Explaining Adoption to a Teenager
It's important that children know they were adopted before they reach adolescence; it's too turbulent a time to suddenly surprise them with the news. Even if your teenage child already knows, however, he may still have questions.
Some adopted adults decide to seek out their birthparents when they grow up. Realize that the decision to search should be up to the adopted person, and not you. Don't press your grownup child to search. If she or he wants to search, try to be supportive and understanding. It's almost never a renunciation of you and your love.
In fact, although you might be fully comfortable with the adoption by the time your child is a teenager, your child may be more curious about it than ever. As the authors of Talking with Young Children About Adoption say, “By their children's adolescence [adoptive parents] have often reached a deep love of comfort and satisfaction about adoption and truly feel that it was “no big deal.” Yet the adolescent may question everything about adoption and need to acknowledge and work through a host of positive and negative feelings about it.”
Why talk to teenagers or adult children about adoption? There are several reasons:
- They might have unresolved questions or issues and be afraid to ask you.
- They might want to search for birthparents but not hurt your feelings.
- They might have forgotten the information you've given them before.
- They might have misunderstood information.
- Some information, such as medical or genetic background, will be helpful to them if they have biological children.
Bringing up the subject of adoption with an older child might be awkward. Try saying something like, “Joyce, I know you know you were adopted, but I'm wondering if you have any questions you want to talk about. A lot of people do. But of course, not everyone does.” Then listen. Maybe your child won't want to talk about it right away. (Or ever!) Or maybe she needs time to frame her questions—rather than blurt them out as children do.
It might also be a good idea to review what you've told her in the past and update it to the adult version.