During the early grade-school years, our children are curious about their adoption story, and they readily accept most of the answers they are given. But by the time they reach adolescence, their questions grow deeper as they seek to understand their past. They may wonder, “Why was I given away?” “Was there something wrong with me?” or “Do my birth parents regret losing me?”
Parents are often caught off-guard when hard questions begin to surface. They may be surprised by the complexity of the questions and not know how to respond. If their teen gives them the silent treatment, they may believe she doesn’t want to talk to them, preferring to confide in peers and other trusted adults instead.
Teens often appear emotionally distant, even when they desperately want to talk to their parents. That’s why you must be proactive in initiating conversations. Here’s how.
- Show your teen you’re willing to talk about adoption. Don’t wait for your son or daughter to approach you. If you face rejection, don’t give up. Adoption issues can be emotional, and discussing them will require patience.
- Respect your child’s feelings. Sometimes teens want to discuss things that make you uncomfortable. For example, they may express a keen interest in, or desire to meet, their birth parents. Before showing disapproval, try to understand why you feel hurt and discomfort. Imagine what it’s like to be adopted, and let your child know you support her.
- Share all available information. Many parents want to shield their kids from painful aspects of their past. But teens should know as much as possible about their birth families. You can help your teen make sense of difficult information and offer support.
- Help your teen make connections to his past. Many adoptees find comfort in learning about places associated with their birth family. Some teens wish to revisit their birthplace or birth country, while others want to contact their birth family directly. If this is the case, they may ask you to help them conduct a search.