Building positive relationships through strong, healthy connections is an important life skill, especially while navigating an open adoption where fear and distrust can derail hopes and dreams all too easily. Cultivating an open adoption relationship is unlike any other relationship on earth. There are three basic components on which all relationships are built, and you can pull from these to not only build a healthy dynamic in your adoption triad, but all relationships in your life. Finding this commonality will help dispel some of the unfamiliar territory we are all faced with when developing a strong foundation to build our adoptive family upon..
How To Create Positive Connections In An Open Adoption
Firstly, come to the table without expectations and practice empathy. These two go hand in hand as the empathy will help you set, adjust, or remove unrealistic expectations. Most disappointments spring from unmet expectations or a lack of understanding. You can’t control other’s actions, but you can control how you expect them to act by bringing a genuine effort on your part to see their perspective in any given situation. Try to understand the “why” behind behaviors and reactions they have. This will help prepare you and aid in your ability to extend grace and a willingness to find common ground to walk on.
For example, if you as a birth mom grew up with a huge extended family and had multiple Christmas gatherings in order to see everyone in your family, you may unknowingly be expecting your child’s family to follow suit and offer a similar Christmas gathering with you. Maybe they came from a small family and only celebrated with a small, intimate Christmas morning with immediate family members. They may not even realize what you’re hoping for from them! Actively empathizing with them (and them with you) will help build a solid base of open communication as to what you are all hoping for. This will help to determine how best to meet the expectations, or possibly adjust them, to make everyone feel loved, supported, and connected when navigating an open adoption.
“Disappointment is unmet expectations, and the more significant the expectations, the more significant the disappointment” Brené Brown
Authenticity Is Key In Creating Positive Connections
Another important step to creating positive connections is to take a genuine interest in them and authentically care about their well-being. If this is a person you choose to have in your life, why would you not do these things? It seems easy, right? Without actively participating in building a deeper knowledge of another person, it’s easy for this to become a superficial layer because it’s “comfortable.” Getting into the deeper side of someone takes work and intention. Building positive connections doesn’t start off with in the deep end though- you start in the shallow end and with each step, make your way deeper and deeper, so it doesn’t have to be scary or intimidating. Ask questions about the other person, and here’s the kicker: pay attention to and be interested in learning the answer!
It’s usually quite obvious when someone is just going through the motions of making small talk to pass the time verses when they truly feel engaged in conversation. I think we can all think of an example when that’s happened to us. Do your best to leave those interactions at the door when spending time with your adoptive family when navigating an open adoption. Take the time to dive a little further. Opting for open ended questions will give opportunity for your discussion to deepen without forcing it as everyone can share up to their comfort level, and likely you’ll find that comfort level grow with every interaction.
3 Takeaways For Building Positive Connections
So, how do you create positive connections? Remember three things:
- Evaluate and communicate healthy expectations.
- Practice empathy.
- Bring intentional interest.