4 Ways to Rid Adoption of Secrecy in Your Home

I’ve said it a million times. Secrets are toxic.

Tom Andriola April 07, 2016

I’ve said it a million times. Secrets are toxic. Of course, that doesn’t make transparency any easier, but it does make it worth the effort. But why is it so hard? In adoption, there are sensitivities surrounding all angles of the triad. There are often unresolved feelings on all sides, which makes ridding adoption of secrecy all the more difficult—and all the more important. Here are four practical ways you can make it happen.

Mention it in casual conversations.
1. Mention it in casual conversations.

I was adopted when I was 3 1/2 months old, and I knew I was adopted from the time I could understand language. To me, that’s the way it should be. No secrets. While I didn’t fully grasp what being adopted meant until much later, having it be a regular part of conversation going on around me kept it out in the open.

I try to do the same thing with my own children. Even though they are my biological children, they are still affected by adoption because of my set of circumstances. I sprinkle in comments here and there as we are having conversations about everyday life, and they seem to incorporate the concept easily into their understanding of the world around them. When they ask questions out of curiosity, I try to be as forthcoming as possible in an age-appropriate way.

Embrace the differences in your features.
2. Embrace the differences in your features.

While I am sure I could get away with having people think I am the biological son of my parents, I could clearly see similarities between myself and my biological parents and half-siblings when I found them as an adult. Not all adoptees are the same race or ethnicity of their parents, however, and many may be much taller or shorter, or have strikingly different features. At times, the differences might seem awkward, but embracing those differences can help. How to cope with the quizzical looks or awkward comments that might come from strangers when you make it apparent when you are a family? Consider working together to come up with witty responses. This will help ease tension and lighten a potentially difficult situation.

Hang “Adoption Rules” artwork in a visible location in your home.
3. Hang “Adoption Rules” artwork in a visible location in your home.

Many members of the adoption triad hold their feelings in for fear of hurting one another or rejecting their validity. I have seen “Family Rules” artwork with little snippets of wisdom that help remind parents and kids about what’s important. “Know that you are loved,” for example, is one that often appears. “Always tell the truth,” is another. Similarly, signage for “Adoption Rules” that is out in the open at your home might serve as a constant reminder about what is important to keep in mind, not only for your family, but for visitors as well. “No secrets” might even be the first one on the list!

Set aside a regular “check in” time.
4. Set aside a regular “check in” time.

Life is busy, and for many of us it only speeds up as time goes on. One way to make sure you are not neglecting each other within the family in terms of adoption feelings is to set a regular “check in” time for everyone to talk about how they are doing. Speaking freely about what’s going on in your life and listening to what’s going on with your loved ones can be validating and healing. And the more we are able to talk about the things that are uncomfortable for us to talk about, the better we get at it and the better we can all be there for each other in a more effective manner.

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Tom Andriola

Tom Andriola advocates for adoptee rights and shares his personal experiences about being adopted and his successful, independent search for both biological parents. To see more of his writing, visit Tom's Facebook page.

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