Talking to extended family about an intended adoption

If you and your partner have decided that adoption is something you’re going to pursue, you might be wondering about how to share the good news with your extended family. All families are different, and all family members are different, so the way that you talk about your plans or the details you might choose to share may vary from person to person and conversation to conversation. Some of what you might want to share could include:

  • Your excitement! Your family is growing, and and that’s awesome news! There’s a whole lot of love at the heart of your decision to adopt, so certainly be sure to share just how excited you are with family.
  • A sense of belonging: By and large the most important thing you’ll want to reinforce to your family is that your child will belong, they will be as much a member of the family as anyone, and they will be your child – adoption as a means of growing a family doesn’t change that.
  • Hopes, dreams, fears, and feelings: Depending on who the family member is, if you’re particularly close and feel you can be candid, this is a great opportunity to share with them how you’re feeling about growing your family in this way – from the good stuff, like hopes and dreams and what color you’d like to paint your little one’s room, to the tough stuff, like what you’re nervous about or what worries you. There might be some bittersweet but totally normal feelings tied up in the adoption process, and again, you may choose to share or not share these sort of things, but if you choose to talk openly about your feelings, these sort of discussions may open up some great lines of communication and can even open you up to meaningful advice from other parents in the family – surely just the first advice of lots to come as your child grows!
  • The nitty gritty: Again, depending on who you’re speaking with, maybe you want to get into the weeds discussing some of the formalities of the adoption process, and maybe you don’t. Do you know what age child you are hoping to welcome to your family? Will you be adopting a child from a different cultural background, and are you starting to consider how this will mean some new traditions for your family? Have you had to adjust your budget a bit to afford some of the costs associated with adoption? You might find talking about these details is welcome, and helps you feel good having more people to talk with, or you might find that you’d rather not focus on this stuff.

What to keep in mind if family members are less than supportive

As you open up and share your news, hopefully your family is nothing but supportive. But as much as you might not want to think about this, there is always the chance that family members may say some less-than-supportive things.

There are still a lot of misconceptions about adoption – from minor misunderstandings to very biased and problematic beliefs. Presumably, if this is a family member who you’re telling about your adoption plans, then this is someone who will likely be in your life and your child’s life going forward. So, as uncomfortable and frustrating as it may be, think of your conversation as a learning opportunity for them, and try to approach things with empathy and patience. This is a good time to clear up any mistaken beliefs or entirely untrue statements about adoption they may be sharing, so that you’ve started to do the work of getting this relative on the same page as you before your new child arrives. It will probably just be the first of several conversations in which you’ll need to reinforce your confidence and excitement in your decision. You may even want to pass along any resources that helped to remedy your own concerns or fears when you first started to consider adoption.

Again, the most important idea to communicate is that your child will belong in your family – they will belong. When it gets particularly uncomfortable, think of it this way: it’s all the better that your extended family member learns not to think or say anything untrue and hurtful before your child joins your family.

Of course, you should also navigate these sort of conversations in a way that you and your family feel good about. These early conversations may not feel comfortable right away, but starting them with good faith and good intentions towards everyone involved is a great way to get there. If you’re feeling hurt, upset, or heated, you have every right to stop talking and return to the conversation another day. And don’t let any negativity steal your thunder! You should also keep at the forefront of your mind all of the amazing news – you’re growing your family, you’re ready to be a parent, and your child is going to be so very loved.

  • Lisa Milbrand. “The reluctant family.” Adoptive Families. Adoptive Families. Retrieved September 14 2018.
  • “Respectful ways to talk about adoption: A list of do’s & dont’s.” American Academy of Pediatrics, November 11 2015. Retrieved September 14 2018.
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