For adopted kids, piecing together their own story can be like tackling an especially challenging puzzle. By understanding some of the challenges your child may be facing, you are better equipped to help your child fit the pieces together.
1. Wondering why
If children don’t have a relationship in which they can ask their birth mom why she chose adoption, they are left to wonder. What was wrong with them or with their birth parents? Did they do something wrong? Because circumstances around adoption can be so complex, even kids in an open adoption may have a lot of “why” questions. Knowing why you are where you are is a big piece of knowing who you are.
2. Understanding their roots
Some kids immerse themselves in their birth culture to try and get a better understanding of who they are. They may want to find clubs and organizations reflecting their culture or race to become a part of, learn the language or maybe even travel to their home country. They may even experiment with the stereotypes they see on TV of people of a particular ethnicity or economic status.
A young woman adopted from Colombia related that immersing herself in Latino culture allowed her to imagine very specific characteristics, even images, of her birth parents. She then felt a connection to them that she had previously lacked.
3. Talking to others about being adopted
For conspicuous families this comes up early on – but typically parents are there to help a child sort out when and how to respond. School projects are often the first time kids talk about their adoption to a larger group, without their parents present. Deciding how much of your story to share, when to share it and with whom can be a tough decision at any age. But it certainly is sharing a big piece of who you are.
Parents may struggle to balance encouraging their child to maintain some privacy about sensitive information with not causing their child to feel shame about that information.
4. Learning to live with what they don’t know
There can be a lot of unanswered questions in adoption. Kids might never know their birth parents, the circumstances around their adoption or even their real birth date. Part of piecing together a strong identity may be learning to live with not knowing some pretty important things about oneself.
5. Deciding what role adoption plays in life
No matter how happy a child is with their adoptive family, or how young they were when placed, being adopted is part of their identity. When it comes to the surface, and how often it’s discussed may change over time, but it’s always a piece of the puzzle.
Learn more about Judy and The Cradle’s Center for Lifelong Adoption Support.