Ask AF: Secrecy or Privacy?

If I don't tell strangers that my daughter is adopted, am I teaching her that adoption should be kept a secret?

Q: We adopted our daughter when she was six (she’s now nine). Obviously, people who knew us beforehand know that she was adopted, but it’s not obvious from the way we look and we don’t tend to mention it to people we’ve met since. Sometimes I feel like I am keeping a secret — should I make a point of telling? I don’t think my daughter tells people, either.


A: There really isn’t a right or wrong answer to your question. In most cases, it’s best to take cues from your child. Some kids enjoy talking about their adoption, but your daughter’s reaction is more typical. Most children don’t like to feel they are “different.” You might ask your daughter how she feels, and whether she tells anyone.

By not sharing your daughter’s life information, you are protecting her privacy — not keeping a secret — and letting her decide how much she wants to share, and with whom. Once you tell one person, you lose control over who knows. Having control over life information becomes increasingly important to an adoptee as she gets older.