Balancing Relationships in Foster and Adoptive Families
Back in the early days of our marriage, we had quite the system for splitting holidays, alternating which holidays we spent with each of our families each year. We always knew if Christmas was with my family one year, we’d spend it with his the next, and so on. Then came our kids, and things began getting complicated. Like many 2-parent households, we have two extended families to stay connected to who are spread all over the country. Then add our kids’ two biological moms and their families. In addition, we strive to keep our older two in touch with their biological siblings who were adopted into another family who now live across the country from us and who have their own extended adoptive family to spend big days with. Finally, while our children had several foster parents that they were with short periods, our older two have one family they were with going on two years. They wished to maintain contact as another set of grandparents.
“Like many 2-parent households, we have two extended families to stay connected to who are spread all over the country. Then add our kids’ two biological moms and their families.”
Holidays and big days are a balancing act in our home. While we wish we could teleport to be with everyone, it is of course impossible. Now that we live so far from all our family, most holidays are now spent at home with whoever comes to visit, usually Darren’s parents. (My mom currently lives with us, so she’s around.) Also, like many other families with special needs kids, we often find large family get togethers, travel, and being far from our normal routine to be too much for our kids. While we stay home, we are constantly trying to make sure we’re balancing time that we do travel as well as our phone time with ALL our multiple extended families.
One thing we have dealt with only a little but which is unfortunately a common theme in foster and adoptive families is different, unequal, or ill treatment of non-biological children. As foster and adoptive parents, our first responsibility is to the children we ware caring for. It is far too common that foster and adoptive families have to forego relationships with their family and friends to protect their children. If at all possible, it is wise to share resources like those on our site with family and friends to help them understand your children. If they are not open and receptive, you may have to schedule times to visit or call without your children so as to protect them, or you may have to let go of some relationships, at least for a time.
Holidays and special days certainly aren’t how we pictured them at all, and that’s both sad and good in ways in which we could never have imagined. It’s wonderful to have so many people who love our kids and for us to love as well. In Part 4 I will talk about traditions, which relates to the idea of balancing relationships. Here are some things we’ve done in the past as far as keeping up with relationships.
What we have done to help balance relationships all our complicated relationships:
- Sending pictures and such to other members of the kids’ biological families (like grandmas on Mother’s Day)
- Carve out time for the kids’ to Skype or video chat with their siblings
- It’s rare, but we try whenever possible to get the kids together with their siblings. One really sweet reunion included a last minute call to their bio mom to see if she wanted to meet up with all of us, and she met us at her park with her mother. They hadn’t all been together in several years, and it is one of our favorite memories.
- Schedule a time during the day when we know we won’t be eating, opening gifts, etc. for the kids to talk with their biological moms, other family members, or former foster parents
- Schedule an occasional time for the older two to spend some time visiting their last foster family in the summer
- What contact, if any, do you have with your children’s biological family on big days?
- How do you balance biological and adoptive family needs, or is it even possible?
- How can you utilize technology to help?
Stay tuned for the upcoming posts in this series—Surviving Holidays as a Foster or Adoptive Family:
Part 5-Managing Emotions
And if you missed it, be sure to check out:
Now It’s Your Turn:
Be sure to share your thoughts and experiences below. Your answers will help other kids and parents too.