This has been weighing heavily on my mind since just before Easter. I think I’ve finally put enough thought into it to, hopefully, make sense in blog format. The truth is that there are no guarantees that your child will be raised the religion you assumed that they would or keep that religion into their adult years.
Many expectant parents do not consider these issues when researching families in which to place their child. In fact, many expectant parents base their search heavily on religion. I find this to be scary! While many would like to believe that our religious beliefs are a constant in our lives, that isn’t always true. One birth mother I know (and love!) relinquished her child to a family who eventually converted to a religion that she doesn’t exactly “like” and never would have raised her placed child in that religious context.
It happens far too frequently than any faith-based agencies would have you believe. Often times, families will play up their faith or religious beliefs to a mother who is specifically seeking one type of family. The child is then raised in a household that says they are of x-faith but they don’t exactly practice what they preach. This may absolutely devastating for a mother who wanted her child to be raised in a certain kind of faith-based household. Those who don’t understand the power of religion and faith may not understand why that is so devastating. Those who do understand those concepts are nodding their head as they read along.
Of course, no matter what kind of faith your child grows up exposed to, there are no guarantees that your child will carry those beliefs into his or her personal adult life. That may be easier to accept for many birth parents as it is the adoptee’s decision and not something that they were exposed to or not exposed to as a child in a different home environment. Then again, some birth parents have argued that their child would have had their values and beliefs if they had been raised under their own roof. Part of me understands that argument. Part of me knows that people are going to make their own decisions about this topic no matter where they are raised.
The truth is, you can’t change how your child is being raised or how your child was raised when it comes to anything and that includes religious teachings. Quite frankly, I avoid the topic with friends and family just as I do politics and money. Don’t misunderstand what I said: I share my faith freely. I am a Christian and am raising my boys in the church. But I stop at sharing and don’t step over the lines, with anyone, to tell them how to raise their children. There’s a difference.
And that difference is absolutely important to recognize for first mothers and fathers in open adoptions. Inquiring what the child is being taught is appropriate. It lets you know how to proceed with faith-based holiday gifts. Any discussions about faith with your relinquished child, if there is a difference in religions, should be discussed long in advance. Learning to respect your child’s parents in this manner isn’t always necessary but, remember, people can get volatile when it comes to religion.
For biological parents who are now in reunion with their relinquished children, the line of communication on this topic needs to be addressed early on in the relationship. If you share a religion, it shouldn’t be all that complicated. If your religions are vastly different and possibly clash in ideology, it would serve both of you to discuss what is and is not appropriate discussion on the topic. If neither of you feel comfortable broaching the topic, allow it to be one thing you don’t discuss.
While “letting go” of your child’s religious upbringing may be hard, don’t forget that you can always pray, meditate or bless your child from your vantage point. No one is telling you not to do those things (or, they shouldn’t be). I pray, daily, for my daughter (and her entire family).
For more on religion, read these posts.