Adoptive Families, the award-winning national adoption magazine, is the leading adoption information source for families before, during, and after adoption.


When Kids Deny Their Adoption

by Jayne Schooler

Fran didn't usually listen to her 11-year-old's phone conversations, but this time she did. Callie was talking to a new friend. And Fran heard something that greatly disturbed her.

"I don't know what you are talking about," Callie insisted. "Who told you I was adopted? That's just not true!" Fran was flabbergasted. Why would Callie deny she was adopted?

Actually, such denials aren't uncommon. They're the refuge of many preteens who are struggling with adoption issues. Why don't kids this age want to share the truth?

1. They don't want to be different.
The family is no longer the social axis for your preteen. It has been superceded by the world of his peers. This is an uncertain, ever-changing world, where being in the "in" group today doesn't necessarily mean you will be there tomorrow. It is a world where kids are hyper-vigilant; always reading signals to find the answer to the question, "How can I be popular?" One of those signals is "don't be different." So they'll dress and wear their hair like their friends, and in some cases, insist that they are non-adopted, just like their peers.

What can parents do?

*Try not to overreact. Remember, this is a developmental stage for all children.

*Be attentive to your child's mood changes. Notice how he talks about adoption at home.

*Learn to ask questions beyond ones that will elicit a yes or no. "Son, when someone asks you about being adopted, how do you feel? What do you want to say to them?"

*If your preteen does not have contact with other adoptees, consider a support group.

2. They don't know how to handle questions.
Another reason a preteen may deny her adoption is the difficulty that comes with intrusive questions. She may think, "If I deny my adoption, no one will ask questions that I can't or don't want to answer."

What can parents do?

Arm your child with verbal tools. Liz McCallister, an adoptive parent from Ohio, knew that someday her two children from Korea would be broad-sided with questions. She equipped her children, Peter and Megan, with a respectful response. When asked an intrusive question, they simply say, "We only talk about that at home."

Another reason your child may deny being adopted is that the subject of adoption has not been discussed much at home. She may feel a sense of shame due to secrecy.

Jayne Schooler is the mother of two by birth and adoption in Columbus, Ohio. She is the author of three books, including Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past.

Copyright 2001 Adoptive Families Magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited. 

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