For whatever reason, many adoptive parents have children who have come to them in a closed adoption. From an adoptive parent point of view, a completely closed adoption can be difficult when it comes to medical concerns, behavioral issues, and even idiosyncrasies. Information is power, and so adoptive parents who find themselves with little or no information about their child may sometimes feel helpless and not know how to begin to get the appropriate help for their child. Even so, with few exceptions, a search for an adoptee’s biological family should take place when it’s right for the adoptee.

But how does a parent know when the time is right? It’s not as complicated as it may seem. When communication between parents and children is open and honest, and a pattern of love and trust exists, the adoptee will feel safe and comfortable letting his parents know when the time is right.

I didn’t know that, or really believe it, when our adopted child was younger. We had worked hard to make sure our children always felt safe talking with us, but this one didn’t open up very well. When in a tantrum, he’d shout out that I wasn’t his “real mom,” and I’d wonder if that was the time to begin the search. Maybe if we connected he’d be more at peace. Maybe if we found his birth mother he would realize that she made the best choice for him. Maybe, maybe, maybe . . . 

When he outgrew temper tantrums like that, we began to have real discussions about his roots. We shared what little we knew and assured him that we would help in the search if he ever decided it was important to him. For years he would say “not yet.”  I wondered if he just hoped to spare our feelings and if he thought it would be disloyal to search for his birth family (even though we assured him it wouldn’t be).

Eventually, after he was grown and living on his own, he asked for our help. “It’s time,” he told us. “I want to find my birth parents.” As scary as this new adventure seemed, it was a relief to us to know that we really weren’t holding him back. He really didn’t want to search before. Our work at having an open, trusting relationship with him paid off.

And so together we searched. And we found. And we facilitated a reunion.

So the key to knowing when the time is right really boils down to developing a strong relationship with your child. Keep communication open and stand ready to act whenever the time comes that your child is ready.

Need some assistance with your birth family search? An Adoption Detective may be able to help. Click here for more information.