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?
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.)
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.
- Preserve the relationship with my kids above all else.
- 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:
- How can adoption professionals better explain the benefits of openness to clients who want to keep things closed?
- I know an adoptive mom who won’t give her boys information about their birth mom. What do you think?
- As an adoption professional, how can I help my clients move from fearful to fearless in open adoption?
Lori Holden, mom of a teen son and a young adult 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 on Adoption Institute.
Image courtesy of nuttakit at FreeDigitalPhotos.net