Updated: Jun 23
Adoption is a beautiful thing. Adoption is a kind thing. It is a needed thing. When hearing stories of adoption there is often joy and celebration, which is exciting and the expected response. However, people who are not in the midst of the adoption process often gloss over the hardships that come with adoption.
You see, in order for adoption to happen, a family must be broken first. The child that is being adopted had a family and a life before the welcome home balloons and cake that announced their arrival. No matter the age of the child, there is no getting rid of their history and past. It can be hard to hold space for both of these narratives. It is uncomfortable and many do not know how to create space for those hard conversations.
Every adopted person will one day reconcile with their past before adoption. Depending on their age and circumstances, the day may come sooner for some than others. As an adoptive parent or as someone who is close to an adopted person, there are ways to help them navigate their past and help them find meaning for it in the present.
Create space for the conversation about their past and their biological family, and be open-minded.
Navigating conversations around this subject may be awkward or tricky. However, shutting down or avoiding the subject sends signals to the child that this is not a safe subject to talk about.
Adoption is a life-changing event. There needs to be an outlet for the child to express their feelings and views on it without fear of disappointing or being seen as ungrateful. Making it a taboo subject may lead to the child internalizing a lot of these feelings, which can lead to further problems down the line.
Recognize that oftentimes your adopted child's curiosity about their past is not a reflection on you.
Just because the child is curious about their past does not mean they feel that your efforts were not good enough. If you are the adoptive parent or are close to the adopted person in another way it is understandable that you may feel threatened by the child’s curiosity about their past.
After all, you invested so much time, energy, and effort into them just as you would your biological child. In your eyes, they are part of your family and nothing could change that. That is the beautiful thing about adoption, but the beauty of it does not change or cover up how their life started off.
There has to be space for both and figuring that out together will be more productive than trying to cover it up or run from it.
Remind your adopted child that it is okay to be curious.
We all have a family we come from. The stories that are passed down along with the genetic traits play a prominent role in who we grow up to be. Many times we will even try to learn more about our past through genetic means like Ancestry DNA and 23 and Me. It is a natural curiosity that helps us feel connected to others and ourselves.
The same goes for adopted children. Their stories are unique and complex. It may take a lot of time to unravel and understand their past. They may not be ready for it right now. That is okay too. It is their story, and however they want to approach it is okay. There is not a correct formula to navigate this journey. Be willing to follow their lead and bring a non-judgmental viewpoint to the situation.
Honesty and openness will go a long way in having these conversations. It is okay for feelings to arise for both you and the adopted person. Sit in the discomfort and see what it brings to light. These conversations can deepen connection with the adopted person because you are acknowledging and engaging with an important piece of their identity.
Also know that whether you are an adoptive person or an adoptive parent, there are others out there that have similar experiences that can be difficult to talk about with someone who doesn’t “get it.” You are not alone in this situation.
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