Friday, May 13, 2011

A Key Component of Positive Adoption Communication

Adoptive families and birth families, alike, are often searching for the “secret” to building a great relationship with one another. Because there are so many factors that contribute to how a relationship unfolds and develops, there isn’t one formula that produces the outcome that everyone desires. However, even with the unique differences of relationships, there is one common denominator that I have observed to be so important for the positive growth of an adoption relationship. It is simply this – respond.

It is an impossible feat to try to build a relationship with someone if you’re the only one communicating. That is not to say that you must always respond with a lengthy, hand-written letter or that you must respond within 1 week of receiving communication from the other party. But, there is so much to be said for an acknowledgement that you received what was sent and that you were glad to hear from the other person.

You can imagine a birth mother or birth father’s disappointment if he or she sends a lifebook to the adoptive family, graduation pictures, a gift for the child, or a letter telling the family about an exciting opportunity he or she has been given…only to hear nothing on the other end. This simple lack of acknowledgement can breed feelings of doubt, discouragement, and disappointment. In a similar manner, I have heard many birth families and adoptive families talk about plans to open the adoption, all state that this is their desire and they are comfortable doing so, and then no movement toward completing this task is pursued on the part of the adoptive family.

This intentional or unintentional delay often prompts questions of whether the family really meant what they said, if they have some problem or issue with the birth family, or if they will really follow through on their word. Often, these kinds of delays produce issues where there were no issues present. But, time and a lack of response creep in and begin to plant seeds of disillusionment in the birth family.

Adoptive families who are faithful with sending pictures, updates, and letters can easily become discouraged if they don’t ever hear from the birth family. They wonder if the pictures are helpful, if they are sending the “right” pictures, if they are sending too many or not enough, etc. A lot of time and effort goes into adoptive families choosing the best pictures from their collection to send to the birth family and it is important to respond and let them know if you look forward to getting the updates and cherish them.

We all have busy lives and schedules and, I believe that, a short email saying “thank you” or an explanation such as “we received your letter/gift/etc. and I’m not able to sit down and write a long update now, but I will be sure to send you one soon” goes a long way. Even this simple response, eliminates the questions that can be detrimental to the relationship moving forward. I want to encourage you to make this a priority to respond within a reasonable time frame to keep the lines of communication open and grow your relationship in a positive direction.

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