Adoption is a wonderful journey for everyone involved in the family triad. What is this “triad,” you may ask? Think of a triangle and how there are three different corners; even though there are three angles in the same triangle, they are still connected together. This is exactly how the adoption triad is! It’s made up of the birth family, adoptee, and adoptive family. Each part of the triad is independent, yet they’re connected through the adoption.
That being said, each adoption triad is incredibly unique and special. Just like snowflakes, no triad looks exactly like another. Regardless of where you are in the family, you may be wondering how you can show your love in the adoption triad. It’s important to cultivate your relationships with one another, especially for the adoptee. The reason for this is so that the adoptee can have a sense of normalcy; they can know they have two sets of families that love them and want what’s best for them. This article will give you some ideas on how to show your love in the adoption triad.
If you’re a birth parent or related in some other way to the adoptee (grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, siblings, etc.), it may feel somewhat strange to think of ways to show love to your adoptee and the adoptive family. Yes, you gave the adoptive parents a child because you love that child, but it goes beyond that.
So how can you show love to your adoptive parents? It doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive.
Here are some ways that you can show the adoptive family how much you appreciate them without breaking the bank:
Give them your time. If you have an open adoption and are able to visit frequently, you could give your adoptive family some time alone. Whether it’s just for getting chores done around the house without distractions or going on a date night, they would absolutely love to get some time to themselves. As much as they love your child, parents need some time for themselves. Again, not every adoption is the same, but if you can babysit and even have your child for the night or weekend, then go for it. Not only will you get time alone with your child, but your adoptive parents will be able to recharge.
Write them a heartfelt letter. You may not be great at expressing yourself through speaking, but just know you’re not alone in that battle! I tend to be a much better writer since I’m able to get all my feelings out without stumbling on my words. This can be a great way for you to be clear about your gratitude to the adoptive family. It can be extremely overwhelming, but trust me when I say that you’ll feel better putting those emotions into writing. The adoptive family will also be touched by this outpouring of love.
One of the love languages is words of affirmation, which means that someone with this dominant love language feels loved by hearing positive words about them. Now, I don’t mean just simply complimenting their appearance. Mind Body Green released a great article about what words of affirmation are and how to express them:
“I love you. You are so special to me. It really impressed me when you… I couldn’t have done ____ without you. You inspire me to…. I really appreciate you when you do… I feel so loved when you… It makes my heart melt watching you take care of ____. Thank you for making me feel safe and loved.”
Now granted, the rest of the phrases were geared for your partner, but the phrases above can easily be used for your adoptive family. Some of these phrases can be tailored specifically to how you feel about them while some can be used about your child. If you picked the family and can see them in action on how much they truly care about your child, it’s incredibly heartwarming to see that blood doesn’t make a family.
Just tell them personally. On the flip side, if writing isn’t your thing, then tell them personally. This can be a conversation to have over dinner or over the phone. You may be wondering how to make that possible especially if you’re not that close with the adoptive family. Most adoptive families are more than willing to have a relationship with you and had wanted an open adoption. You can try to get in touch with them through the adoption agency you went through or an adoption attorney if the adoption is semi-open or closed. The adoptive parents would probably be relieved to hear from you.
Of course, there are also ways to show love to your child:
Answer their questions. One of the blessings of being in an open adoption is that your child has full access to you. Even if they – for whatever reason – don’t have a relationship with their birth parents, they’ll still be able to know their identity through their biological immediate family. That being said, it’s important to remember that you may not be able to answer all their questions; they may not be of age to have all the details. Just use your discretion when they ask the difficult questions. However, be sure to reiterate constantly that they were not merely abandoned or given up, but chosen, loved, and wanted.
Spend time with them. Again, what kind of adoption you have determines what this looks like. Most open adoptions let you use almost any type of communication possible to make that happen if you live further away. You can have in-person visitations, Facetime calls, calls on the phone, etc. Any child feels loved when a parent or family member stops whatever work they’re doing to spend time together.
Give them a gift. This goes without saying, but most kids will love getting a special gift, not on their birthday or Christmas.
Respect boundaries. I talked to a few people in the adoption community and one birth mother mentioned that she shows her child love by respecting boundaries. When kids get older, they may need more space or time to reflect on everything they know regarding the adoption.
Adoptive families, whether you’re a sibling, parent, or another immediate family member, there are ways that you can shower birth families with love. Even if your relationships are great and civil, birth families will deal with so many negative emotions for their whole lives. Birth parents will usually feel guilt, shame, and grief for finding a family to adopt their baby. Other biological family members may feel angry and hurt. It’s possible that the family members are upset because they weren’t chosen to have custody of the adoptee.
These emotions are valid and understandable but that shouldn’t stop you from showing them love or trying to have a relationship with them. The adoptee needs to be considered here as well. Both the birth families and adoptive families need to work together and live in harmony for the sake of the child. This might mean making compromises and talking things out.
However, you can still show love to your birth family in the following ways:
Show them how much you appreciate them. This can be anything from taking them out to dinner, writing a heartfelt letter, and/or cultivating your relationship. Your birth family went through a lot to give you their child and the least adoptive families can do is show how indebted they are.
Keep your birth family updated. When asked about this topic, one adoptive mother says that she has an open adoption with the birth family. They text, talk on the phone, and visit the birth parents on their birthdays and other important days. She even drives six hours for the birth mom to stay with them every Christmas. How amazing is that? They have become close friends throughout the years.
Unfortunately, this may not be the case in some adoptions. Another adoptive mother says that her relationship with the birth mother didn’t turn out as healthy as they hoped. Thankfully, she emails pictures and updates to a biological aunt, uncle, and grandparent. She hopes to have an in-person visit with these relatives as well as try for a more stable relationship with the birth mother. As you can see, birth parents aren’t the only ones that you can have a friendship with.
Just be there for them. I want to reiterate that birth families go through a lot of grief when going through the adoption process. This is something that they will struggle with their whole lives. It can be super helpful and encouraging to have you there to listen to when they have bad days, especially if your relationship is close. Show them your love by not judging their emotions and being a good support system.
You’re probably already showing your love to your adoptee, but sometimes it may be beneficial to remind your child how loved they really are. In most open adoptions, they’re able to get to know their birth family and therefore know their identity. Sadly, closed adoptions usually leave a child wondering why they don’t have contact with their birth family. They need to understand that they are chosen, loved, and wanted by both families. One family made the sacrifice to give their child a better life and your family has the privilege of taking care of them.
Last but definitely not least, you as an adoptee can show both your birth families and adoptive families love equally. Regardless of your age, it’s important to make sure both your biological family and your adoptive family know they are loved. I asked an adoptee on how she makes that possible and she said, “I definitely verbally express my love for my biological family and spend time with them to show love. To my parents – I always have made it known that they are irreplaceable and that I’m thankful my journey led me to them… My closed adoption really challenged my views on what love looks like.”
Your biological family will be hit with waves of sorrow as you grow up. They may feel that they missed out on your accomplishments. Reassure and remind them that they made a loving, selfless choice and you are beyond thankful for making that possible. Because of that, you were able to have the best life possible. On the flip side, some adoptive families worry that you may not look at them the same, even though they’re legally your family.
Reassure them that they are the ones who chose you and raised you to be the person you are today. Talk to both of your families often, visit if you can, and let them know how much you really love them. You wouldn’t be where you are without either one of them; you are all a part of the adoption triad. Your birth family and adoptive family are essential components of your story so be sure to show them gratitude where it’s due.