As technology quickly changes how we communicate, it’s sometimes difficult to know what is proper and polite regarding cell phones, emails, texting, video chats, and social media. For adopting parents, the boundaries and etiquette may sometimes be confusing.
With a few basic reminders, you can prepare for a positive experience with as little confusion or misunderstanding as possible. While availability and priority are critical, here are 6 tips to follow so you won’t feel like you’re crossing a line into socially oblivious.
1. Be Present
If you were talking with a birth mother, attorney, or your Adoption Coordinator in person, you wouldn’t also take other calls or texts while you met together. Respect a phone call or text message similarly, giving your adoption full attention. Be present in each interaction regarding your adoption.
It helps to take notes during the conversation so that you can stay attentive to the details of your time together. Also, you’ll have a reference later to refer to about the items you discussed.
2. Ask for Grace
Let your loved ones, coworkers, employer, and possibly even your church know you’re waiting to adopt and may need to take an unexpected call at any moment. If your office or church has a no-cell phone policy, you might explain your situation and ask for special arrangements. For example, maybe you can request to keep your phone on vibrate so as not to miss a call from your adoption professionals or your birth mother.
3. Remain Available
When texting, reply as soon as possible, but realize a phone call warrants a more immediate response. As a result, making a phone call is often more appropriate for urgent or important questions or responses.
If your birth mother or adoption professional leaves a voicemail, listen to it so that you can respond promptly. Likewise, return emails as soon as possible, preferably within 24 hours. An unreturned phone call or unanswered text or email message leaves a lot of time for the plan to change, so stay in the loop and be as available as possible.
Ask your birth mother or adoption professional what their preferred method of communication is and how soon they need to hear back from you when they reach out. By doing so, you can best meet their expectations to stay connected.
Availability and communication are essential when you’re waiting to adopt. If you don’t answer a call or keep in touch with the people involved in your adoption, you could risk your opportunity to build the family you’ve longed for.
4. Respect Confidentiality
Keep details about your birth mother and aspects of your adoption match private as your adoption unfolds. Don’t include your birth mother in emails sent to other friends or contacts. Protect her privacy and don’t disclose personal information about your adoption on social media, email, or any place online where you could compromise confidentiality or your future adoption.
5. Use Privacy Settings
You’ll have the freedom to explore a relationship with your birth mother or adoption professional more effectively if you understand the privacy settings your phone, email, and social media accounts offer. There are ways to protect your privacy without appearing closed-off and impersonal.
Set up your own 800# to direct to your cell phone until you feel comfortable sharing your direct number. Arrange for your email to show only your first name as the contact. Take some time to review your privacy settings on Facebook, Instagram, and other social media platforms and adjust as needed.
Modern communication provides excellent potential for your ongoing relationship regarding open adoption. If you’re aware of how to manage settings, you’ll be able to allow growth and trust to develop without feeling like you’re putting your privacy on the back burner.
6. Remember Your Manners
As with any communication, good manners go a long way. Even if you disagree with your adoption professional or a birth mother, or are confused or disappointed, stay calm and don’t respond in anger. Avoid sarcasm, crude humor, or foul language.
Remember that emails and texts can be forwarded to others and may be confused in translation. Ask questions when unsure before you react in a way that fuels a terrible misunderstanding. Be clear and polite in all communication.
When in doubt, ASK. People feel validated and understood when you ask them to clarify their expectations and needs from you, especially when it comes to how to best stay in touch. Plus, when you ask what they expect, it allows you to express your needs and requests.
You can reduce stress and eliminate potential disappointment with a little common sense, thoughtfulness, basic old-fashioned etiquette, and priority given to your adoption.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 13, 2012, and has since been updated.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”