Dear Parent Who Adopted Long Ago: your child has contacted our agency for information.
It is always a pleasure to hear from those who were adopted here, of course. And we’re glad your son or daughter knew where to reach us. (Kudos to you for that!)
The information we can share is sometimes limited by law, and sometimes by other factors. It isn’t our intent to violate any adoptee’s privacy by sharing the content of their communication with us.
We would, however, like to help you and your child open healthy channels of communication between you? So here’s a DIY checklist to help you anticipate what your child may be dealing with and equip yourself to respond.
What Might The Adoptee Be Needing & Why?
Please review the following statements and assess which likely apply:
_____ Your child is underage so we advised them that they need to ask you to participate in their efforts to obtain more information and/or reconnect with birthfamily
_____ Your child is over eighteen and was encouraged to involve you in their pursuit here, but was also invited to submit a formal request for our assistance in obtaining more info and/or helping them reconnect with their birthfamily, as your consent is not required at this age
_____ Your child is requesting a copy of the birthparent profile we provided you prior to your match with the birthparent/s, but they ___ are unaware that you have this because you never shared it with them OR ___ they are afraid to ask you for it for fear of hurting your feelings OR ___ they think you no longer have it for some reason OR _____ you provided it to them before and they lost it and don’t want you to think they’re irresponsible.
_____ Your child loves you wholeheartedly and/yet ___ longs to reconnect with their birthparent/s OR ____ has a deep need to know if their birthparents are okay OR ____ wonders if/fears their birthparents miss them OR ____ feels guilty that their parents didn’t honor their open adoption promises OR ___ has a need to experience genetic mirroring (ie. to meet a blood relative) OR ____ wants to learn more about their race/culture firsthand OR ____ other: _____________________.
____ The reason your child is contacting us about this instead of bringing it up with you is because
____ your child is seeking another first-hand account of how their adoption came about OR
____ your child is trying to protect you from fear of rejection OR
____ your child isn’t yet sure what they want to achieve and need to figure this out on their own before getting you involved OR
____ your child worries about getting cut off if they show an interest in their origins OR
____ your child knows you would want to do this for them and gladly participate but they feel a need to do it themselves OR
____ your child perceives that their adoption questions have been upsetting to you in the past OR
_____ your child has a private need to seek out information about their history.
Now, Dear Parent Who Adopted Long Ago, give yourself a point for each checkmark, for your parental intuition. (Then add a half-point extra for each time you cringed at the repeated references to adoptees as “child” since we do all know they grow up. Chronic infantilization of adoptees isn’t a good thing for anyone.) Breathe deep! Then plunge ahead.
How Can Loving Parents Help?
The fact that you’re reading this is an indication that you are exactly the kind of caring and conscientious parent we trusted you to be. We know that adoption can be a complex thing to talk about even (especially?) years later. You experienced it in one context, and the person you adopted has a whole different frame of reference, of course. But here’s the thing: it’s okay to have different perspectives. The important thing here is to be able to hear theirs.
Adoptees don’t want their parents to talk about adoption all the time. They do, however, want to know that it’s okay for them to talk about it, without seeing their parents get nervous or upset or flushed or go radio silent on them. The best way to assure them that you’re listening is to reflect what they’ve said, by responding “so you’re saying that you (think/feel/wonder)…?” and repeat what they said without putting your own spin on it, then let them clarify or affirm it.
You don’t have to have all the answers, dear parent. You just need to be a supportive sounding board as they work out their own questions. And maybe they don’t want to talk about it with you; then trust that talking with us may be the next best resource. If you need a reference point to explore whether there’s a need (or room) for dialogue, getting them this book (or reading the companion volume for parents) may be helpful.
Learn all you can about adult adoptees from adult adoptees. There’s a wealth of info out there (like this interview). Even if your son or daughter doesn’t choose to share with you, learning from others can empower you to be responsive even to their unspoken needs.
One More Piece of Advice…
But if the idea of the person you adopted as your child causes you angst (and let’s be honest, sometimes it impacts even the most secure adoptive parents) then please talk with an adoption-competent therapist. The reality is that for most adoptive families, the adoptee’s quest for answers actually enhances their relationships— provided the parents can be genuinely supportive.
So Dear Parents Who Adopted Long Ago, trust that the process which taught you so much back when may still have valuable lessons for you to learn even now– and please, be open to this.