So, you’ve decided to start your search for your birth parents. Congratulations — you are taking a brave step to learning more about what makes you “you”. It takes a lot of strength and dedication to start this journey and prepare yourself for the ups and downs you may feel along the way.
But, you may have found yourself facing your first challenge before your search even gets off the ground — opposition from your adoptive parents. Your parents are supposed to love and support you no matter what, so it may have come as a huge shock when they reacted to your search announcement in such a negative way.
It sucks, but know that you’re not alone. While many adoptive parents are supportive of and involved in their children’s searches for birth family, you’ll unfortunately also find a great deal of stories of adoptees who have to deal with angry and resentful adoptive parents upon announcing their birth parent search. As much as we wish it wasn’t, it’s a common struggle that adoptees go through.
So, what can you do when your adoptive parents respond in a negative manner?
The first thing you should always do is secure your safety. Sometimes, emotional struggles can boil over into physical actions, so reach out to a loved one who supports your decision. If you want them to, they might accompany you to any future conversations you have with your unsupportive parents. They should also provide the support and love you need during this journey.
Here are a few more tips for moving forward after a parent reacts negatively to your adoption news:
1. Explain your search has nothing to do with them.
Some adoptive parents respond negatively to birth parent searches because they take it personally. Often, they have unresolved emotions regarding their infertility and their “need” to turn to adoption to complete their family. When they take your birth parent search personally, they probably have some degree of insecurity about their role as your parent.
If you can, try to help them understand that your decision to find your birth family has nothing to do with their parenting. Instead, your curiosity is a natural extension of being an adoptee. There simply is nothing like knowing your biological history, but wanting to learn more doesn’t mean you don’t appreciate all they’ve done for you as your parent.
With time, some adoptive parents will come around, seeing that they were viewing your birth family search from their own perspective, not yours.
2. Don’t let them accuse you of selfishness or ungratefulness.
But, if your parents are stuck viewing your birth family search as a personal affront, they will likely lash out in harmful ways. You do not deserve any of this criticism; remember, you are 100% normal for feeling what you are feeling. If your adoptive parents try to guilt you or make you change your mind in any way, make sure they know how unfair their criticisms are.
Simply say to them: “Wanting to find my birth parents isn’t selfish. It’s normal. You know your biological history and heritage, but I don’t. I can’t be at peace until I know more about my personal history. Don’t you want me to know more about my medical and social background?”
Don’t be afraid to turn the conversation around to them by asking why they feel the way they do. Most times, adoptive parents can’t explain why they’re so offended by this search. If they keep calling you ungrateful or selfish, remove yourself from that conversation and situation.
3. Protect your birth parents, if you can.
If you’ve already made contact with your birth parents, you might refrain from introducing them to your adoptive parents until you’re sure it will go well. No matter their circumstances at the time, your birth parents made a brave and selfless decision to place you for adoption. They probably trusted that your adoptive parents would support you in every aspect of your life growing up. It could bring up feelings of grief for them to see your parents mistreat you for your birth family search.
They also deserve to be protected from your parents’ ire, which can be easily turned on them for connecting with you in the first place.
4. Stand up for yourself.
When your parents don’t support your birth family search, they may try to manipulate you into changing your mind or cutting off your new contact with your birth family. It can be hard to know that you are disappointing your family members, but it’s important that you stand up for what you want. You’ve probably spent a long time deciding that this search was the right move for you, so it’s important that you protect your rights to your personal history.
If you need to, don’t hesitate to remove yourself from the conversation with your parents or exclude them from your adoption search. This is where having a trusted, supportive loved one on your side will help.
5. Remember that you aren’t a “bad” child.
Finally, it’s important that you remember why you are pursuing your birth family information. It can be tough to be told you are “ungrateful” or “selfish” for doing so, but when your parents call you this, it’s a reflection on them — not you.
Adoptees are already forced to walk a fine line all of their lives. Society tells adoptees to be grateful and celebrate their placement, but it’s also a separation that causes unresolved trauma and sadness. It’s normal to feel torn between your adoptive and birth parents as you start out on your search, but you must do what is best for you. Finding your birth parents and learning more about your personal identity does not make you a “bad” son or daughter; it just means you are naturally (and understandably) curious about where you came from. If your parents can’t see that side of your desire, it can be difficult — but you should not let them pressure you into changing your mind or feeling bad about your upcoming journey.
If you’re struggling with unsupportive parents during your birth family search, consider reaching out to a local counselor experienced in adoption reunions for guidance.