Adopting parents seem to fall into two distinct camps: those you can’t wait to tell their parents of their adoption plans and those who are dreading it. Grandparent responses seem to be equally divided between thrilled, confused, and opposed. How can we help grandparents accept our adoption plans?
It’s disappointing and frustrating when our parents don’t share our excitement over our plans to adopt. We are excited and we want them to be excited with us.
I couldn’t wait to tell my parents. We wanted to think and talk about adoption between ourselves first, but when we were ready to move forward we couldn’t wait to tell our parents, especially my parents. I was pretty let down when their first response was to say that they didn’t think it was a good idea.
I didn’t expect much from my in laws. We knew they were going to not like the idea and would think we were being irresponsible. But when they met our expectations, I was still angry.
While grandparents can object to adoption under any circumstances, we see this more often in transracial adoptions and when parents are adopting when they already have children in the family.
Tips to Help Grandparents Accept Our Adoption Plans
What should you do when your parents are less than excited about your adoption plans? There are no surefire guaranteed solutions, but consider the following tips that might help.
As the parents and decision makers you have thought about adoption and type of adoption (open, transracial, international, special needs, etc.) long and hard. You have been educated and prepared (I sincerely hope!). Remember, your parents have not had the luxury of this advanced preparation, so don’t expect them to share your degree of excitement from the beginning. Give them permission in your mind to have their own fears and reservations. You probably had them at the beginning as well.
Share Your Process
Talk with your parents before the adoption about what you are planning. Explain why you want to adopt, what you have learned through your preparation, and why you are choosing this type of adoption (open, transracial, special needs, older child, etc.). Be clear in the discussion that you are not asking for their permission, but want to share your decision making with them because you love them and because they are important members of your family.
Explain Impact of Trauma
If you are adopting a child past infancy from foster care or from abroad, talk with your parents about the effects of abuse and neglect on children. Explain what you have learned about how you need to parent to meet the needs of a child who has experienced trauma in the past. If you plan on parenting in a way that differs from how they parented, make sure you let them know up front.
Set Expectations for Behavior
Once your child is home, be observant of how the adopted child is being treated. Don’t be on the defensive looking for unfairness, but don’t play the ostrich. Enter this relationship with your eyes wide open.
If you notice a problem in how the grandparents treat your adopted child—schedule a time to talk with your parents. “From the outside looking in, it appears that you are favoring your biological grandchild over your adopted grandchild. I am concerned about the effect this is having on both children.”
Don’t demand equality, but expect fairness. “You are this child’s grandparent and as such you owe it to this child to show an interest in her. By this I specifically mean: ask about her activities, celebrate her birthday with enthusiasm, etc.”
Know What You Can Control
You are an adult, this is your decision, and while you want your parents to accept it and be an active part of your family ultimately you have no control over what they do. It often helps to subtly (or not so subtly) let your parents know when sharing your plans that you are not seeking their permission or even their approval. It also helps to let them know how much you value their participation in your family. Ultimately, the only thing you have control over is how you respond and what you expose your children to.
With some compassion and advanced preparation, you can ease the adjustment for a reluctant grandparent.
Were your parents enthusiastic about your adoption plans? Did they eventually come around?
Other Creating a Family Resources You Will Enjoy
- Winning Over Reluctant Extended Family in Adoption
- My Wife Wants to Adopt. When Do I Tell Her I Won’t?
- Should Grandparents be Allowed To Care for a Newly Adopted Child
- The Letter You MUST Send Family & Friends Right Before You Adopt
Source: Creating a Family Creating a Family Radio Show/Podcast Combining Kids by Birth and Adoption with Dr. David Brodzinsky, adoption therapist, researcher, professor, and author of the seminal book Being Adopted: The Lifelong Search for Self.