On May 28, 2018, the Adoption Council of Ontario was pleased to receive the esteemed Dr. Michael Grand PhD, C.Psych., a specialist in adoption. Dr. Grand joined our Search and Reunion Support Group to speak about reuniting with birth family or other important figures in an adoptee's life. This presentation hosted over 30 individuals from the adoption constellation, as well as professionals working in this field.
During the presentation, Dr. Grand spoke of the reunion experience as an often positive one, however the early connection can sometimes lose enthusiasm. “Reunion and reconnection relationships are like a dance. In other words, it takes two to tango!” To be successful, the moves of both participants must be co-ordinated. If not, one or both parties may choose to back off or participate with less enthusiasm. It may be that both participants need to adjust what they are doing.
Below are some key thoughts about reconnection and reunion with birth family or other important figures:
Reunion and reconnection relationships are like a dance. In other words, it takes two to tango!
POINTING FINGERS NEVER WORKS:Dr. Grand suggests that when one person points a finger of blame at the other, three fingers are pointed back. Typically only one person wants to see change, but if one person changes it also requires a change from the other.
BE OPEN TO CHANGE:If a person simply intensifies what they have been doing, it can become the problem instead of the solution, causing the other to step away. For example, one partner may insist on secrecy, which reduces the chances of learning new methods to reconnect, so the relationship does not grow stronger and will not be sustained.
TRIAL AND ERROR IS NEEDED:The opposite approach is when one partner wants to include their new-found family member into their lives. However, for some this rapid and intense emotional connection is not something that they are comfortable with in any relationship let alone a reconnection following a reunion. Trial and error can often sort out what is needed. There are times when one partner or the other will need to interact with people in their current lives and not with their reconnection partner. Patience is necessary.
RECONNECTION IS NOT ALL BLACK AND WHITE:Reconnections should not be thought of as successful or unsuccessful, but broken down into different aspects, some of which are better than others. This allows for a more positive expectation for continued growth.
TRY SOMETHING DIFFERENT:If nothing seems to be working, try a totally different approach. Perhaps stop asking when you can see the person and start sending warm greetings without any requests or expectations in return.
CHERISH YOUR NEW AND OLD CONNECTIONS:When you find it is impossible to get a relationship going with one person in your newly found family, try moving on to someone else, for example a sibling, cousin or grandparent. Since they are all linked it may have an indirect influence on the person with whom you first reunited with. While working on new relationships, be sure to stay connected with the people who were in your life before the reunion. They can help you through difficult patches.
INTERACT IN EVERYDAY SITUATIONS:Getting to see each other in everyday situations is necessary to establishing a reconnection.
BE OPEN TO HELP:According to Dr. Grand it is important to work with others who have experience in reconnection such as support group members. Also “A person with much experience such as an adoption savvy therapist or support group leader can help you sort out your faulty reconnection moves.”
Remember that everyone has a right to a reunion, but not a right to a reconnection. Pay attention to what you are doing and what your partner is doing and be patient.
The Adoption Council of Ontario provides a support group for anyone seeking assistance on reconnection or reunion with birth family or other important figures. The Search and Reunion Support Group occurs once a month, typically on the last Monday. For more information on our next support group meeting, please check our events page or sign up for our newsletter below!
Dr. Michael Grand (right) PhD, C.Psych. is Professor Emeritus of clinical psychology at the University of Guelph, a therapist in adoption, and author of a recently published book, The Adoption Constellation.
1. This article is based on a presentation at the American Adoption Congress Annual Conference, Boston MASS, April 2015, and on a written article titled "When the Bloom Goes Off the Rose" by Dr. Michael Grand, PhD, C.Psych and Monica Byrne.
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