Managing relationships in the adoption triad can be difficult. This article offers advice, sympathy, and encouragement for those involved.

Relationships in the Adoption Triad

A triad is defined, as it relates to adoption, as a group or set of three connected people or groups. Adoption connects biological parents, adoptive parents, and the child. Throughout the years, these three groups of people undoubtedly intertwine. How the triad affects each member depends on the individual experience. This article will discuss relationships in the adoption triad.

Biological Parents – Where It All Begins! 

The triad begins with the biological parents. The biological parents will have their unique experience within the relationships in the adoption triad. Biological parents become part of this triad either by choice or through protective agencies. Regardless of they became a part of their triad, there are many feelings attached to this experience. There may be relief and understanding, but there will often be grief. There are open adoptions that nurture the connection of their part of the triad. Your child’s biological parents, their stories, are crucial to your child’s journey.

The story may be of love and strength or it may be harsh and heartbreaking. Regardless, there are so many stories that the biological parents hold for the triad. It is important to honor their journey as it will allow your child to see a part of them that cannot be replaced by the love felt through adoption. There will always be questions surrounding the biological aspect of your child. The questions may come from the child or from providers who are assisting in attachment formation. They hold necessary information regarding family history, which is related to developmental and cognitive expectations. 

Honoring the attachment to the biological parents/family is important. The story of the biological parent/family may have hardship or trauma related to it. The child is not required to bear this as it is not for them to carry. It may be part of the story but it will not be their entire story. It will be the responsibility of the parents that choose adoption to hold and appropriately tell the story. You will need to consider how information may impact your child and be mindful of the developmental stage of the child.

Parents by Adoption! 

The second part of the relationships in the adoption triad is the parents blessed by adoption. Building your family through adoption has opened you to a very unique triad that you can only fully understand if you adopt. When you choose to adopt, there are a lot of conversations regarding the child and biological parents. There is not always an emphasis on how this triad impacts your ongoing journey. As parents, you will have a lot of self-talk or talk with your significant other on how the triad will affect your family.

It is important that as parents, you educate yourself on how this triad works and impacts the developmental stages of your child. You will have the biggest impact on how your child will attach and relate to the world around them. They will mirror your behaviors and take on your mannerisms. You will have a huge if not the most significant impact on your child’s development. Understanding the triad and how it will continue to impact their social, biological, and emotional development is key. This give-and-take will be the biggest part of your parenting and should be led with mindfulness and understanding. 

When there is an open adoption option, this can help the triad. It is important to understand how further involvement with the biological family impacts your own family. You must look at your bias and expectations. There may be many questions that could never be answered if there is a disruption in the triad. 

Our Child, Our Love! 

The third part of the triad is the most important, the child. This child has come into this world with the expectation that they will have adults to teach, nurture, and love them. It is important to remember that (in most cases) the child has not had a say regarding their journey in adoption, though they find themselves in this triad. The triad will provide them with identity, safety, and the ability to belong. There is no fairy tale within the relationships in the adoption triad but with effort, your child can find the support they need. Of course, if there are any concerns related to the biological parents or other members, that comes first. The triad exists regardless but a child should not be risked to honor the triad. You may have to find creative ways to honor it. 

Ways to be Supportive 

Relationships in the adoption triad can be hard and, at times, need additional support. You may identify many feelings throughout the year and all of them are okay. There are ways to assist the relationships and form a better attachment. The first way is to be honest about how you feel regarding the triad. There is no right or wrong way to feel. However, self-awareness is important. If you find yourself as a birth parent, parent through adoption, or a child feeling hard, negative feelings, you may need additional support such as therapists. It’s okay to reach out to others. Some find additional support by attending adoption support groups. 

Another way to honor the birth parents is to allow your child to talk about their adoption experience. Communication is key to a healthy attachment. Your child may want to celebrate their culture or other experiences related to their biological attachment. This should be done with respect. It is important not to dismiss their attachment to items such as toys or clothes they may have gotten from the biological family. These things may not seem important or may even feel threatening to you but always step back. You do not want a quick feeling of judgment to affect a long term attachment goal to your child. 

