Let's Talk Identity: Who am I? Where Did I Come From? Where am I Going?
By the time children reach pre-teen or teenage years, many parents no longer think about the role adoption has in what kids are thinking and feeling. However, just because they don’t – or won’t – talk about adoption, doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about it. Even with the best of intentions, parents can stifle what might be a helpful conversation by brushing off the subject or answering questions in terms that are too simplistic.
Hesitancy to talk to parents
Many teens are hesitant to talk to their parents about their thoughts and concerns, but rather wrestle with them silently. Oftentimes, this hesitancy derives from fear about hurting their parents’ feelings with questions about their birth family. Parents must understand that curiosity about birth relatives is not a reflection on them. Your child is wrestling with fundamental and potentially unresolved questions surrounding not only their birth relatives, but also the decision to place them for adoption and how much of who they are is related to their DNA vs. their upbringing. It’s important to discuss these questions, even if the information is not available, so that children can begin to cope with the idea that they may not get those answers.
What they are thinking and when
As children mature, their understanding of the implications of their adoption becomes more nuanced. If parents understand the typical progression of adoption identity formation through the stages of childhood development, they are better equipped to address it in a way that encourages children to talk about questions and concerns. Knowing what your child may be thinking or questioning helps you to better approach common adoption identity issues and stay part of the dialogue.