Questions From Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew

We had so many great questions come in during the webinar on Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Parents Knew that we didn't have time to answer them all during the webinar. Below are some additional questions and answers brought up on this topic.

Q:  Do you have any advice for parents of families who have mixed families with both adopted and biological children? 

A:  I have found that in terms of interaction between the kids, adoption doesn't tend to have a huge impact. Sometimes when children are younger they may say things like 'Mom loves you best because you're adopted; no, she loves you best because you're her biological kid.' Adoption is just the word they stick in there."

One really watch out for is going overboard with special treatment for the adopted child, which can have negative effects on both adopted and biological kids. We as parents become so worried about the adopted child's not feeling wanted or a true part of the family. If you treat your adopted child as being special, then your biological children might say, 'Wait a minute, am I not so special?” Also, it's not healthy to exempt adopted kids from tasks all kids hate, like household chores. Treating them differently can make them feel like a guest in the family.

Your children are your children, they just happened to enter your family in different ways.

Q: How do we appropriately/gently address the birth parents when there wasn’t a plan on the bio mother’s part, the kids were taken away from the addicted mother? 

A:  It is understandable to want to protect your children from difficult details of their adoption. But, as we all know, most secrets eventually do come out and you want to make sure that ALL parts (both good and bad) are shared by you and not by another family member or friend. When secrets are shared, the fact that they remained secrets tells the child that they should feel ashamed. Children, who enter your home by adoption, do need to know their entire adoption story, not just the good parts. So the big question is, when should you share that difficult information? 3 things to consider: THE RIGHT AGE – rather than waiting to the difficult teen years, you may consider sharing difficult or hard information when the child is around 8/9 years old. This allows the child a few years to work through/handle this difficult information before becoming a teen, as well as allowing you to emphasize that “poor choices made by 1 generation are not genetically predestined for repetition in the next” says Holly Can Gulden, adoption professional. HOW TO TELL – since sharing this information may be difficult, you may wish to consult adoption professional or counselor for help.  And of course, check the facts before sharing this difficult information with your child. If the information is recorded in the adoption file, but you or the caseworker doesn’t believe that it is true, you can say something like “ people seemed to think that your birth mother was doing drugs because……but it may or may not be true……..”.  Be aware of your own feeling and judgments even if you never say a word, your child will pick up your feelings through body language or facial expressions. It’s better to admit to yourself and your child how you feel and then, as a family, practice separating feelings about the birth parents’ actions from the birth parent as a person. EVALUATE YOUR CHILD’S CURRENT FUNCTIONING – some times are better than others for sharing difficult and hard information. If your child is struggling with a negative self – image, is experiencing anger issues, etc – you need to help your child through these difficult issues before sharing this hard information. PLAN WHAT YOU WILL SAY – the goal is to be open, honest, and caring. Convey the information with as few biases as possible.

Q: How do you recommend answering questions about drug abuse by the birth parents?

A: Refer to Questions #2.

Q: How open should we be with our daughter’s birth mom? Are visits confusing as the child gets older? We have seen her several times and our daughter is 16 months old. Her birth mother just had a baby of her own this week and is engaged.  Will this make it more hurtful for our child to feel even more rejected. 

A: The degree of openness with your daughter’s birth mother is completely up to your family – some families are very open, while other families are not as comfortable being that open. So the degree of openness is different for each family. If you have specific questions about that, I would be more than happy to visit with you. Visits with the birth family are generally rewarding and fulfilling for most adoptive families and birth families. If there comes a time that your child is uncomfortable with the visits, you are again welcome to contact me and I will help you with those issues. Most of our birth parents do have other children, either before the adoptee is born, or afterwards or even before and afterwards the adoptee’s birth. When explaining about birth mother’s children, you may choose to refer to these children as birth mother’s children rather than your child’s brother or sister.  This will help your child to understand and feel that there are truly exactly where they were meant to be “in your forever family”. They will understand at some point, that they are biologically related to their birth mother’s children, but not referring to them as their brother/sister will help them to see themselves as a true member of your family.

Q: My 2 sons were born in Guatemala. They are currently 8 and 10 years old.  Neither boy has expressed interest in searching for their birth families. I wonder if I should approach them about searching for their birth families?

A: You are certainly welcome to “drop pebbles” explaining that if and when they are older and ready to possibly make contact with their birth family, that you would certainly understand and be happy to help. This puts the ball in their court and allows them to search if and when they are ready to make that step.

