7. What will I tell my adoptive family?

Family group. What-will-I-tell-my-adoptive-family

Advice for an adopted person who is concerned about the impact of tracing birth family on their adoptive parents.

Written from our experience and expertise and also with help from research: The Adoption Reunion Handbook by Julia Feast, David Howe and Liz Trinder. (Wiley 2004 p.43)

  1. It is absolutely ideal to have the support of your adoptive parents and family, but you have to remember that it is not essential. You do not have to have their permission whilst at the same time this is always preferable. It is a case of calibrating your decision so that you manage the situation well and comfortably for yourself whilst at the same time taking into consideration the feelings of your adoptive parents.
  2. It may take time to tell your adoptive family. You may need to sound them out first on where they stand with your decision. Take your time in doing this and do not rush them. This process is not always easy for adoptive parents and siblings, but some are very happy with the idea. For some adoptive parents this idea causes them much upset as they may feel they are being replaced. It is normal to have various responses to this situation that interrupts the family life they have created.
  3. If your reunion does not work for you, it would be nice to have the support of your adoptive family. On the other hand, you could wait until the reunion has taken place, and in that way, you would not have to have troubled them if it was not necessary. It is entirely your decision, and you may want to engage our services for support with making this finely tuned change in your life before you take action.
  4. On the other hand, it may not sit comfortably with you to keep secrets from your adoptive parents. Take time to decide which is the best pathway for you.
  5. Adoptive parents may need the re-assurance that you will not abandon them or think that they have been bad parents. They will need your kindness and support as much as you need theirs. It is best to hold in mind that they will have done the best that they can do and also that nobody is perfect at their parenting.
  6. It is true that some adoptive parents can feel angry, upset and betrayed to feel that an adoptive person needs to find a birth parent. This is often very difficult to manage. Mostly they might be afraid of not being loved and valued. They may feel their efforts to bring you up have been worthless and need a lot of re-assurance. If you think this is likely to occur it may be best to consider whether or not you need to bother them with your life decision (assuming you are an adult with the capacity to make your own choices). It could be that you wish to keep the decision private.
  7. Try to understand the fears of adoptive parents, but at the same time you must make your own decision and put yourself first and you may have to stand alone for a while. If this is the case, you will need support from others like helpful friends or counselling from intermediary services. This is what we are here for.
  8. Try not to let the whole matter turn into conflict. Parents may feel very easy about the whole thing, or they could be hurt and upset, they could feel angry and rejecting towards you and you need to avoid being hurt by this. We advise our clients not to engage in arguments but to talk things over with us so that they can find a clear pathway through the whole matter. It is demanding enough for you in your search without having to manage a whole family crisis.
  9. Either way these big steps take time and careful consideration. You do have to put yourself first, but it will be more comfortable for you if people will come along with you. Don’t jump into the situation without careful thought and use our counselling service if it helps you to think more clearly. You could check out first how the adoptive parent may feel about the issue by putting the story into the third person and saying you knew someone who traced their birth mother and raising the subject in an indirect way.
  10. Imagine how you would feel if you were them – they might feel they are losing their most precious child – when in fact you are just exploring your identity that is so important. They may feel better once they realise this.
  11. Sometimes this will depend on the experience of your adoptive life. Adoption is not always perfect and some people it is true feel unhappy with their adoptive life experience. However, don’t let this be part of your decision making. It is best at all times to avoid creating conflict or hurt feelings, and you do have the right to act on your own in private if this makes things easier for everyone.
  12. Let us help you if you are floundering on this issue. Our counselling service is there to cover these problems.

Dr. Joanna North.

Consultant Psychotherapist Adoption.

September 2024.

Joanna North Adoption (Ofsted registered)

Family group. What-will-I-tell-my-adoptive-family