I’m going to be brutally honest here. Extended families (moms, dads, aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters) can be the worst supporters when you’re starting out on the adoptive journey. In fact, some of the stories we’ve heard recently wouldn’t even qualify as support. They’re anything but. Personally, we haven’t experienced this. We are blessed to have two amazing families on both sides who have always supported our family and our decision to adopt. But we’ve spent lots of time with people who aren’t as fortunate.
The biggest question we get (usually over email, and sometimes in blog or Facebook comments) is, “How do I help my family see adoption the same way I do?”
It breaks our hearts every time we read a question like this. Why? Well, it’s simple. We know the places of the heart this question comes from. It’s a place of passion. A place where deep love burns bright for children who need a home. It’s the most defeating feeling in the world to share this with people you’d expect to be on your side, see your vision, and share your passion, only to have it squelched or extinguished altogether.
It can cause a myriad of emotions inside of you. You even start to question your decision to adopt. After all, your family is where the greatest source of influence derived from when you were growing up, on your way to becoming an adult. Even in your adult years, you listen to your mom and dad, your grandma and grandpa. It starts to feel hopeless when you feel a barrier between you and them over something you’re excited about.
But all hope may not be lost. Over the years, we’ve watch friends who had misunderstanding family members, move into a place of understanding, even commonality, with them. Here are 4 steps you can take to help your family see your adoption the way you do:
- Calm Conversation. If the recent events in the United States have taught us anything, it’s the great need for some good ole calm, conversation where we listen to one another’s hearts and minds first, before reacting or becoming defensive. The same is true for your interaction with your family and your decision to adopt. Stay calm and be willing to enter into a conversation civilly….at first. Listen and talk, listen and talk. You’re going to begin this way, but you won’t stay in this place forever, especially if you can sense that there will be no understanding.
- Intentional Participation. As much as you can, include your family in the adoption process. Ask them what names they like best (if you’re choosing your child’s name), or call them with updates or news on your progress. Often times, families feel left out (even though they may not be) and just want to be included. This doesn’t mean that you rely on them to make decisions for your adoption, or call the shots for your family. It just means you’re intentional in allowing them to participate in the process.
- Compassionate Tolerance. If it takes a long time for family members to come around, be compassionate. Even tolerant, to be the best of your ability. Combine those two together. Continue to converse calmly and allow them to participate, but proceed with compassion. Remember- adoption is widely known by the world, but still very misunderstood. Sometimes it takes some time to show the world (even your private world) the beauty of adoption.
- Proactive Protection. If you arrive at a place where you realize your family will never understand, or never be onboard, it’s time to move into, what we like to call, proactive protection. Even though you want your extended family along for the journey, this is about your decision and your family, no one else’s. You don’t owe an explanation or a detailed reasoning for why you chose to adopt. You’re an adult, and you make adult decisions. How you raise a family is one of them. If all else (really, all else) fails, it’s time to protect your heart, and your family, and set up safeguards.
At the end of the day, it’s about your calling, and your family. No one else’s, including your extended family. You may notice that in the points I made above that I do not tell you to spend a lot of time explaining or convincing. You don’t need to do this over and over again. Answer questions when they come, but stay focused on the journey you’re on or about to embark on.
At the end of the day, it’s about your calling, and your family. No one else’s, including your extended family.
While you may not be able to convince your family of the beauty you’re a part of, you can commit to praying for them. They can’t stop you from doing this. The hope is that you will reach a day of mutual understanding, even celebration over your amazing decision to adopt. Keep believing in this day.
Do you have extended family members who misunderstand your decision to adopt? Share your story with us in the comment section below.