Dear Angel: Do you have any suggestions for adoptive parents to support their children when their search isn’t easy?
Dear Friend: Great Question! The task of helping your child search for their birth family can be a difficult journey—It can take an emotional toll when searching appears to hit a wall. No search is exactly alike. Here are some tips for supporting your child in their search.
Help your children in the search process
Sit down with your children and come up with a plan together. Let them ask questions and write each one on a paper. Come up with ideas together and make a check list of places to search. Adoptions RSS is a wealth of information in the searching process. More than anything, make time for your child’s search. Put aside time on regular basis to discuss progress. Go out for donuts on Saturday morning or a coffee outing on Sunday afternoon. Show your child that their search is of equal importance to you.
Get your original birth certificate from the state your child’s adoption was finalized
Contact the Adoption Agency
Search for Existing Adoption Files and Information
Sign up for Adoption Reunion Registries
Use Social Media for Adoption Searches
Use DNA Testing for Difficult Adoption Searches
Let your child know you are a team. It’s normal to feel pangs of jealously or hurt when your child wants to actively search for birth parents. Don’t let jealous feelings get in the way of a thorough search. The alternative is for your child to search on their own and feel isolated in their thought process. Be cautiously optimistic. Don’t get not too over-excited and proclaim, “Everything is going to work out fantastic!” nor be a discourager, “This is a complete waste of time.” Tell your child the process may take time. Prepare your child for the possibility of a difficult road ahead—but let them know that you are there for the journey and won’t easily give up.
Talk, Talk, and Talk some more
The most important thing is to comfort your child when they feel discouraged or disappointed. Hold them close and tell them they are loved. Allow them to express their hurts and disappointment. Have an open dialogue with your child. Just because your child isn’t talking—doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking about their search process and the hope of a reunion.
Help them find ways to express their feelings in a positive manner. Give them a journal and let them express their hopes, dreams, sorrows. Help them connect with other adoptees. Research adoptee support groups that encourage open and helpful discussion. Some of my favorites are: Adoption RSS Adoptees Support Group, Adoptees Connect and Ask an Adoptee.
When Birth Parents Disappoint
Sometimes a search or reunion ends in disappointment. Before assuming all hope for a relationship is lost, remember that a birth parent may still be in the middle of their healing process. Some birth parents are ready to pursue a relationship with a birth child from day one. Others take more time. For me, it took ten years for me to heal from the guilt and shame associated with making an adoption plan and feel whole again so that I could have a healthy relationship with my birth daughter. Every birth parent heals different. But don’t give up—just because a birth parent isn’t ready to have a relationship today doesn’t mean they won’t be ready another day.
Sometimes its best to start small. Some of the simplest forms of communication can lead to a beautiful relationship. Exchange letters. Set-up occasional phone calls. Arrange for a visit once per year. Ask your child what they are most comfortable with and make a plan that works for all parties involved.
When Reunion Goes Great
Be happy for your child. I know it sounds obvious—but sometimes this can be difficult. After a wonderful reunion , my ten-year-old son told me, “When I’m 18, I’m going to live with my birth mom.” Ouch. Instead of sulking in feelings of envy and hurt, I smiled and told him I understood. I knew my son’s heart. I know he loves me. I also understand his natural desire to have a relationship with his birth mom. Someday he may choose to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas with his birth family. He may even go on a vacation with them. Deep down, I want him to have a lasting relationship with his birth family and siblings. I want him to feel loved unconditionally by both his adoptive family and birth family.
Best wishes on your searching process! Your child will be forever grateful for your continued support and encouragement during this journey.