As the car turned into the driveway, the young boy inside couldn't wait to get out. It was a special day: his 10th birthday, the occasion when each child in the family got to pick a major outing with his grandparents. Today, the birthday boy was going fishing with his grandfather for the weekend. What made this event extra special is that the boy had only been in the family for two years. They were first introduced through the foster care system, and he was later adopted.
But, as the mom who shared this story at an adoption conference told me, her son's journey from foster care to that special birthday outing wasn't an easy one. When she and her husband first discussed foster care and adoption, both sets of grandparents expressed serious concerns, almost opposition. Yet the couple felt called to adopt and took care to address, rather than dismiss, their parents' worries.
Here are a few of the concerns that grandparents frequently raise about adoption:
Where do we fit in? Uncertainties about their role in the child's life can prevent grandparents from embracing the idea of adoption. Beginning a new relationship with an infant or toddler is one thing, but there may be emotional challenges in building an attachment with an older child or a youngster from a different culture. Before their son arrived, one couple reassured the grandparents-to-be that they didn't expect love at first sight for either the child or the grandparents. They suggested that "love actions" — such as affirming conversation, kindness, sensitivity and playfulness — were helpful in building family connections.
What about our other grandchildren? Grandparents often question how adoption will impact their biological grandchildren. One adoptive dad shared with me that his parents were very concerned about the addition of a child who landed right in the middle of the birth order, so he reassured the grandparents that he and his wife were keenly aware of the potential issues that might arise.
What is expected of us? Couples who adopt should consider whether they want their parents to share in their family challenges or just be traditional grandparents — enjoying the relationship without getting involved in any personal struggles. Many adoptive couples lean instead on their church or an adoption support group, thus keeping their parents in the role of nurturing and fun-loving grandparents.