Q: My 11-year-old son has been saying he’d like to meet his birth family. I found his birth siblings on Facebook and have been able to locate his birth mother’s address. I’m wondering how to proceed now. I don’t want my son to get hurt if she is not interested in communicating.
A: The preteen years are a great time to facilitate a birth family connection. An 11-year-old can think abstractly and understands that relationships are complex–and he will still let a parent help him think things through. You could start the talk by saying, I know you’ve been interested in connecting with your birth family. I think I found a way to contact them, so we need to talk about what you want to do. It is impossible to insulate children from hurt. Part of the job of parenting is to teach children how to overcome disappointment. Ask your son about his expectations, and discuss the possibility that they might not be met. We don’t know what her life is like right now. She may or may not want to respond. How will you feel if your birth mother is not ready to write back or meet? Discuss some of the reasons his birth mother may not be able to begin a relationship, stressing that it wouldn’t be because of him, but because of what her life is like right now.
If your son decides he wants to move ahead, contact his birth mother via mail or e-mail. Make it clear that you and your son will respect her privacy, but would like to correspond. If she is interested, go slow and work up to an in-person meeting.