Tag Archives: open adoption advice

My Teen Wants to Live With His Birth Mom. Now What?

Of all the questions I’ve received while leading workshops and  webinars on openness, this one stands out because it gets at the heart of the the deepest fears people have about undertaking a parenting journey in which our child has (shudder) other parents.

Fear causes us to close down.

And as we see from so many comments on the previous post in this series, closing down can so easily cause us to lose what we want most.  Think of loving a flower so much you crush it in your hand.

The Effect of Fear and Closedness on Adoptive Parents’ Relationships with Their Kids

Here’s the third question that came at the end of a webinar I delivered on parenting via donor conception (donor eggs, donor sperm, donor embryos). You’ll see again that third-party reproduction and traditional adoption have a lot in common for both parents and children.

How do you handle a 17 year old who you have raised with love and understanding and all of a sudden they decide they want to go live with their birth parents because they say your rules aren’t fair?

gps for parenting via third-party reproduction

This is where mindfulness and resolving our own triggers can keep an issue from being magnified. For if we are able to neutralize fears within us, then we are free to focus only on the teen’s issue. As the grownups in the equation, isn’t that how we’d like to parent — to make sure our kids don’t have to navigate our issues as well as theirs?

So that’s the first thing: resolve any fears you may have about not being good enough parents, about being abandoned by your teen, about feeling unappreciated (“after all I’ve done for you”), about losing your teen to his birth parents.

The second thing is to tune in with your teen. Sometimes that’s simply abiding with him — bearing witness to his angst without question or lecture. Sometimes it’s finding a good counselor or therapist (an adoption-competent one if at all possible) to help work through knotty problems like control issues — common to adoptees, according to the Primal Wound theory — identity, relationships, self-esteem, and other things teens grapple with. Wanting to move in with birth parents may not be the actual issue, but a piece of a bigger puzzle.

(Then again, maybe it is the actual issue. Teen issues are notoriously difficult to suss out.)

Why Mindfulness?

Mindfulness is allowing  space and light  into a dark,  tight place. Mindfulness is stopping to breathe. Mindfulness is a tool that helps us open to our inner selves. Mindfulness enables us to pull out our fears and resolve them.

Without mindfulness, your issues and your teen’s issues could mix in a toxic way, with everyone reacting from deep-seated fear, everyone panicking, and with things so much harder than they need to be. If you’re in the grip of fear at the same time your kiddo is, who’s driving the bus down the craggy mountain?

Think about what you want most with your kids. I’m guessing in the top 3 would be a healthy, vibrant, eternal relationship. Are you more likely to get that by being closed or by being open?

Mindfulness brings about openness.

You can see that my response to the participant’s question is more about how to figure out what to do rather than offering actual advice what to do. In preparation to handle this very difficult situation — which I may very well face myself one day — I aim to do two things.

  1. Preserve the relationship with my kids above all else.
  2. Remain vigilant of my own fears and insecurities and deal with them so that they don’t affect my judgment or my relationship with my kids.

What do you think? What advice do you have for the parents of a teen who wants to live with a birth parent? Is that different from wanting to live with another person? Why or why not?

Other questions in this series:

Lori Holden's book cover

Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a teen daughter, writes from Denver. Her book, The Open-Hearted Way to Open Adoption: Helping Your Child Grow Up Whole, is available through your favorite online bookseller and makes a thoughtful anytime gift for the adoptive families in your life. Catch episodes of Adoption: The Long View wherever you get your podcasts.

Lori was honored as an Angel in Adoption® in 2018 by the Congressional Coalition of Adoption Institute.

  Image courtesy of nuttakit at  FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Withholding Information from Adopted Kids

This is part 2 of the Parenting GPS series, in which I’m sharing Q&As from a webinar I delivered recently on openness and embryo adoption (or donation — pick the term that works for you), which is similar in many ways to traditional adoption. In fact, many of the questions that arose from the Nightlight audience had to do with traditional adoption…like this one.

Withholding vs Sharing the Child’s Information

­Q: I spoke with an adoptive mom who had contact with her sons’ birth moms, but the contact didn’t extend to the boys. When talking to her sons about adoption, she would not tell them their birth moms’ names, even though both boys have asked.  What do you think?

