they are. You probably wouldn’t aim for absolute fairness — reducing the benefits available to one in order to make things equal for the other. Nor would it be in your power to elevate the child who is experiencing lack to the level of the child who is experiencing bounty.

You would probably help each understand, gently and age appropriately, why things are the way they are, and you’d abide with them if/when they feel sadness. You can’t protect them from all sadnessnor should you — but you CAN help them develop resilience as they process sadness and disappointment.

We Don’t Always Get to Deal with the Ideal

As parents we must help our children to live in their world as it is. Sometimes things aren’t ideal, and our choice is to either change it (if possible) or accept it (if change is not possible). It’s great that you’re asking about how to explain so that you can do exactly this.

Words I might use would be:

I wonder how you feel about your birth mom not being around the way Brother’s is.

(Pause so Daughter can express herself…and listen.)

I’m sad about that, too. Right now, she’s not in a place where she’s able to be in our lives, but we are open to that one day happening.

I would then be silent and let Daughter do the talking so I could discover where she is. Offer the space for her to share her thoughts with you, if she chooses. She may not choose to at this point — she may have a lot going on and be unable to make sense of her own emotions — but making space for her to do so helps her know she can open up to you in the future if she is grappling with an issue.

This is more on this in my book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption, in Chapter 5, “Openness and the Adoptee.” Just keep in mind that adoption relationships – like all relationships – have an ebb and flow. Things may change for either your son or your daughter in terms of birth parent contact. While you can’t always control WHAT happens, you can support your children in how they RESPOND to what happens.

Dear Readers, what say you?

~~~

About this Open Adoption Advice Column

  • I may occasionally call on others to help with answers, to tap into group wisdom.
  • I am not trained as a therapist. Please do not rely on words in this space to make your own major or minor decisions.

As always, readers are encouraged to weigh in thoughtfully and respectfully. I ask everyone to remember that this is a teaching endeavor rather than a shaming endeavor, and that we aim to bring light rather than heat. It’s my belief that people do the best they can with what they have to work with, and our goal is to give folks more to work with.

Send in your own question for possible inclusion. Subscribe so you don’t miss anything.