What will I tell my adoptive family? (Leaflet 7)


This leaflet has been written from our experience and expertise and also with help from external research*. In this leaflet we discuss ways to tell your adopted family about the situation.

If you have difficulties with language or reading, please let us know and we will read this information over the phone or to someone who can support you.  Should you need any further information or support about this matter you can phone or email us via the details on our website.

  1. It is absolutely lovely to have the support of your adoptive parents and family, but you have to remember that it is not essential.  You do not have to have their permission whilst at the same time this is always preferable.
  2. It may take time to tell your adoptive family.  You may need to sound them out first on where they stand with the whole thing.  Take your time in doing this and do not rush them.  This process is not always easy for adoptive parents and siblings, but some are very happy with the idea.
  3. If your reunion does not work for you it would be nice to have the support of your adoptive family.  On the other hand, you could wait until the reunion has taken place, and in that way you would not have to have troubled them if it was not necessary.  It is entirely your decision and you may want to talk to us before you make that decision.   
  4. On the other hand, it may not sit comfortably with you to keep secrets from your adoptive parents.  Take time to decide which is the best pathway for you.
  5. Adoptive parents may need the re-assurance that you will not abandon them or think that they have been bad parents.  They will need your kindness and support as much as you need theirs.
  6. It is true that some adoptive parents can feel angry, upset and betrayed to feel that you need to find your birth parent.  This is often very difficult to manage.  Mostly they might be afraid of not being loved and valued.  They may feel their efforts to bring you up have been worthless. 
  7. Try to understand the fears of adoptive parents, but at the same time you must make your own decision and you may have to stand alone with your decision.  If this is the case, you will need support from others like helpful friends or counselling from intermediary services.  This is what we are here for.
  8. Try not to let the whole matter turn into conflict.  Parents may feel very easy about the whole thing, or they could be very hurt and upset, they could feel angry and rejecting towards you and you need to avoid being hurt by this. We advise our clients not to engage in arguments but to talk things over with us. 
  9. Either way these big steps take time and careful consideration.  You do have to put yourself first, but it will be more comfortable for you if people will come along with you.  Don’t jump into the situation without careful thought, and use our counselling service if it helps you to think more clearly.    Check out first how they may feel about the issue by saying ‘you knew someone who traced their birth mother’ and raising the subject in an indirect way.
  10. Imagine how you would feel if you were them – they might feel they are losing their most precious child – when in fact you are just exploring your true identity that is so important.  They may feel better once they realise this.    
  11. Sometimes this will depend on your experience of your adoptive life.  Adoption is not always perfect and some people it is true feel unhappy with their adoptive parents.  However, don’t let this be part of your decision making.  It is best at all times to avoid creating conflict or hurt feelings, and you do have the right to act on your own in private if this makes things easier for everyone. 
  12. Let us help you if you are floundering on this issue.  Our counselling service is there to cover these problems. 
* The Adoption Reunion Handbook by Julia Feast, David Howe and Liz Trinder.  (Wiley 2004 p.43)

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