Well, I think it’s a pity and a lost opportunity.* Barring some X-factor, it sounds on the surface that this decision to keep birth moms and sons separated may be based on fear and on a desire to hold tight to control. Either as a motivating factor is likely to come back and bite her. When those boys become men, or even before that, this woman may have some ‘splaining to do.

I would gently probe to find if she has a rational, non-fear-oriented way to justify this arrangement. I would try to get her to see that not addressing her own issues may cost her one day in terms of her relationship with her sons. I’d remind her that nothing is more important than the relationships we have with our children throughout their lives, and the trust that underpins it.

Healthy and sustainable relationships are based not on fear but on trust. The grownups involved must be willing to identify and resolve their own fears and triggers and issues and deal with What Is.

* I wonder if there could be  a significant piece of the woman’s decision to keep people separated that’s not stated here. Like what, I can’t imagine, but if there were I’d want to re-evaluate.

What do you think? Are there situations in which it’s all right to withhold any or all of our kids’ stories?

gps for parenting via third-party reproduction

Other questions in this series:


This post is also part of #Microblog Mondays. What’s that? A post that is not too long. Head over to Stirrup Queens to join the fun.

Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Can Closed People Be Nudged Toward Open Adoption?

I delivered a webinar recently through Nightlight’s Embryo Adoption Center. I was delighted to have a chance to address this new-to-me audience, people who are in the middle of making family-building decisions.

Because why wouldn’t we transfer what we now know about parenting people who grow up adopted to parenting people who grow up as a result of donor conception? After all, humans created via third-party reproduction also face the challenges of having a split between their biology — the DNA they’re born with — and their biology — the life that is written by those we call family. It makes sense that parents building their families through donor embryo, donor eggs, or donor sperm would seek ways to better serve their resulting children.

gps for parenting via third-party reproduction

Over the next several posts, I will share with you some of the questions that came up during that webinar and the answers I offered. But first, let me fill you in on two upcoming events.

Later this week, April 1, I’m leading another webinar for Nightlight’s Snowflake program, this time aimed at medical clinics and reproductive endocrinologists. If you or your doctor would like to tune in, click for more information on Clinic Responsibility to Parents and Children: The Value of Open Relationships.

And on April 14, Bethany Christian Services is hosting a webinar  for adopting and adoptive parents, From Fearful to Fearless: 3 Key Shifts To Help You Embrace Openness in Adoption. It’s available to all, not just Bethany families. Bethany families can receive education credits. Registration is limited to the first 200 signer-uppers, and there is a nominal fee per household — $15.


Here is the first question that arose from the webinar.  I’m encouraged that the question was asked because surely adoption professionals (embryo or otherwise) encounter a lot of fear in their clients when it comes to openness. It’s good to know such professionals are seeking ways to coach would-be parents through their fears. That can only be a good thing for the resulting child.

How can I as an (embryo) adoption professional better explain the benefits of openness to clients who want to keep things closed?

First of all, make sure the client(s) receiving the embryo understand the difference between openness and contact. Many of their fears may come from misconceptions about birth or bio parents in general and what contact might look like.

The more parents come to understand openness — how beneficial it is for all involved — especially their own relationship with their child — the less scary contact will be to them. People who can’t consider anything different from a closed adoption are probably operating from an Either/Or mindset. They can be guided to a Both/And heartset.

Steer them toward openness first, and once they embrace (a) the solo effort of being introspective about one’s own fears and (b)  the duet of openness done with the child, then contact with birth/bio parents, if available, is likely to follow. In fact, they may end up actively pursuing it.

I might say something like this to people who are resistant to the idea of open adoption:

We are hearing from adoptees who were raised in the closed era that not being able to talk with parents about their innermost thoughts around being adopted made difficult things — identity building and integrating all their parts — even more difficult, because they felt the had to go it alone. We encourage you to explore ways you can keep open channels with your kids through all their growth stages so that they’ll let you in to their inner world when they have adoption-related emotions. You’ll find that openness tends to benefit everyone involved in an adoption, not least of all you, the adoptive parents.

What do you think? What other ways can (embryo) adoption professionals help their clients open to openness?

Other questions that will be covered in this series:

 Image courtesy nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net