May 17th, 2013
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secretWho’s job is it to tell people our child’s adoption story?  Is there even such a thing as a right to know when it comes to a person’s adoption status?  Of course the child herself or himself has a right to know, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  What about the child’s relatives?  Friends of the family?  Parents’ coworkers?

There are situations when it is abundantly clear that an adoption took place.  The parents may have needed to take a lot of time off work for travel, or a group of people see the mother on a regular basis and go from seeing her slim one day and with a baby the next, or the parents look nothing like their adopted child.  But what if there’s a scenario where there really is no obvious opportunity when disclosing the adoption is necessary?  Who really ought to know?

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For one thing, if a close relative may not be fully supportive of the adoption, and it’s possible to avoid telling that person, it may be a good idea to consider this option.  Perhaps the relationship can thrive without this information while the child is young.  Once the child is old enough to choose whom to tell, it can be up to her or him to make that decision.  Hopefully, by then, the relationship with the relative in question had already solidified and this information won’t negatively affect it.

If a person is known not to keep things private, then it is as good as done to tell everyone by telling this person.  If there is anyone parents want to keep the information from, it may be necessary to keep the information from this motor-mouth as well.

Finally, parents may simply not want to have adoption qualify every single conversation they have about parenting.  Perhaps it’s not so much that they don’t want to tell, but that they want to regain some level of normalcy in life, especially if they adopted after long-term infertility.  Mothers especially may simply want to fit into a mom’s group without being “the adoptive mom”.  Those pursuing adoptive breastfeeding may want to avoid ignorant comments.  Or parents may simply want to dodge the often rude comments from people who seem surprised at how “normal” the parent-child relationship is between them and their adopted child.

I think it is possible, depending on a family’s unique circumstances, to be fully open about the adoption with the child from the beginning, while at the same time being judicious with who knows outside the immediate family.  Ultimately, the child has the right to tell whomever she or he wants to know.  Until then, I don’t see why adoptive parents can’t simply fail to mention this detail of how their child joined their family.  Just like a cesarian birth may not come up automatically except when the topic warrants it, so too, I believe it can be with adoption.  If it comes up, great.  If not, don’t force it.

What are your thoughts on this?

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One Response to “Telling Others about the Adoption”

  1. J says:

    This is an interesting thought.

    I was told I was adopted right from the get-go. As a child, I didn’t have any understanding of discresion (as is common with very young children). I’m glad my parents told me right away, and I never minded other people knowing my brother and I are adopted (different bio parents). It’s a unqiue part of my history. As an adult, it rarely comes up in conversation unless someone spouts an adoption stereotype (like, “they’re all damaged” or something like that). I approach such situations with an open mind, probe a little deeper (“What makes you think that?” or “Why do you feel that way?” can be great tools to help depend people’s understanding). Then it usually comes out that I’m adopted. When I was a kid, I already felt ‘different’, so I assumed everyone knew I was adopted. I looked very little like my parents, but yet, people that knew, usually marveled at the whole process. Those that didn’t support it stayed away, so it wasn’t really an issue growing up.

    We’re considering adopting older children, and our ethnicity is open, so it’s entirely possibly it’ll be obvious that we aren’t a biologically related family.

    A few mottos that helped me out along the way is:

    “Science can create people, but love creates a family.”
    or
    “Blood may be thicker than water, but love is stronger than both.”

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