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I recently attended a webinar with adult adoptees talking about the life-long impact of their adoption and how their experience might help adoptive parents to avoid or help their children through some of the potential issues. It was striking and, to be honest, rather disconcerting from an adoptive parent’s point of view as to how traumatic these adults still found the experience of adoption. I do believe that, to some extent, these very individual views and feelings have to be put into perspective. Everybody is unique and deals with life in different ways. So, rather than despairing at the inevitability of my pre-teen adoptive son suffering from mental health issues as an adult, I think it is worth reminding myself that the views and hurt expressed do not have to 100% reflect what he will feel about himself or about his adoption in the future. 

For adoptive parents, some of the aspects that may cause long-term trauma are out of our control, e.g. the length and level of neglect that our children have been through before they came to us or the specific reasons behind the adoption. Of course, some of these reasons will be harder to explain and process than others. However, there are aspects we can control and issues we can avoid, e.g. how secretive we are ourselves about the topic of adoption. And the one thing that has come out of the webinar for me is how important honesty and openness are. 

Our children will need to know as much as they can and as much as we can give them about their biological family. We are obviously the judicators of what we should tell them when. We have been lucky, I guess, that we have been able to meet with the birth mother (a one-off occasion so far) and we have yearly letterbox contact that our son is aware of. The contact has always been positive. However, although I think of myself as a very honest person, I know from my own experience how difficult ‘life-story work’ can be in the context of our daily lives – no matter how important I think it is.

I would say, we have had a very ‘normal’ family life so far with very few issues arising directly from adoption. So, it often seems artificial to bring the topic up and I also think that it is a very fine balance to strike between honesty and unsettling a child that may already or still be unsettled. As far as we are concerned, we have made our son’s background part of the conversation when it seemed to fit, saying things like: “oh, that was when you were still with x” or “that was before you were with us”. More often than not, it doesn’t seem to register. But it does. This week, out of the blue, our son decided to write a ‘diary entry’ (something he never does – plus, he dislikes writing) about ‘my life’. All sorts of interesting little details featured in those two paragraphs or so. It was encouraging to know that he knows and that it does not seem to be a big deal. Fingers crossed, it will stay that way.




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