When a child is adopted, he doesn’t just receive new parents, but a new extended family. Unlike his parents, however, adoptive grandparents have not had the time to receive the same preparation as adoptive parents. In a world where adoption is continually evolving, adoptive grandparents may not be up- to- date with the ins and outs of adoption. Here are some tips to help grandparents understand their new role.
Embrace open adoption
One aspect of adoption that has really changed in recent decades is the prevalence of open adoption. Adoption is no longer a secret, but instead something to be celebrated. Older generations may not be used to such open conversations about adoption and relationships with birth families. Research has shown open adoption to be healthy for adoptive children as well as birth mothers. Embracing open adoption rather than judging or resisting it is important to your relationship with your adopted grandchild. Respecting the choice your child has made is important to that relationship as well.
Be open to getting to know your grandchild’s birth mother
Your grandchild’s birth mother is one of the most important people in his or her life. If your grandchild’s birth mother is a part of your family’s life, welcome her with open arms. She has made a great sacrifice for your grandchild, and should be celebrated and thanked for her sacrifice and love. Not only will the birth mother be grateful for your openness, but your grandchild will be grateful as well.
Learn appropriate adoption language
Correct adoption terminology is an important aspect of the adoption journey. Words have an impact, and using terms with negative connotations, such as “gave up,” will affect your grandchild and even his or her parents. There are many resources for learning proper adoption terminology, so be sure to educate yourself before your grandchild is placed. And remember that adoption is a part of your grandchild’s identity, but does not define him entirely. Creating a Family explains the importance of positive adoption language here.
Embrace your grandchild as your own
Sadly, it is not totally uncommon for grandparents to treat their adopted grandchildren differently than their biological grandchildren. An adopted grandchild is just as much a part of your family as a biological one, he just became a part of it a little differently. Children are a gift to every family, no matter how they got there. Remember, it can be hurtful to designate the grandchild who joined your family through adoption differently than other grandchildren, “This is my granddaughter and this my adopted grandson…” Ouch!
Respect your grandchild’s story
While you should be proud of your grandchild’s adoption story, it is not your story to share. Let your grandchild be in charge of his or her own story. Your grandchild may not want the intimate details of his life shared with everyone you know. Respect your grandchild’s privacy and allow him to dictate how and when his story is told.
Always ask questions
Not every question about adoption can be answered in a day or even a month. As time goes on, new questions and issues will arise. When they do, ask! Ask your grandchild’s parents or find resources online or from a professional. The more you learn and understand about adoption, the better your relationship with your grandchild will be, and both your grandchild and his or her parents will appreciate the efforts you make.
Your relationships with your grandchildren can be some of the most rewarding of your life, and using these tips can help you build a relationship based on love and support. But most importantly, be the best grandparent you know how to be. Love your grandchildren, spoil them, and always be yourself.