As an adoptee, maintaining a positive relationship with your birth parents can take a lot of dedication and effort. Often, it is a gradual process to establish a bond of trust and mutual respect. While cultivating a relationship can be difficult, adoptee, Jaci Mize, discusses some of the ways she was able to move forward in her relationship with her birth father. She shares her unique story in an attempt to offer advice to anyone searching for a way to navigate this relationship with their birth families.
According to Mize, one of the best tips for growth in relationships with birth parents is to not have expectations.
“I went in with no expectations and I let both my birth parents in their own way and in their own time explain to me why I was put up for adoption,” she said. “I let the relationship with each develop organically and build over time.”
Mize said that until she had a strong enough bond with her biological parents, she established certain boundaries. Over time, she began to interact with extended family.
“I didn’t call my birth parents mom or dad unless/until our relationship developed to that point. However, over time, I began meeting other members of the extended family,” she said.
While no relationship is perfect, Mize said that she was able to gradually manage some of her relationships with her birth parents. For her, it was no different than managing complex relationships within any family.
“I managed my relationships with my birth parents as much as anyone can “manage,” relationships within any family,” she said. “I now actually live next door to my birth father and have a great relationship with him. However, I do not speak with my birth mother.”
Despite this, Mize didn’t let her difficult relationship with her birth mother keep her from creating connections with other members of her family.
“I ignored the issues with my biological mom. Instead, I focused on building relationships that were positive with her side of the family,” she said. “Facebook was a great way for me to ease into communication. We got to know each other before we met.”
Mize said that she was able to cultivate a relationship with her birth father over time. As it developed, she was able to gradually participate in more activities with him.
“My birth dad was always in the picture popping in every few years or so. It wasn’t until college during Christmas break that I took a visit with just us. My dad and I began to take hunting trips and visit each other during the holidays. We took it slow and let our relationship happen organically,” she said. “Ever since, we’ve been building our relationship together. Now, I live next door and we see each other every day.”
While Mize was eventually able to connect with her biological father, she was unable to bridge the gap with her biological mother. For Mize, however, that was okay.
“I didn’t meet bio mom until my mid-20s and our relationship couldn’t grow because she had unrealistic expectations and issues that she wouldn’t address,” she said. “In the end, I ended up building better relationships with her side of the family.”
Over the course of working to develop a relationship with her biological family, Mize learned that, despite the difficulties, there can be a positive outcome.
“Don’t force a relationship if it is not working out. You can build a couple of positive ones and that is much more important,” she said.
Ultimately, while maintaining a relationship with birth parents can be difficult, it is important to recognize that letting the relationship evolve organically can help. Through her story, Mize shows that cultivating a relationship can have many positive experiences.
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Julianna McKenna is a college student at Saint Mary’s College in Notre Dame, Indiana double majoring in English Writing and Psychology. She is passionate about adoption and foster care and is considering a career in adoption law or counseling. In January 2019, Julianna became an intern for Adoption Choices of Kansas, Inc. She is incredibly dedicated to promoting children’s rights and is excited to research and advocate for children.