Adoption is a complex and emotional topic. It’s important to approach it with empathy and understanding—especially with your teen. Talking about adoption and adoption-related matters can feel difficult because it might bring up a range of emotions and questions. However, having an open and honest conversation with your teen about adoption will help them to understand their identity and feel more connected to their family. 

Adoption can raise questions about identity and belonging for the teenager because they might wonder about their biological parents, cultural heritage, or genetic traits. 

Adopted teens might hesitate to ask questions because they fear it could hurt their parents’ feelings. They might worry that showing curiosity about their biological roots, or expressing an interest in learning more about their adoption story, could be seen as a rejection of their adoptive family.

For parents, sometimes not having all the answers or information about the adoption can lead to feeling insecure in talking about things you’re not sure how to address. The last thing you want to do is make your teen feel different or like an outsider.

There are three ways you can bring adoption into the conversation with your teen in a friendly, compassionate, and informative way.

Guide the adoption conversation with your teen through sharing stories, exploring media portrayals, and embracing identity together.

Share Your Family’s Adoption Story

Sharing your family’s adoption story will help your teen understand the topic on a more personal level. Your family’s adoption story may be one of the most important parts of your family history. It’s something that you will want to share with your child as early as possible. If you’re holding out, you should know there will never be a “perfect or right time.” The time is right now.

Starting the conversation with your teen about your family’s adoption story can be difficult if it hasn’t become part of your family story over the years. And it becomes even more difficult if they have never heard about it. However, it’s important to start by explaining why you decided to adopt in the first place. Sharing the reasons behind your decision to adopt will help your teen understand why adoption was, and is, important to your family.

Next, explain what the adoption process looked like. Did you work with an agency or did you adopt through foster care? Did you adopt domestically or internationally? Did you have an open or closed adoption? Answering these questions will help your teen to understand the logistics of adoption.

Finally, share your feelings about the adoption. Was it difficult waiting for a child to be placed with your family? Were you nervous about becoming a parent to a child who was not biologically yours? Sharing your emotions will also help your teen understand that adoption can be a complex and emotional process for everyone involved.

Guide the adoption conversation with your teen through sharing stories, exploring media portrayals, and embracing identity together.

Conversations About Adoption In The Media

Adoption is often portrayed in movies, TV shows, and books. Watching or reading about adoption with your teen is another great way to get a conversation going. Consider watching a movie like “Instant Family,” which follows a couple who decide to adopt three siblings from foster care. After the movie, ask your teen what they thought about the portrayal of adoption in the film. Did it feel realistic? Did it raise any questions about adoption that they hadn’t thought about before?

You can also discuss adoption in the news. For example, if there is a high-profile adoption story in the media, you could discuss the legal and emotional aspects with your teen. Ask them how they would feel if they were in a similar situation will help them to empathize with those involved in the story and other adoptees and adoptive families in general.

Guide the adoption conversation with your teen through sharing stories, exploring media portrayals, and embracing identity together.

Explore Your Teen’s Identity

Adoption will play a significant role in your teen’s identity. By exploring their identity together, you can help them understand how adoption might play a role in their life now and later.

You can start by asking your teen to describe themselves. What are their interests, hobbies, and values? Explore culture, traditions, and values they may relate to.

Finally, discuss how your teen feels about adoption. Do they have any friends who are adopted? Have they ever thought about adopting? In these discussions, you can help your teen develop a clearer understanding of how adoption affects their life.

Talking about adoption with your teen can be challenging, but it’s important for their emotional well-being and understanding of their own identity. By sharing your family’s adoption story, discussing adoption in the media, and exploring your teen’s identity, you can help them better understand the complexities of adoption and how it might relate to their own life now and the future.

It’s also important to approach the conversation with compassion and empathy; acknowledge that adoption is a sensitive topic for some individuals. It’s okay if your teen doesn’t want to talk about it right away or if they need time to process the information. Ultimately, the goal is to create an open and honest dialogue about adoption that will help them feel more connected to their family and their own identity.

Remember to listen to what your teen says. Hear their words and let their questions and their responses guide the conversation. Besides educating your teen about adoption, this is an opportunity to grow and learn together through your family’s adoption story.

Remember that every family’s adoption story is unique, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach to talking about adoption with your teen, or at any age for that matter. If you’re really nervous about how to begin, consider reaching out to a therapist, counselor, or an adoption support group for specific advice and resources to help.

The most important thing is to approach the conversation with an open mind and a willingness to listen to your teen’s thoughts and feelings. By doing so, you can help them feel seen, heard, and supported as they navigate their own identity and place in the world.