When you made the decision to adopt a child, you knew that the day would come when your child started asking questions about his biological parents. You may have prepared answers to the questions you thought he’d ask: who his parents are, where they come from, where they live now, why they put him up for adoption and if he has any blood siblings.
But what you may not have been mentally prepared for was the day when your adopted child let you know that he wanted to find (and meet) his biological parents.
If you have adopted a child, this day should come as no surprise. And while not all children will want to come face-to-face with the parents that gave them up for adoption, there is a good chance that your adopted child will have a natural curiosity about his parents.
When that happens, there are some things you can do to help your child on his search.
“The most important thing adopted parents can do is be supportive of the search,” said Jeffrey A. Lavallee, LMFT, a clinical program manager at Island View residential treatment center for adolescents in Utah, which offers support for adopted children. “Kids can’t just do it on their own.”
Being supportive means more than just being there emotionally for your child – though it will be important for you to offer that type of support because your child is sure to experience a wide range of emotions during his search. It also means offering to help your child with such things as making phone calls, doing Internet research and driving him to a scheduled meeting if he can’t yet do so himself.
Always let your child know that you love him, and that you fully support his wanting to find his biological parents. Don’t ever get angry at your child for wanting to know his birth parents and his history. At the same time, don’t ever pressure your child to find his birth parents – let that be a decision he makes in his own time.
Depending on the type of adoption you went through, the biological parents may not want to be found or the search may be tricky. There may be times when your child gets discouraged or frustrated with the lack of information, or with how long the search is taking, but encourage your child to keep pursuing it if that’s what he wants.
“An understanding of how they started and how they fit into the world can be very grounding for an adopted child,” Lavallee explained.
Talk to your child about what he has discovered during his search, any questions he has and how he is feeling. Whether your child ends up reuniting with his birth parents or not, this encouragement will go a long way toward strengthening your own relationship with your child.
Answer Questions Honestly
Adopted kids are going to have a lot of questions. There is a big part of their past that is missing, and you may be able to fill in some of the blanks. Unfortunately, those blanks may not always be pleasant, as your adopted child’s birth parents may be criminals, or deceased.
But no matter what questions you are asked, answer them truthfully. Depending on the age of your child, use your discretion with how much you reveal or when you tell him certain things about his parentage.
“Honesty is important, but it has to be done with tact and support,” Lavallee said. “An adopted kid can tell if you’re lying about his past.” And if they can’t tell, there’s a good chance that they will find out on their own, so you might as well tell them the truth from the beginning.
Don’t Be Threatened
When you learn that your child is planning to search for his biological parents, you are likely to experience a range of emotions: fear of abandonment, rejection, concern for your child and excitement for your child. But, no matter what you are feeling, keep in mind that your child isn’t planning to search for his biological parents to spite you.
“A lot of adopted kids hesitate to search for their biological parents because they don’t want to offend their adoptive parents,” Lavallee said. “It’s about seeing someone that has the same blood face-to-face.”
Let your child know that you will not feel threatened if he decides to find his biological parents. And keep in mind that it is highly unlikely that your child is going to leave you to go live with his biological parents.
Remind your child, and yourself, that it may take some time to find the biological parents if you don’t already know who they are. A search can take years, depending on the circumstances of the adoption and if the biological parents are easily found. This may get frustrating for both you and your child, so don’t forget to be patient and let things unfold in their own time.