For an adoptee in a closed adoption, the decision to search for birth parents can be a difficult one. For some people, it’s something they’ve always wanted to do. Others have never had much desire to search. It’s your adoption story, so the choice is entirely yours.
Although the adoption search is centered around the adoptee, one of the most common fears for many people who are thinking about beginning a search for their biological family is, “What about my (adoptive) parents? How will this affect them?”
Most people, adoptees included, have a loving relationship with their parents and want to avoid damaging that relationship. If you’re worried about how searching for your birth parents will affect your (adoptive) parents, here’s what you need to know:
Common Fears Adoptees Have About Adoption Searches and Their Parents
When you’re first considering searching for your birth family, you’ll likely experience a wide range of emotions and questions. Some of those are probably about your (adoptive) family. Those initial worries may be specific to your situation, but might include:
- “I don’t know how my parents will react.”
- “I worry my parents will see this as me somehow loving them less.”
- “Will my parents feel hurt or betrayed?”
- “I haven’t expressed a lot of interest in my adoption until now. Will they understand why I want to search?”
- “Will my parents be there for me if I don’t find my birth parents or if the reunion doesn’t go the way I hope it will?”
- “If I reunite with my birth parents, how will I feel about my parents?”
- “If I reunite with my birth parents, how will my adoptive and birth parents feel about each another?”
For all of these fears, the best way to deal with them is to talk about them openly and honestly with your parents. Here’s how to approach that conversation:
Talking to Your Parents About Your Decision to Search for Your Birth Family
You know your parents best, so tailor your conversation as needed. These general tips may help guide that talk:
- Pick a time when things are calm, quiet and private.
- Be honest about why this adoption search is important to you.
- Let them know that you’re emotionally prepared for whatever you might find (or won’t find) and that they don’t need to protect you from that.
- Assure them that your decision to search for your birth parents doesn’t mean that you don’t love them or that your family is somehow lacking — you have questions and this is important to you.
- You can share the fears you had in talking to them about your adoption search.
- If you want them to be involved in your search, invite them to do so and let them know how much you’d appreciate their help.
Regardless of how your parents feel about your decision to search, it is still your decision. As an adoptee, you have the right to search (or to not search) if you feel that’s what’s right for you.
Talking to your parents about your adoption search can be tough, but with lots of reassurances about how much you love them and some kind words, you can set the record straight about how you feel about them and about finding your birth parents.
They might have questions for you. Those questions might be based in fear, because your parents probably still want to emotionally protect you, even if you’re an adult. They may ask things like, “Are you sure this is a good idea?” “What happens if you don’t find them?” “Why would you want to search for your first family when you have one right here?” “Why are you doing this now?” If they do ask questions that feel frustrating or accusatory, try to remember where they’re coming from as a parent. Stay calm and firm, and reaffirm that this is important to you and that you’d appreciate their support.
Hopefully, your parents will understand, or at least accept, your need to search and be willing to help you and support you.
Collaborating for Information About Your Adoption
If your parents are willing to jump in and help you search for your birth family, you’re off to a great start. They’ll be one of your best resources for easily available information. Chances are good that your parents will have some basic information from your adoption records.
Adoptive parents rarely receive more than the most basic information in closed adoptions, but your parents may still have access to:
- The name of the person or placement agency that completed your adoption, who you can try to contact for more information.
- The state and county in which you were born and the state and county in which your adoption was finalized, which is where you’ll need to file a petition to open your adoption records (depending on the laws of that particular state).
- Some basic information about one or both of your birth parents, which could help you in searching for them.
In addition to knowing some of the basics about your adoption, it can be good to involve your parents because having a few people you love and trust helping you search means casting a wider net. You’ll also need an emotional support team during the adoption search and/or reunion process, as this can be a difficult time for many adoptees. If you usually turn to your parents for emotional support, then let them know that you might need them during this time.
An adoptee’s birth family is an important part of their identity. Searching for them is equally important for many people. But if you’re worried about your birth parent search affecting how you feel about your (adoptive) family, remember that your mom and dad will always be your parents. Don’t feel guilty about a need to search.