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Toddler behavior change after visit to BM

Hello all, looking to hopefully hear some insight and your past experience as I tell you about our recent struggle after a visit with Birth mom.

We have an open relationship with our toddler’s (2.5 yr) birth mother who lives in another state. We have always been very good about keeping her involved and telling him his adoption story from early on. His scrapbook was a favorite bedtime routine for awhile and he know the story well now. We have small but meaningful reminders of his BM around our home, such as a WiFi connected touch lamp that lights up when you think of the other person, a handmade blanket, some stuffed animals and toys. There’s been a few scattered Skype calls and a couple of short visits in the past but she’s always brought a friend.
This time we brought him to his state of birth where his BM lives. The visits were long and they bonded very well…a little too well that we became emotionally wounded to watch them together. Our son got to meet her family: his birth cousins and aunts and birth grandmother. We showed him the hospital where he was born. And we did all kinds of fun kid activities that he loved while including his BM.
Ever since separating from his birth mom to return home from our visit, our son has been acting a little weird. When he gets upset or doesn’t get his way, he’s said “I want to go home” even though we ARE home. He’s been a little more aggressive toward us when frustrated or overly excited, resorting to gentle biting and head-butting even though he knows that’s not nice.  And he has been looking to those reminders of his BM more than he ever did before the trip, probably as a way to connect with her.

Has anyone else had experiences like this? Any tips for getting thru it? How to explain it better to his level?

We tried explaining that this is home. And explaining that we are his parents that she chose for him. It’s hard to watch him want for her. Any help is appreciated.


That is a lot of emotions for a 2.5 year old to deal with.  I too saw a lot of the same things in our child after visits.  All I can say now is, at 8 we have different challenges after family visits.

The best piece of advice I can give, is name the emotion.  “I think that you enjoyed your visit with *name* and family.  It was a lot of fun.  Now you have some big emotions.  Maybe you are sad (angry, upset, etc) you don’t see *name* more often?  I can understand that, but it is not OK to bite.  Would you like to talk about your visit?”  You can look at some pictures of the trip - reconnect with him at his level.

You mention that you were wounded by watching them together.  I can understand that too.  However, it could be that being wounded by the relationship -you have been avoiding talking about or other things you’d done in the past regarding the adoption - and he has picked that up.  So he could feel that it isn’t OK to feel a certain way about her and that is part of the aggression.  Again pick up the book you mentioned and read it with him.  Talk about the big feelings.  Reconnect, reconnect, reconnect.

Posted by justaminion on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:21pm

justaminion: no worries about the extra entries lol smile
Thank you for your reply and insight. It makes sense to talk about his feelings, even though its hard for us to keep bringing his birthmother up in conversation, when what we really want is for his feelings for her to fade a little bit right now.
I’m not sure I agree that there things I’m avoiding talking about with regard to the adoption or things I’d done in the past, bc I’ve always told him everything thats age appropriate that I can.  However, he must feel like he shouldn’t feel this way because yesterday he said, “you might get upset” when we asked what he meant when he said he wants to go home. How do you suggest we should approach that comment when he says “I want to go home” during his moments of frustration?? 
thanks again

Posted by oneloveadoption on Mar 15, 2019 at 3:53pm

Just reassure him this is your home. You are staying with us until you are all grown up. Your birth mom lives in another home. It is sad she can’t live with you. We love you and so does she. You can love whoever you want.

PS don’t say forever the little ones don’t get it. With all those emotions and people I’d be upset too. His statement I want to go home may be a request for reconfirmation he is staying with you

Posted by Regina on Mar 16, 2019 at 9:25pm

its very common for kids to envision their birth parents as completely perfect. my daughter went through a phase where i constantly heard about how great her birthmom was. she wore high heels and cherry red lipstick (my daughter is rather disappointed that I am not more glamorous!). she gave her as much allowance as she wanted without doing any chores. birhtmom played barbies with her whenever she wanted. birthmom put rainbow christmas lights up all over the house. basically whenever i said no to something, she remembers that birthmom always said yes. The fantasy birthparent is very normal (especially when a child is told no or is in trouble) and it sounds like in your son’s case the only contact he has had that he likely remembers was super fun! so that just builds up the fantasy even more. my daughter only lived with her birthmom for a few months during her infancy, but even now (at age 10) she will sometimes say to me that she’s “homesick.”  I think what she really means is that she’s grieving the loss of her natural family and the home she should have had. very normal feelings. with your son being so young i would say exactly what Regina says above. Hes too little to understand everything and is trying to figure things out his own way. meanwhile keep reminding yourself that its good he loves his birthmom, and that it doesn’t mean he loves you any less because of that!

Posted by rn4kidz on Mar 17, 2019 at 2:32am

It’s very concerning that at 2 and a half he already knows that his feelings for his first mother upset you and that you want his feelings for her to fade. This is not good for him and as you can see it’s already not good for the relationship with you.
If he can’t talk about how he feels—and it’s disingenuous to pretend when he says he wants to go “home” he’s not talking about wanting to be with his other mother, so “you’re home” is kind of gaslighting him—at this age, how is it going to be in the future?
I’d suggest working out your own feelings and your need for his about his original mother to “fade” along with letting him say whatever he wants/needs to say without jumping in about yourself.
Take it from a FFY, making the child love their birth family less isn’t going to make them love you more.

Posted by NoraT on Mar 17, 2019 at 3:33pm

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