Please be mindful of what you say about an adoptee’s birth parents and extended birth family – regardless the circumstances or how you personally feel. Remember that this person shares genes and inheritable aspects with that family of origin.
From an adoptee – As a child I internalized the messages about how I was so much better off adopted, that I was convinced my mother must have been a very evil person. I thought perhaps a witch or a prostitute and would tell everyone this. I was secretly petrified I would be just like her. (Note: she’s not, she was a vulnerable woman who was not supported to keep me.)
Of course, it is known that children have no filters or sense of decorum and will often repeat the perspectives of adults around them – thus comes this sad recollection. One of my earliest memories is from when I was 5 years old and a classmate told me I was adopted because my biological mom didn’t love me. It was so hurtful and it took me a long time to get past it.
The same advice applies to one parent or family bashing the other parent or family. Regardless of whether these are biological, foster families, adoptive family. All of these are part of a child’s history and life experience and when you do this, you are saying in effect that a part of the child is equally bad.
Quite a long time ago, I learned not to ask potentially embarrassing questions. In fact, I rarely ask what could be defined as a “personal” question. If someone wants to tell me about whatever, it is their prerogative not my right.
So I was reading about some of the clueless questions adoptees sometimes receive –
Where are your real parents ?
Couldn’t your parents have their own kids ?
Are your adoptive parents angry you reunited ?
“Was your birth mother on drugs ?”
In the book The Declassified Adoptee, she gives those who just have to know better ways of asking these kinds of questions. She suggests that “Good questions are strengths first, person first. They consider the feelings of the person answering a question first, above the necessity for information.”
She adds “It is ALWAYS important to validate an adoptee’s membership within ALL of the families that she identifies with.”
As the child of two adoptees, who after 6 decades of life, has only recently discovered my biological, genetic relations (mostly cousins and one aunt), I get it. I love the adoptive families I grew up with and have shared life experiences with. I love that I now know people who share my DNA. I love them all, differently, for different reasons but love is love.
The adopted child has many challenges but one of the most unique may be this sense that they should be grateful to the adoptive parents for having taken them into the family.
Often unacknowledged is the loss that precedes all adoptions.
That loss is profound regardless of the reason the child was separated from its original parents to begin with. In that separation the child experiences many complicated emotions. There can be differences between the child and the adoptive family that become ever more obvious with the passage of time and that no one is at fault for – other than the fact of the adoption.
Such differences can include – ethnicity, physical features, preferences, and intellectual abilities, or being told they are somehow “special” or the “chosen one” by the family. Simply being adopted sets the child apart from most of their peers.
A syndrome referred to as being caused by the adoption itself leads to a strong desire to understand the mystery of having been adopted in the first place. A desire to know the people one has been born of and the conflicted feelings about wanting to know people who it seems to the child they have been rejected or abandoned by.
Even when the adoption is “open” (both sets of parents are at the least in contact with one another) or a “reunion” with the biological family occurs, differences in nurturing and life experiences may make even one’s genetic relations seem alien.