September 25th, 2007
Posted By:
Categories: Closed Adoption

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:

1. Talking About Closed Adoption.

2. Reunion Doubts.

3. How to Talk to a Child About Adoption.

Photo Credit.

4 Responses to “Discussing a Closed Adoption With Your Parented Children”

  1. thomasina says:

    My parented children were not surprised. The year before my son found me (and my husband and I were having this conversation with them), after years of grieving and unrelenting guilt, I had become so depressed I attempted suicide. My children’s response when told that they had a much older brother that I had been forced to relinquish for adoption by my parents, the agency and the doctor was that now they understood why I had been so sad the year before. They said that they knew me well enough to know that only a losing a child would have caused me to sink low enough to do what I did. Somehow P’s appearance was not a surprise to them.

  2. thomasina says:

    I recently learned that a dear friend was a birthmother. I found out because she finally told her two grown daughters. One of them posted her desire to meet her brother, lost to closed adoption, on her myspace page.
    I was quite surprised by this revelation. My friend and I carpooled, co-led Girl Scout troops and her daughters and mine were very close. She was around when I was reunited with P and knows the situation well. I’m really surprised she didn’t tell me what had happened to her. In fact, you could have knocked me over with a feather. My daughter thinks that either she couldn’t bear to talk about it or she thought I might judge her (my adoption was coerced, hers was not). Regardless, I won’t ask her about it. That’s not my place.
    I also learned that she has tried and tried to find him, but has been unsuccessful. I hear that she believes he may be deceased (photo in the paper). He would be over 30 now, if living. Awful, awful.

  3. I’m sorry, lilraskels, but your comment doesn’t make sense. This particular post is for mothers who have placed a child for adoption, often in the closed adoption era, trying to decide when and how to discuss that placement with their parented child. I think you misunderstood. Or your comment was just completely off base. Either way, no one on this blog has ever suggested that children choose between parents.

    Have a nice day!

  4. lilraskels says:

    Hum a secret?? This is crazy. I know you want to wait until your child is stable in their own mental state but what is to be said it if was kept a secret? The life was a lie? You dont want to remind the chidlren every day that they were adopted but denying them a part of who they are is just lying to yourself. Every child and every case is different but the children have to know. When they turn 18 and want to meet the other parents then you want to be able to be there in case there is let down. You dont want that child to have to choose between their parents. I want to be friends with all parties involved and make this an easy time for my child. I will be the one to mend the heart if they are disappointed after all I am their mother.

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