When your adoptee expresses an interest in searching for and/or connecting with their birth parent or family, this can feel uncomfortable and challenging to navigate and maybe even fully support. For adoptees, connection to biological ties can be incredibly life giving, identify affirming and healthy. One of the best things adoptive parents can do is take an active and supportive role in this, no matter how difficult it can feel.
Here are few things adoptive parents should keep in mind during this process:
Ensure Open Communication: Foster open and honest communication with your adopted child about their origins and the possibility of searching for their birth family from the beginning. As your adoptee grows, make sure to support and affirm the realness and normalness of desiring to know their birth family.
Respond With Empathy: Unless you have been adopted, it is impossible to fully understand what adoption feels like and the challenges that adoptees face. The process of searching for and meeting birth parent(s) or family can be incredibly overwhelming and terrifying for adoptees, and while as adoptive parents you may not understand that, responding with empathy is crucial. Your adoptee needs to know that you are in it with them, even if you don’t know what it feels like.
Respect Your Adoptee’s Wishes: Recognize and respect your adopted child’s feelings and wishes regarding the search for their birth family. Some adoptees may be eager to reconnect, while others may be apprehensive. All adoptees will have different feelings regarding birth family searches, affirming and acknowledging those feelings is key.
Educate Yourself: As an adoptive parent, you can benefit from learning about the emotional complexities surrounding adoption, search, and reunion. Understanding the potential challenges can help you provide better support.
Seek Professional Guidance: If necessary, adoptive parents may benefit from seeking guidance or support from adoption professionals, therapists, or support groups experienced in handling reunions. They can provide valuable insights and help navigate the emotional aspects of the process. As an adoptive parent, your feelings matter in this as well, but you want to make sure that you are not projecting those on your adoptee. The focus needs to stay on the adoptee and this may mean you need to find a safe place to process fear or any other emotions you may be having.
You may also want to consider involving a counselor or therapist experienced in adoption-related issues to support both you and your adoptee during the search and reunion process.
Create a Supportive Environment: Create a supportive environment for your adopted child to express their feelings, thoughts, and concerns without judgment. Your adoptee benefits greatly from your support and your ability to hold space for their feelings throughout this process. Creating a supportive and safe environment is crucial during this journey for them.
Respect Privacy and Boundaries: Understand and respect the privacy and boundaries that your adoptee has created. Some adoptees may want you to play an active role in this process and maybe even meet their birth family, others will want to navigate this journey on their own. Allow your adoptee autonomy in choosing what feels best for them. Creating boundaries together before this process begins can also be helpful for adoptive parents so you do not overstep.
Prepare for Various Outcomes: Be prepared for a range of possible outcomes and come up with ways to support your adoptee after this process. Reunions can be positive, challenging, or a mix of both. Adoptees may enter this reunion with high expectations and may feel a wide range of emotions ranging from joy to grief and disappointment after meeting with their birth family. It may take them weeks or months to process this experience, as an adoptive parent, plan ahead on how you’ll provide ongoing support for your adoptee after this.
While no birth family search and reunion will be the same, it is incredibly important for adoptive parents to acknowledge the magnitude of embarking on this journey. It takes a lot of courage and vulnerability for adoptees to enter into this space and support, affirmation and safety are primal needs. Walking this journey with your adoptee may feel hard but it is a necessary role for adoptive parents.
By: Ramya Gruneisen