Updated: Jul 4, 2021
Debbie Riley, author of the book Beneath the Mask: Understanding Adopted Teens recently wrote an excellent article in Adoptive Families magazine about six common questions that adoptees wrestle with in adolescence. One of the questions addressed is how adopted adolescents deal with missing or difficult information about their birth parents. Riley writes “Adopted children often have to face the reality that there is information they would like to know, but it may be unobtainable.”
How do we help our adolescent children with their birth parent questions when there may only be scant—if any—information? Not all adoptees—especially those adopted internationally—can successfully reconnect with his or her birthparent. This reminds me of the powerful movie called Lion that came out a few years ago. Based on a true story, it tells of a young man, adopted by an Australian couple who was able to eventually locate his birth mother at a remote village in India. He was able to do so, in part by doing an extensive Google Maps search. After my son and daughter (who are both form India) watched the movie together, my son remarked, “Dad it was a good movie, but it wasn’t realistic—people just don’t find their birth parents like that.”
Although my son had a valid point, there are situations—particularly with domestic adoptees—where they can attempt a birth parent search. Parents, if your adolescent son or daughter desires to search for his birth parent(s) do not discourage their desire. With the amazing technology such as 23 And Me and Ancestry.com, as well as social media resources, family searches—especially for domestic adoptees—have become easier. Remember to put ourself in your child’s shoes. Many adoptive parents have resisted encouraging their child to do a search because they either feel it will harm their relationship with their child, or that their child will not be able to handle any new unpleasant information they may discover. However, supporting your child in his or her search can actually strengthen the bond between the two of you, in addition to helping your child to find necessary resolve to his or her questions.