Q: My child’s adoption case is somewhat difficult because she was born as a result of her birth mother being raped by her brother. This is information that I never intend to disclose to my child.  I understand its important to be honest though do you feel it’s okay to withhold this information from her.

A: Please refer to the second question for information. Then, I do believe that this is information that needs to be shared by you. Once your daughter is an adult, she can result a copy of her own adoption records which will contain that information. So, it is always best that hard and difficult information always needs to be shared by the parents with the child to maintain that trust relationship with your child.

Q: We have adopted teen boys who went to school right away.  Of course, the teachers and staff and even the students have lots of information about them because they needed it to prepare to receive the boys.  How do we address feelings that may come from older children who have entered a small community and school where everyone knows their story?

A: You can start off by being alert to your child’s emotions and feelings and asking gentle question to keep your sons engaging in conversation about entering this community as older children in which most people know about their adoptions. By spending special time with each of your sons, will hopefully provide an opportunity for attaching and bonding in which they would bring you into their world to see their adoption through their eyes.

You assure them that it is ‘OK” to ask questions about their adoption and that you are always available to discuss this at any time. You will probably have to repeat this permission many times. You are also welcome to “role play” with your sons some of the most common questions that their friends may ask them, so that they are prepared with answers thus preparing them for those awkward questions. This provides them with the power to decide how to these type of answers questions.

Q: What are your thoughts on Facebook and other social media sites when it comes to posting about adoptions? It seems that everything is posted online (even adoption stories) and people do not realize what the consequences down the line may be?

A: Absolutely true! Please remember that this is your child’s story, not your story. Your adoption story ends when their story begins. When your children are old enough, you need to have conversations with them about how they feel adoption questions from family and friends and even strangers who may ready about their adoption/birth family on a social media site.  You can even decide as a family how to answer those inappropriate questions from friends and family and how comfortable your family is sharing your child’s story on social media.  Your child may go through a stage when they want everyone to know about their adoption and then go through a stage when they don’t want anyone to know as it makes them feel different, thus be careful what is put out that as what it is shared, then it will always be available.

Q: What is your teenager is angry and says “you are not my real mother”, and “I want to go live with my “real” mom.”? How do we as parents, steer these comments in a positive way?

A: When teens are angry, they are probably going to use whatever they have available because they are mad and want to slash out at someone. Most teen adoptees will use these words at some time or another, so don’t be shocked when you hear. (Just like you would have used those words on your parents, if you were adopted!:-).  My suggestion is to always be calm and say things like “ok then if I’m not your real mom, then I don’t have to give you a real allowance this week”.  After everyone’s emotions have leveled back down, You can process with you child about what happened and say that “he is exactly where he is supposed to be – a member of your forever family and that you are so happy that he came into your family through adoption.” This assurance will help him see and believe that you are indeed his “real mom”.

Q: What is your suggestion when dealing with questions about bio siblings who remained with the birth parents?  Siblings maybe born before the adopted child and after the adopted child who remained with the birth mom.  More specifically, how much do you emotionally protect, your child with your answers without altering the truth?

A: Great question, as most of the child that are placed for adoption today, will have biological siblings who are parented by the birth parent(s). My suggestion is to refer to those children as “birth mother’s children” rather than “your biological siblings”. Your child will understand at some point, that they are biologically related, but siblings are “people who buy mom and dad anniversary cards”. When you make this clear distinction, your child will probably accept the fact that their birth parent(s) are parenting these kids without trying to figure out “why did birth mother place them for adoption but none of the other children.” Using this terminology will allow your child to mature enough for you to be able to gently remind them that “ they were always meant to be a part of your family” and that they are “exactly where they were always meant to be, a part of your family, in addition “their birth mother knew and believed this information which is why she made the adoption plan for them that she did.”

Q: What do you say when your child wants to visit her birth country, but that country is not currently safe to travel to?

A: Great question, as probably most adoptees will want to one day visit their birth country – you are welcome to say “remember that Dad and I have always promised that we would be more than happy to take you back to ____________ to see where you were born, but that right now it is not safe to travel there. So once the travel ban has been lifted, we will start make travel plans as I know you are ready to see and learn all about birth county.” If they ask why is not safe to travel, you are welcome to answer that question in very simple language, softly explaining what is going on in that particular country at this point.


Gladney Center for Adoption
6300 John Ryan Drive | Fort Worth, Texas 76132-4122

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