Establishing a Support System #3: Educating Extended Family

As adoptive parents we spend a good amount of time coming to the decision to adopt and what type of adoption we believe best for our family. We are ready, but have we stopped to consider the fact that our plans to adopt will impact our extended families as well?

We may have talked in detail with a few members of our extended families about our adoption plans. In fact everyone we know might be aware of our plans to adopt a baby, child or even a sibling group. But, think back to when you first considered adoption and some of the concerns, lack of information and things you did not know. By the time we are having the adoption home study done we usually have a clear idea of what to expect.

Our friends and family have not attended the meetings, training or support groups we have. Often, our families have the same misconceptions, concerns, and lack of information we had when we first started down the journey of adoption. It is usually up to us to educate our families and that is a very important step in the process of having a support system.

Many adoptive parents face resistance from extended family members due to the lack of information they have. Often people have feelings about adoption we find not only negative but possible damaging to the future child we adopt. Some of these issues can be overcome if we make it our responsibility to educate our support system early in the process.

During the early stages of our adoption process it became clear that several people in our circle had some huge misunderstandings and negative feelings about our decision to adopt special needs siblings. One neighbor asked us to please not get drug babies because she did not want her home set on fire! It was after several remarks and comments that I decided to take matters into my own hands with family, friends and neighbors by writing a Newsletter.

Okay, it did feel strange the first few times I gave out the “Adoption Journey Newsletter” but after awhile I decided it was the best way to have an educated support system. It also made it easier to keep track of who we had told what information. Before our children were placed we were able to put together some information to help everyone understand the experiences we were having in the process, as well as, define terms and issues our support system needed to understand.

Once our children were placed the title of our newsletter changed to “Our Forever Family Newsletter” and we have used it to keep the family informed about the special needs our children have. We have been able to let others know ways we deal with issues from behavior problems to our daughter talking about her past. We inform the family of upcoming events and anything else that matters to the people we depend on for support.

By educating and informing all the people who have contact and responsibility to our children about the truth and the real issues things have usually been much simpler on us as adoptive parents. We do not need to explain things ten times, whisper, or sneak in conversations out of ear shot of our children. Everyone knows what to expect, who to call and why our children need certain things. It has also made it possible for the people involved in my children’s lives to have the correct terminology and respond to our children in healthy ways.

Keeping your extended family in the loop is an important part of having them as part of the support system. Good communication and confronting misinformation has made it possible that positive adoption attitude and language is used with our children.

Point This series of articles will address establishing a support system for new adoptive parents and families.

Point Special Needs and Adoption-Related Terms:
A | B | C | D | E-F | G-H-I | J-K-L | M | N-O | P | Q-R | S | T-U-V-W-X-Y-Z

For more information about parenting special needs children you might want to visit the Families.com Special Needs Blog and the Mental Health Blog. Or visit my personal website.