A recent post on the forums and numerous incoming ideas lead me to this topic: how are mothers and fathers enduring closed adoptions supposed to talk to their children about their placed child, the reasons surrounding the adoption and the possibility of reunion? My usual advice of telling your kids on the day that they’re born and making it part of your normal family life doesn’t quite apply for mothers and fathers who were warned to keep their secret. What can you do once the years have passed? What is an appropriate age? Are there right (or wrong!) words?
On the forums, birth parents chimed in with their own stories and the stories of others. Many waited to discuss this topic with their children until they were in the pre-teen or teen age category. (Apparently this has been some passed down advice over the years.) Many also told their children prior to any possibility of a reunion. One mother who waited until reunion to tell her thirty-somethings-aged children stated, simply:
If I had it to do all over they would have know my past history when they were old enough to understand.
There are issues with waiting, of course. Children may suddenly feel displaced in the birth order. They may be angry that you have kept a “secret.” They may worry that you will disappear from their lives as well. However, especially speaking of closed adoptions which are often steeped in secrecy, having early discussions about a placed sibling puts you, the parent, at risk for having your secret exposed. Children don’t always understand that certain matters are not to be discussed with the grocery store cashier, their teachers or in front of the church on Sunday mornings.
Some adoptees chimed into the thread as well, stating that they feared initiating the search process because they didn’t want to disrupt their birth parents’ family life, especially not knowing whether or not (any) parented children had been informed of the adoption. They offered the advice of discussing the topic “as soon as possible” and that making it part of their “norm” and reality would make it an easier adjustment.
The best example I’ve ever come across concerning this topic was from the blog, “Writing My Wrongs.” Prior to her reunion with her daughter, she found the words to discuss the adoption with her oldest son, then seven years of age. The post makes me fill with tears every time I read it. She follows the initial conversation with the questions that followed over the next couple of weeks. Some of the things the little boy said make me melt. And, quite frankly, the fact that her youngest will never have to wonder or be surrounded by secrets is equally heart-warming. I always send those asking questions about how to handle the discussion with kids to her post. While every family situation differs, reading positive stories about how one family handled it can only help buffer the courage to find the words.
How have you handled the discussion with your parented children? What was their reaction to the conversation? What was their reaction to your reunion?
For more, read:
2. Reunion Doubts.