Searching for Answers...with Google?

The Internet requires a cautious approach when teens are looking for information about adoption or birth parents.

Looking for Adoption History Using the Internet

Patty read books, attended workshops, and met with other adoptive families to familiarize herself with adoption topics. She told her daughter, Stephanie, her adoption story at an early age.

But when Stephanie turned 16, she wanted more detailed information about her adoption and her birth parents, especially the reasons they had made an adoption plan. Patty’s replies didn’t satisfy Stephanie, who took matters into her own hands and began researching adoption on the Internet.

In adolescence, as parents know well, emotions become complex. At the same time, teens are capable of more sophisticated thinking, and want deeper answers to questions such as, “Did my birth mother care about me?” “Did my birth father care about my birth mother?” and “Why could my birth parents not take care of me?”

As the questions get harder, parents worry how their child might react to knowing the answers, especially if information is negative. In some cases, such as those involving international adoption, there may be no information about a child’s birth family. In domestic adoptions, parents might have lost touch with one or both of their child’s birth parents.

Quest for Information

An Internet search may seem right to teens who are ambivalent about talking with their parents about adoption, or to those who worry that they will hurt their parents if they request more information. Some children are private about adoption-related emotions, and the anonymity of the Internet appeals to them.

Unfortunately, without parental guidance, it’s easy for a teen to encounter misinformation that is not obviously incorrect to the youthful user. Some sites contain angry diatribes about adoption. Others provide skewed accounts that mix reality with misconceptions. Material may be outdated or just wrong. Even accurate information can be hard to process, especially that concerning the social and economic variables that affect placements. Teens seeking information about their birth parents can step into emotionally complex situations for which they are unprepared.

If your teen has been using the Internet for such purposes, discuss together what your teen has found. Consider consulting a counselor to assess his emotional readiness for the truth. You may want to offer to help him find the information. Ask your adoption agency or other adoptive parents to recommend an online support group appropriate for her age.

In Patty’s case, she acknowledged her fears about Stephanie’s online search, and explained the need to proceed cautiously. This opened a dialogue that helped mother and daughter search for the information side by side, in a productive way.

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