No matter what your relationship is with your adopted tween or teen’s birth family, your child may look on the Internet or social media out of curiosity for connections her birth family. If she expresses a wish to friend her birthmom on Facebook or you stumble on a Google search in progress, what should you do? Should you try to help, warn her of your concerns or disconnect your home Internet?
Cradle Post-Adoption Therapist Judy Stigger responds:
As an adoptive parent, I think it’s important to take a step back and look at the situation through your child’s eyes. There are several things she may seek:
- An understanding of why she was placed for adoption.
Even if you have talked about adoption and shared her adoption story on many occasions, she may not fully believe it until she can hear it directly from the person(s) who made the adoption decision.
- A sense of curiosity.
She is every bit a part of your family, but who does she look like? It is common for adopted persons to wonder where their curly hair or dark brown eyes come from. Many just want to know, “Who do I look like?” or “Where do I get my talents or learning challenges?” She may just wonder if her birthmom has other kids now, or lives nearby.
- To know that her birth family is okay.
We raise nice kids—they worry about their other family.
What Your Child Needs From You
As your child’s adoptive parents, your child needs to know you are comfortable with her curiosity about her birth family. This curiosity is common and only natural. Forbidding the search activity will only drive her to do it behind your back.
Instead, she needs to know you understand that she feels a tie to another set of parents, those who share her biology. She needs to know it’s okay to explore that connection. She needs to know you don’t feel like she is being disloyal to you by expressing interest in that part of her identity. And she needs your protection: In case her search is met with a disappointing refusal, or there are safety concerns with her birth family’s current circumstances, or someone posing as her birthfather tries to set a meeting with her.
Ways to Support Your Child
- Keep your child company in this process. How much you help versus just offer support depends on your child’s age, as well as the birth family (or birth country) specifics. Just try to remain part of this with her to help sort things out and keep her safe.
- Remember: Relationships are easier to manage when you’re dealing with real people and real situations—not your fantasy or your child’s fantasy.
- Help her be realistic. Birth relatives have other family ties, perhaps a spouse or other children who do not know about the placement. Not all birth relatives (or in-laws) are equally easy to get along with or manage. Not all will be amenable to the outreach. But also be hopeful, because the contact could also go very well.
- Take advantage of the wisdom of the community. If an awkward or concerning situation arises, or you want to sort through your own feelings or express your concerns without raising your child’s defenses, post-adoption counselors at The Cradle are here to help. While this may be new and bit overwhelming for you, we have kept many families company through this process, and can share the wisdom of the experiences of those who have gone before you.