This is a task that is often fraught with nervousness and hesitation for adoptive parents. It is an added job that adoptive families have to undertake. Children deserve to know the whole truth of their beginnings and heritage and how their adoption came to be. For some parents, that is a reality hard to align themselves with if the child came to them at birth and looks just like them. The problem is that somehow the adoptee does find out at some time in their life; someone tells them, papers are found or a birth family member contacts them. The expectation that their parents would never lie to them is destroyed and along with it, a loving and trusting relationship. It also means the adoptee had built their whole identity on a series of lies. This can result in anger, grief, and even suicide. The reality is that there is nothing to be ashamed of as an adoptive family and the “not telling” says there is something shameful about adoption.
Families wonder what, when and how to talk about adoption to their child. They worry that the truth will hurt the child, cause a breach in their relationship or frighten the child. Every parent wants to protect their child. For some children there is a sadness, a fear or a lot of curiosity. Every child’s response is different. Matching information to the age of the child’s development; sharing the information with calmness and love; talking about adoption as permanent and having the child know other adopted people are all helpful tools. There is ample research that informs us on what children understand about adoption at different stage of life. The assimilation of this knowledge starts very young and continues into adulthood.
The backgrounds that are most scary for families include incest, abuse, addiction, rape, death and mental illness. Also complex is the absence of a birth father story, especially for boys. There are appropriate times and ways to introduce this information and are actually the reasons that many adoptions occur which can make sense to a child.
Other aspects of the “telling” may have to do with open adoptions, transracial adoptions and international adoptions. Those parents who received children through third party reproduction also have a truth telling task to address.
Remember, “Fantasies Flourish Where Facts Flounder!” Let’s get started and share the facts. I’m inviting parents to join me at Parentcirkle, where I am leading a virtual support group to help families help each other confront these fears and answer these questions. You can sign up here and enjoy your first session for free by using the code FIRSTFREE and there is reasonable cost for follow up sessions. I will look forward to meeting you and help address your concerns.
Sharon Roszia M.S.