Should we try to find our child’s birth family?
I get asked that question a LOT! And there is no easy answer.
As an adoptive parent, you know as well as I do, that the questions, if they haven’t already popped up, will come.
- How do you feel about a search?
- Are you the one pushing for a birth family (mother) reunion or is your child?
- How will you know when it’s the right time for you and your child to begin a search?
- Is a search even feasible in your child’s birth country? If not, how do you talk to your child about their birth family?
- If you do embark on a search, how well are you and your child prepared for the outcome?
Ahhh … more questions that most adoptive families face at some point in time. Many of you have already found your child’s birth family and that’s wonderful! We’d love to hear more about your experiences, both positive and negative as well.
For those of you haven’t, I don’t have all the answers but here’s what I know …
- You do NOT have to rush this. Unless your child is asking to meet his or her birth family, breathe a sigh of relief and find a way to connect your child to their birth country. It is ok to visit their birth country without considering a birth family search. If you cannot take your child to visit his or her birth country, at a minimum, take them to a heritage camp. They have great ones all over the United States. Understanding their roots helps your child build self-esteem. Statistically, adopted children score lower than other segment of the population on measures of self-esteem so it’s important that they know where they came from. When an adopted child experiences being ‘similar to’ everyone else, rather than ‘different than’ everyone else it is very empowering and helps them develop a strong sense of self.
- There is no magic age. Some kids begin asking questions when they are quite young – 5 to 6 years old. Some don’t begin asking questions until they are in high school or college. And frankly, some kids don’t want to know about their birth families. My suggestion to families is to let this happen naturally. There are very few reasons to initiate a birth family search unless your child has begun asking about them.
- Be honest but don’t answer questions that weren’t asked. When your child is ready, they will ask the questions. Again, I believe in letting this happen naturally. If your child is not ready to talk about this topic, let it go until they are ready. When they are, tell them what you know, honestly and from the heart. But most importantly, reassure them that you love them dearly will be there for them no matter what! You can do that from the get go! I’m a big proponent of saying “I LOVE YOU” often and with fervor!
- When your child wants to talk, stop what you are doing and talk! One of the worst mistakes we make as parents is not being present for our children, especially our adopted children. Our child’s insecurities are compounded when they are searching for their identity so be present, be their rock. Prepare yourself in advance for this conversation. Ask those tough questions of yourself now so you know how to talk about them when the time comes, because it probably will come when you least expect it.
- Take the time to learn about your child’s birth country. Maybe learn some phrases or to speak it fully. Learn about the history of the country, the geography, the climate. Know about the politics and talk about current events. The more you can normalize the fact that your child is from another country, the less ‘different’ your child will feel. Doing this let’s your child know how important they are to you. Let them be important!!
When it’s all said and done, I am no different than any of you. I struggle with each of these questions too.
Our family has not embarked on a birth mother search yet. We had inquired with a search firm last spring but made the decision to give it another year or two. It is still a consistent topic of conversation but we have made a firm decision to hold off for a little bit.
I talk to my son frequently about his birth country as he has a deep interest in his heritage and his birth family. We have visited Guatemala several times now and when it’s time to search, we will all be ready for the birth mother search and reunion. His sister, Jo Jo, has no interest in going back to China right now and has never been interested in birth family discussions or searches. Regardless of the timing, I will love both my kiddos through this process the best way I know how; by being present, by showing my love daily, and by letting them know I will be here for them no matter what.
Until then, let’s talk. If you have questions for me or each other, please post your questions or comments in the comment thread so we can be a support to each other. And if you are interested in previous discussions on this topic, check out the blog post and comments at https://motherlandtravel.com/adoptive-family-travel/birth-mother-search-begins-guatemala/.
One last thing … I’ve had several families ask me about trip planning tools so in the coming weeks I am launching my latest creation, A Guide To Your Heritage Journey. This will include a one on one with me as a family coach; 12 monthly downloadable guides that contain country-specific information and activities to help you build deeper connections with your child; access to exclusive tips and travel vouchers; plus, a quarterly members-only Q & A. If you’re interested, shoot me a note so I can reach out to you specifically when it’s ready for launch.
And as always, when you are ready to travel to your child’s birth country sign up for a 30-minute Discovery Session with me and we’ll figure out how to get the ball rolling. You can sign up at calendly.com/bambi.
Bambi Wineland is the mother of two internationally adopted children, a traveler, a Certified Professional Coach, and the Founder and CEO of Motherland Travel. Motherland Travel began by designing Heritage Journeys for families with internationally adopted children. The emphasis of those Heritage Journeys has always been on deepening family connections, building self-esteem and cultivating pride in a family’s multi-cultural heritage. Motherland Travel also uses the philosophies of transformative Travel for designing family trips with purpose – building rich connections, with each other and the world! Read more about her here >> http://motherlandtravel.com/