Telling the Truth to Your Adopted Child
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Those are not your real parents, you’re adopted.” Many children hear this news every day. Many children have been put up for adoption for reasons unknown to them, which can make them feel unwanted and alone.
Once adopted, a child has to adapt to new surroundings and become accustomed to a new family. Some families take on a “closed adoption,” meaning that actual contact and legal relationships between the child and the biological parents are not permitted or the news of adoption is hidden from the child. But a closed adoption can have a negative impact later on in a child’s life. When these children grow and discover they are adopted, they may have questions and a desire to find their biological parents. When this moment happens, the adoptive parents can opt to be supportive and help their adoptive child find and connect to his or her biological parents or not.
Which is the best approach? An extensive study concluded that sensitive support of adoptive mothers helps adoptive children continue to be attached to their adoptive moms in the first 14 years their lives. (Beijersbergen, Juffer, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & van IJzendoorn, 2012). This means that children whose mothers support them will feel more secure and grow closer to them those who receive less support.
Children adopted by birth are oblivious to being adopted and past relations with their biological parents, so it’s easier for adoptive parents to raise them. With older children, it’s emotionally difficult, especially if they were in a closed adoption and find out that they were adopted. Many adoptive parents do support and help their child get in contact with his or her biological parents. These adoptive parents are more prone to have an open adoptive parent plan, which helps the children to be more emotionally balanced and feel that they are being supported through a life-changing declaration.
However, not all parents are supportive in helping their children get questions answered when they find out that they are adopted. This is when a closed adoption can have a negative effect. Some adoptive parents may not let their children have an opportunity to know their biological parents. This can make a child be emotionally unbalanced and start to conclude that his or her adoptive parents don’t want to help him or her, which in turn can lead to detachment from the child towards adoptive parents. This happened to a close friend of mine who was adopted at a young age. His adoptive parents kept a closed adoption. He knew he was adopted, but he was at the point where he wanted to meet his biological parents. His parents didn’t really support him, and with the lack of their support, he ended up leaving his home and becoming independent at the age of 14.
Open adoption may be scary for adoptive parents because they may think that they will lose their child’s affection. But when children see they have the support of their adoptive parents and that they will do anything to see them happy, children grow in affection, attachment and security.
Monserrat Perez is a participant of Uplift Plus at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, a program that seeks out high-achieving high school students who have been historically underrepresented in higher education. Her editorial — written for her freshman English class this summer — is among the first in a series of posts by other Uplift Plus students to be published by Carolina Parent. The editorials, assigned by UNC English teacher Moira Marquis, asked students to research a contemporary social issue for young adults and share their findings.