There’s a verse in the Bible that often echoes in my mind. It’s found in Romans chapter 8 and it says, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Powerful words, right? After all, peace is something we’re all chasing. It’s something we all want. For me, this brief sentence is a model for life. I want to live at peace with every person on the planet. Including my children’s birth parents.
Can I be honest? I don’t understand not wanting to live at peace with them.
We love our children’s birth parents. Even though some have made poor choices over the years, we never judge or criticize them. As far as it depends on us, we want to live at peace with them. Unfortunately, not every adoptive parent feels the same. I see it plastered on social media, discussion forums, and adoption websites often- a rant, a frustration, a public lashing, or an angst toward the very people who gave their children life.
We feel differently. We don’t hold grudges, or bitterness toward our children’s birth parents. We hold them in honor. Have we had our moments of frustration and downright anger over their choices? Absolutely. Have we been frank with them when it comes to boundaries? You bet! But this is always overshadowed by our commitment to show respect to them, and teach our children to show respect as well. After all, they gave us the most precious gift- our children.
That’s why our goal has been, and will continue to be, to build solid relationships as far as it depends on us, with our children’s birth parents. We simply believe this is the best and healthiest standard to live life by, and raise our children by! Honestly, it’s not always been the easiest thing to do depending on circumstances, but over the last 12 years we’ve discovered a few key ways to better relate to them.
- We Talk With Respect. We committed in the very beginning, before our first adoption, to always speak honorably of our children’s birth parents. We believe in showing the utmost respect to each and every one of them. This was one of the biggest take-aways from our first pre-adoptive parent class 14 years ago. The trainer impressed this on each parent and I agreed. They are human beings. So, they deserve respect.
- We Never Vilify. Regardless of circumstances we’ve worked hard to never cause our children to think of their birth parent in a low light. We’ve always been honest with our children if they ask honest questions, but never have we vilified them. We believe it’s critical that we, as adults, never cross this line. Believe me- I know how easy it is to let your frustration get the best of you. I’ve had moments. But the reality is that I’m not perfect either. When I place myself in birth parent’s shoes for just a moment, my perspective changes
- We Honor Their Heroics. Over the years we have talked about our birth parent’s bravery, their courage, and their heroism. When our children have asked questions such as “Why couldn’t my birth mom keep me?” we’ve responded with an exhortation of them- “You’re birth mom was so brave and so courageous, and loved you so much, that she choose to place you in a situation that would be better for you!” Again, we’ve been honest when our children have asked honest questions. The reality is that some birth parents had their rights terminated because they failed to follow the steps outlined by a judge and we’ve been honest about that. But, to the best of our ability, we honor them for their choice to give their child a better life.
- We Work To Form A Partnership. Remember, your children will forever have two sets of parents. Your child’s birth parent played a vital role in creating your children. As your kids grow and mature, do everything in your power to form a healthy partnership with them. Consider them friends if you can. Over the years, Kristin and I have spent significant time with our children’s birth parents. We’ve even had some of them over to our house for dinner. There have been times where circumstances prevented this but we continue to work hard to form a good partnership.
- We Count Them As Extended Family. This often catches people off-guard. It’s usually because some birth parents are not suitable or healthy, personally, to interact with their family. That’s understandable. If this is the case for you, make sure you protect the children you’ve been charged with raising first and foremost. However, if your relationship with your children’s birth parent(s) is amicable, include them in your family. Spend time with them at a park, or the zoo, or a mall, or a restaurant. Don’t worry about confusing your children. It only becomes confusing when you make it confusing.
If you work hard to make your relationship with your children’s birth parents successful, if you go the extra mile, you will find that it greatly benefits your children, and your entire family in the long run. In some situations, the lack of personal health of a birth parent demands distance, and that’s understandable. We’ve been in this situation in the past. Remember, your first responsibility is to protect the children God has given you to raise. This is something you must do, for your children, but also for the protection of your family. You will know when this is the case.
But, if this is not the case, remember- your children’s birth parents will always be part of their lives. Why not work to ensure your relationship with them is as healthy as it can be?
Are you an adoptive or foster parent working to achieve a good relationship with your children’s birth parents? What have you discovered? What has been a pain point? What else would you add to this list?