One of the most poignant concerns expressed by pre-adoptive parents is the fear that their own parents will not accept the child they adopt.
Sometimes grandparents make no distinction between grandchildren brought into the family by biology or by adoption, but others feel that only those born into the family are “real grandchildren.”
Awareness of some of the thoughts and feelings that your children may have about building a family through adoption may help grandparents welcome their new grandchildren.
The joys of an adoption often follow several years of losses due to infertility, anger resulting from loss of control, and fears stemming from the unpredictable future of the family. Your children may have shared these experiences and feelings with you, or they may have kept them to themselves.
Once they choose adoption as a positive means of building their family, most of these issues fade away, but grandparents can help speed the process by accepting their child’s infertility.
Grandparents should also be aware of the many types of adoption. Closed adoptions are rare today, but are probably the most familiar type to adoptive grandparents. In a closed adoption, there is no contact between the adoptive family and the birth families.
Adopters today go through an extensive preparation process, during which they learn about the lifelong aspects of adoptive family life. Consequently, most adoptive parents choose to meet their child’s birth parents, since open adoption has been shown to be in the best interest of the child and their families. This type of adoption allows for ongoing contact, in a range of forms, between birth and adoptive families.
If you are not familiar with the various types of adoption, there are plenty of resources available – and you can ask your pre-adoptive children. They will welcome your attempts to learn and to be as open and present for them as possible.
Transracial adoption is another situation for which grandparents may be unprepared. Again, communication with your children about this choice can be helpful.
In the vast majority of families, anticipatory fears regarding differences tend to fade once the child arrives and a loving relationship is established. Your ability to celebrate your grandchild’s unique personal qualities as well as his or her heritage will help strengthen the bonds you build.
When we begin to parent, whether through birth or adoption, our children become ours forever. They are all our “real children.” The same goes for grandchildren, and most grandparents look forward to a special relationship with all their grandchildren.
To learn more about the joys of adoption, please join us on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 6:30 p.m., at the new Jewish Collaborative Services building, 1165 North Main St., Providence, for “Faces of Adoption; Families Tell Their Stories.” This panel discussion will feature adoptive families telling the story of the adoptions and of adoptive family life. Contact Shelley Katsh at Shelley@jfsri.org or 401-331-5437 for more information and to RSVP.
SHELLEY KATSH is a clinical social worker at Adoption Options, a part of Jewish Collaborative Services.