How Do I Talk to My Parents About My Adoption?

Talk to your parents openly and honestly.

Jennifer Kaldwell May 06, 2019
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Were you adopted and want to speak with your parents to find out more information about your biological family? Are you afraid to ask them? Do you have questions you really want answered, and you need their help getting those answers?

“How do I talk to my parents about this potentially sensitive subject?”

It is good to just talk to them honestly. Considering their feelings is a good strategy but not to the detriment of your own feelings. If you keep your questions unspoken and harm yourself in the process because you are so worried that you will hurt them, is the silence worth it?

Chances are, if you have been adopted, your parents expect you to ask questions at some point. They may have been preparing for this conversation for years. They may be afraid to bring up the conversation to you and upset you. All the “walking on eggshells” to avoid hurt may be unnecessary, and you both might find relief in having a discussion about your adoption. This may not always be the case, but you won’t know until you try.

In the past, adoption was more secretive than it is today. Parents may not have received any information about their child’s biological parents when they adopted. In some instances, minimal information may have been available but not enough to make contact with them, if desired. Many adoptees would go a lifetime without enough information to ever seek out their biological families. Having no information on the circumstances surrounding their adoption can take an emotional toll on an adoptee. It can also be difficult for their parents who wish they could help their children with their questions.

In recent years, adoption has begun leaning more toward open adoption and allowing the sharing of information. In some cases, it also allows for communication and even visits with biological families. This move toward openness has really taken some of the pressure off of families involved and made conversations regarding adoption much easier.

“If adoption is a taboo subject in my home how I talk to my parents about it with as little disruption as possible?”

If you think your parents may find the subject of your adoption uncomfortable, a way to make it easier for them is to acknowledge those feelings. By telling them you know the topic is one that is hard for them, you may help put them at ease to have the discussion you desire. You might tell them how difficult it is for you to have the discussion as well and that you are worried about their feelings.

However, if you have questions regarding your adoption you should not let your fear of hurting their feelings prevent you from seeking answers. It is okay to tell your parents this. Your parents want what is best for you and should be able to accept that the information you want is what is best for you, even if it feels threatening to them.

If your parents have a hard time talking about adoption, it may be that they are worried about hurting your feelings due to the circumstances surrounding your placement with them. For instance, one of my sons is with us because his biological parents were addicts and criminals. When faced with rehabilitation, moving forward, and becoming better parents, they didn’t make the choices needed to parent him. As a mother, this will feel hard for me to tell my son as he grows. I don’t want him to feel unimportant. I don’t want him to feel as though his biological parents didn’t want him. The truth is much deeper than what we all wanted. I am certain his biological parents loved him. I tell him this when we discuss adoption. I also don’t want to make up a story that isn’t true though. I need him to know that his biological parents suffer from addiction so that he is aware of his genetic predisposition to the same problems in life. I need him to know that he is more at risk for addiction because of his genetics. Talking with him about adoption can sometimes feel hard, but I want him to feel like he can ask me anything.

So, if you are struggling to ask your parents questions, and if they feel unapproachable, it may be that they want to protect you. It is okay to let them know you are ready for more information if they have it and that you are ready to process any feelings that arise from the conversation. This may help them speak more openly with you if they know you are ready to hear details that may be difficult to process.

“How do I talk to my parents if they don’t want to talk about adoption because it makes them feel vulnerable?”

As a parent who has adopted, I admit that sometimes I feel vulnerable. Even so, I know that my children need to hear about their adoptions to feel whole. If I conceal pieces of their puzzle from them, I am only hurting them. As a mom, my job is to guide them, teach them, and love them. I should never knowingly or intentionally hurt them. I think withholding information from them would be harmful. I think most parents would agree. It can be difficult, and we can feel a bit intimidated when children seek information on their birth families. You may think that is silly. Of course, learning about your birth family does not change that the people who raised you are your parents. It can be scary for parents to know you are curious about your birth family though. We may need some reassurance that our relationship is not changing. Your desire to seek out your adoption story does not reflect poorly on your parents, and they may need that reassurance. Having an open and honest discussion about your motives, your feelings, and your relationship will help to eliminate any feelings of insecurity they may have and help keep communications open.

“What if I come from a closed adoption situation, and my parents have told me they know little information about my birth?”

Could you approach them to ask for any information that might help you seek out your biological family? Today, even with little information it is sometimes possible to find answers or people online with a few searches. Any small bit of information your parents may be able to provide can help. Sometimes, parents don’t realize they may have the key to open up your past. Simple details like a hospital name or even just a city where you were born can be helpful. In the event that your birth family’s name is known, finding information will not be a challenging as it was in past decades. Simple online searches will likely give you a window to the information you are looking for.

