Judy Stigger, adoption therapist and adoptive mom, gives some insight into what members of the adoption circle have taught her about talking about adoption.
“If you remember when you were told, you were told too late.” I hear this often from adopted persons. Most adoptive parents appreciate that adoption should not be a secret. However, as the conversation moves from “we are so glad you are part of our family” to “your birth mother could not or did not keep you,” it becomes more emotionally complex and more difficult to talk about.
Its importance, however, does not diminish. This is true for all members of the adoption circle.
What I've Learned from Adopted People
Adopted people have taught me that, as they get older, a discussion that does not involve an acknowledgment of the feelings of loss in adoption lacks meaning. By age 7 or 8 most kids are ready to begin to learn more details of their story.
Open adoption can play a big role here. The painful parts of adoption, as well as the joys of watching a child grow and achieve, are much more credible when they come from birth parents themselves.
The adoptive parents’ role is to foster these relationships, even in difficult times. And to help kids define and carry the losses and the joys in adoption.
What I've Learned from Birth parents
Birth parents have taught me that no one places a child for adoption casually or without pain. Managing that pain can look different from person to person, but everyone wants their child to know that they made a difficult and painful decision – they did not cast their child away.
In many circumstances, emotionally mature parents hang in there through their own grief to be available to and supportive of the adoptive family. But if they cannot be, it is important for you to share their story and their pain with your child.
What I've Learned from Adoptive Parents
As an adoptive parent, like many others, I wished I could spare my child the painful aspects of adoption. I also wished I could be the only mom my child needed or desired. But when I tried to focus on only the joys of adoption, what my child heard was that he should not talk to me about the questions and aspects of adoption that he found painful.
When I talk to parents who don’t have openness – they want it. They want it to help answer their child’s questions. To help stop their child’s pain. So while we have understandable fears about openness, we have to move past them.