It’s normal for your child to be inquisitive about his birth family. After all, the birth parents play an important role in your child’s story and what you share about them will make up a large part of his perception of them — and of himself.
From the very beginning, humanize the couple who gave birth to your child. They are a man and woman made in God’s image — not vague, faceless entities. The respect you show for each birth parent’s intrinsic value and humanity will boost your child’s own self-respect.
As your child matures, likely the makeup of her questions will change as well. Answering these key questions in an empathetic and supportive way is important — even if your child doesn’t ask them out loud.
Why didn’t my mother keep me?
In some adoptions, the child’s birth mother or birth family may have written a letter explaining the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth and the love that went into the adoption decision and placement into the adoptive family. These words from the heart of the birth family may be able to answer the child’s curiosity and longing better than any perspective the adoptive parents can give.
But for many adoptive parents, this question is difficult, if not impossible, to answer. The adoption was closed or the facts were never disclosed. Unless there is an extensive search, a real relationship is not possible. Ongoing honesty and sensitivity are key as your child learns more about his past and as you address his feelings of loss. Share openly the facts that are known, being considerate of age-appropriate details. Photographs and written records make the subject approachable and more natural to discuss.
Remember — just because you have an answer to this question doesn’t mean that your child won’t still struggle with the facts and feelings of abandonment and loss. What counts most is your very present love and support as he goes through these difficult times.
Where is my birth mother/birth father now?
Perhaps you will tell your child that someday you will help her look for her birth parents. As a believer in an omniscient, loving God, you can assure your child that God knows where her birth parents are and that He is caring for them just as He cares for your child. You and your child can pray for these people, trusting God to do good in their lives as a result.
Will you always be there for me — even when I have an interest in learning more about myself and my background, or when I am sorting out my feelings about being an adopted child?
The answer should always be, “Yes!”
As an adopted child matures and learns more about her history, she begins to realize that adoption means one family surrendering custody to another. This may translate into a subconscious or overt concern that the adoptive parents, too, may someday abandon her. Children of any age (even young adults) may fear triggering abandonment if they show interest in or pursue a relationship with members of their birth family. Don’t ever assume that you have assured your child enough of your commitment to her — even if she doesn’t verbalize her concerns.
If your communication about the birth family has been open from the beginning, you have a greater potential for growth and bonding as the child explores more about his biological background. Remain steadfast and secure that you are the child’s parents, and that a child searching his own feelings and sense of self and history does not threaten family status.
A child wants to know that he can still rely on the parents he has known — the adoptive parents — for love, support and encouragement as he learns more about himself. Simply because a child has an interest in his biological past does not mean he doesn’t recognize the primary relationship and role of his adoptive parents.
How will I know how to prevent behaviors or health issues without my full medical history?
Access to medical history may be a concern with an adopted child. The existence and availability of medical records may vary depending on the circumstances around the child’s adoption and medical history. Seek out as much information as you possibly can.
Make sure your child’s doctor is conscious of the child’s adoptive history and is sensitive to the child’s concerns. A good doctor will be willing to alleviate a child’s fears by answering any questions and thoroughly explaining all diagnoses and procedures.
Encourage healthy living as you parent your child. If your child, particularly as a teenager, is concerned about his medical history, have his doctor explain all the choices and precautions that can lower his genetic risk.
Do I need to have a relationship with my birth family?
Adoptive parents may feel their child needs to develop a relationship with the birth family as part of her emotional well-being. However, not all adopted children have a felt need to know their birth family intimately. Adoptive parents can be attentive to their child’s wishes, and still remain open to the possibility of a relationship, should the child’s needs change.
Of course, in many cases it is not safe or wise for the child to have a close relationship with her birth family. Determining the extent of the contact and emotional connection is your role as a parent, but the key should be what is best for your child, not just what is convenient or comfortable for you.
There may come a day when your child is a teen that he will begin to make his own decisions about staying in touch with his birth family. While this may be painful for you and the birth family, exploring or ignoring these relationships are a normal part of the maturation process. It may fall on you to explain to members of his birth family that he does not wish to communicate further with them at this time. Be honest with them, and share that this is a common phase.