I try very hard to never make adoption a taboo subject. That said, I also try not to make it a subject that is over-discussed. I don’t want my children to feel like being adopted is the center of who they are. I want them to know their story, but I don’t want their adoption to be the focus of their life. I think by being open about their adoptions it helps to keep that balance. I think in families where the adoption is hidden, or not often spoken about, children can become obsessed with finding out the circumstances surrounding their birth. The more natural a conversation feels, the less secretive things are. Then there is no need to obsess and wonder. When discussions are had as curiosity arises, rather than holding all questions for one large conversation, there is less pressure on both parents and children.

Having one big all-or-nothing type of discussion would be terrifying for children. How do you remember everything you want to ask? If the pressure is on this one conversation, with everyone nervous, how adequately are you communicating? Will your actual questions be asked in the way you wish? Will anyone be offended? Will feelings be hurt? These all-or-nothing type of conversations about adoption are becoming less common with the recent acceptance of open adoption and the steps toward sharing information more openly. If you find yourself in the position where your adoption is a taboo topic, and you feel you will only have one real opportunity to discuss details, don’t be afraid to prepare written notes and questions. In the moment, you may forget to ask things you want to know.

If you feel your parents are not open to discussing your adoption freely, maybe you can gradually warm them up to the idea. Letting them know you have questions about your birth but want to wait until another time to ask may help them prepare for the upcoming questions. Let them know you have been thinking about your adoption and are interested in learning more. Mention your curiosity in casual conversation without being persistent at first. Find the appropriate time to pursue the answers and details. By giving your parents the hint that the questions are coming, they can be prepared. Being prepared may be them processing all of their own feelings and insecurities. It may also be finding any and all paperwork from the time of your adoption in order to provide you with the best answers they can.

Ask if your parents kept journals from the time you were adopted. There may be details in a journal that are relevant but forgotten. If they go back to these journals, something that is useful may stand out. Maybe they noted something a social worker mentioned about your biological parent that reminds them of you today. For example, maybe they were told that your biological mother liked to sing, and you have always loved singing. Or maybe your biological father liked to draw, and you also love to draw and sketch. These small details may be forgotten until reread, but they may be just what you need to feel that connection you seek. Nature versus nurture is such a curious thing. It is remarkable to find that even when you are not raised by your biological family you may have inherited some of their same interests or personality traits. If your family has no musical talent, but you are gifted musically and find your biological family was musical, it may just allow you to feel a bit more secure in who you are.

As parents, we sometimes underestimate how important it is for our child adoptees to have any and all information that they want. We may feel that we should be enough. But we need to understand that questions surrounding adoption are not about us, as parents. Instead, they are about how you, the adoptee, is coping with their loss of biological connections. It can be difficult for parents to realize that kids may feel a loss surrounding their adoption. We struggle to flood our children with love. We struggle sometimes to have our choice to add children through adoption accepted by others. We sometimes deal with inappropriate questions from strangers or friends as we travel the parenting journey with our adoptees. We try to shield you from anything negative or hurtful that may be associated with adoption. Sometimes, we can forget that it is your story. We become so busy protecting and diverting attention from the adoption so it doesn’t consume you that we may inadvertently make the topic feel overwhelming to discuss. Our parenting goal is to raise successful, happy children. Part of that may include helping our adoptees find out information regarding their birth family. Not every adoptee will want to seek out all the pieces to their story. Some adoptees will feel whole and fulfilled with the information they have. But others may need to seek out further information or make contact with biological relatives to feel like they have taken control of who they are and what adoption means to them. I hope as a parent that I can make these situations as comfortable as possible if they arise. I hope my children will feel comfortable coming to me to ask for the help they may need.

I try to look at it from the point of view that the more people there are to love my children, the better their lives are. I do not want to hinder them in having all the love possible, even if it may trigger some insecurities in me.

Adoptees, talk to your parents if you need more information. I hope that finding the proper time and a comfortable situation to discuss your past will open both you and your family to many more discussions in the future. I hope it will bring you closure. Or, rather than closure, maybe it will open new doors?

 

Need some help with your adoption search? Your first step in your search and reunion journey is to register in Adoption.com’s Reunion Registry.

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Jennifer Kaldwell

Jennifer is a mother to 3 children (one biological, two adopted). She is also a mom to numerous pets. She enjoys volunteering in her children's classroom, reading, and crafting in her spare time. She has been married for almost 15 years.


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