Such a small little word. The online dictionary gives the following definition. “in case that; granting or supposing that; on condition that” or “even though.”


“If” is a word that is frequently tossed around in adoptive circles. “If the expectant mom places with us, we are going to name the baby Audrey.” “If I can’t figure out how to take care of the kids I already have, I’m making an adoption plan.”


And then there are the “ifs” that come later in the life of an adoptive family. “If my child wants to see me someday, I’m willing to be contacted.” “If our child wants to reach out to her birth mom, we’re all for it, provided that the timing is right.” “If my child asks me a question about his tummy mommy, of course I will answer in an age and developmentally appropriate way.”


Let’s go back to our definition. Let’s look at that one little phrase…on condition that.


Many times an “if” answer turns into a “not yet” or “maybe someday” answer. Many times an “if” answer really means “no.”


When will the conditions be right?

There are no easy answers, because none of us has a crystal ball that will allow us to see the future. We may think there will be a magic age or time in the child’s life when contact between all parts of the adoption triad are desirable. We may simply be unsure what it will look like.


To create and maintain a healthy open adoption, “ifs” should be used sparingly. The way to minimize the use of the “if” is to set a foundation of acceptance and openness that gives the adoptee permission to feel emotionally safe.  


Being emotionally safe means that the adoptee can ask any questions—at any time—without worrying about the parents’ reactions. Questions can be asked although it may cause the parent some discomfort. Questions may be asked that may bring the parent joy! In either case, adoptees deserve to have their questions answered.


Answering questions honestly and creating an emotionally safe space does is not giving carte blanche to the adoptee to do anything she wants, but she can ask and trust that her parents will tell her the truth. Giving your child permission—through open body language, calm tone of voice, and honest words is the basis of a healthy open adoption.


How do you create an open atmosphere in your home? We would love to hear how you have down-played the “if” and are handling your open adoption.