Your child may not want to acknowledge the triad and that’s okay. Children have the right to communicate their expectations and have the adults honor them. That doesn’t lessen the triad and you may have to be the keeper of the journey until they are ready. There must be a safe place for the child to lay their needs and concerns. A child may want to embrace the triad full force. There is nothing wrong with this approach and can be supported actively by all participants.

All parties can assist the child in developing a healthy plan to honor and acknowledge their adoption triad. It is important to note that sometimes this can be hard for all parties. To assist the child in either way or both as time goes on can cause many emotions to surface. You may feel that your child goes back and forth with their feelings frequently and wonder how can you fully support them. You may also have your feelings go everywhere because this is hard work. 

When trying to find ways to honor the relationships in the adoption triad, there are many things one can do. Some may take pictures or make collages related to the triad. I have a wall in my living room that is adoption related. It has pictures of the biological family, our adoption in the courts, and sayings that support our family. I have found that many jewelers make beautiful triad pieces that truly honor the triad. A quick Google search can assist you in finding the piece that makes sense to your family.

Showing your child that the triad is important to you is important. Children are very visual and concrete. Allowing them to experience the symbol of the adoption triad can allow them to put their grief, joy, or any other needs there. This was very important for my daughter. She loved the symbol and found it calming to touch her charm. When things got stressful for her, she would touch it and feel the connection to her entire family. She added that often she felt a hole in her heart for her biological family but having a tangible item of honor helped her to feel less darkness.

Together We Can Make It 

The triad will be a moving relationship throughout your child’s life. I cannot emphasize enough the need for ongoing communication. At times, the heaviness of the triad will not escape you. There will be big emotions, good and bad. No matter what, the child is the most important member. Their needs need to be supported and understood. There is no linear line in this but there are similar patterns. The biological parents had their child, you were made a parent through adoption, and a child has found a safe place to land. Honoring your child’s journey and allowing them to be open is important. 

It is important to know when this triad is struggling. I believe it is important to say again that others can help in the journey. Proper attachment is at the forefront of every parent-child relationship and cannot be ignored. There is a need to mindfully accept that each member of the triad is important and necessary for your child’s full development. It doesn’t matter if the story behind the adoption is full of trauma, it still belongs to the triad. When the story gets bigger than the blessing, you may need to find additional support. 

Family 

How to explain the triad to others may be difficult. You are now a family and that is the truth. So many may cause you to question this with their insensitive questions. You will decide with your child (when appropriate) how much you will share. Honoring the triad doesn’t mean that you have to shout to everyone that you’re a family through adoption. It is okay to be private while honoring. It’s also okay to celebrate as much as you want.

As you do, always be mindful of how it impacts your child. Your family and friends may want to know more about the story than you are willing to share. This can cause conflict but if it is done with mindfulness, it shouldn’t affect the ongoing relationship with the person. It is okay to say we can’t discuss this because we are still figuring it out for our family. If you are working with an attachment specialist or therapist, they can assist you with ways to talk to others about your family’s journey.

When I first adopted my children, they loved to celebrate every event such as gotcha and adoption day. One day a few years back, my oldest children asked me to stop. I thought I was being supportive and honoring the triad but for them, they just wanted to be a family. They didn’t want others to define our family or feel that we were less. They saw me as a mom and didn’t need to go further. That said, we still talk openly about how to honor the triad. My daughter wears her jewelry and my son has his photos. They continue to meet their biological family. It was my job as part of the triad to honor their wishes. 

My youngest is not ready to be as open and finds the triad confusing. I have to honor her developmental stage and her past trauma. I will hold the memories of her triad until she can participate and I do not pressure her nor do I forget. It is easy to go about our days and not acknowledge the triad. That is not an excuse and never should be. I have learned over the years that there are many layers to adoption and I am just one of the layers. But I also have the capacity to be the glue helping to hold the triad together and so do you.

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Heather Pietras-Gladu