What do we tell our children about adoption?

As an older adoptee, who didn’t address her own adoptee issues, who wasn’t aware of adoptee community and whose grown children also did not benefit from that knowledge and support base, I am very cognizant of all the adoptees who are now raising children of their own.  Most of these children of adoptees are bi-racial and, in rare cases, they are children of adoptee unions or are adoptees themselves.

How do you/will you address their own struggles with race, culture, identity, and lack of ancestry?

6 thoughts on “What do we tell our children about adoption?

  1. My own response…I have two grown boys…mixed race. Like you I did not address adoption or racial questions until adulthood and my kids were grown. Grew up and spent most of my time with white Americans. My wife is white.

    1) connected with both of my first parents (or at least my father’s family and this enabled all of to get a handle on the reality of our ancestry – and racial origins.
    2) one of my sons said that the first place he has ever felt like a local was in Hawaii. he has always been treated as if he were from “somewhere else” even when he had always come “from here”.
    3) made some contacts with transracial adoptees, but owing to many limitations (such has distance) the contacts are mostly over the internet and by / with me.
    4) we use the word “white people” (in the family) which I had never used before. It bothers my wife a little, but she understands.
    5) i seldom discuss race in a larger context, however.
    6) learned about discriminatory practices in the U.S. particularly against Japanese, but some others as well; including practices preventing citizenship and homeownership. this helped me understand the policy and practice of white America. get the facts!

  2. We don’t. Or at least I didn’t, because it wasn’t something that I felt was pertinent to their growing up – this was something that happened to me. I was so naive as to think this event didn’t ripple in to every facet of my life. The most visible reaction is as I’ve come to know and communicate more with my biological family, my children, or at least one of my children feels betrayed – that I am choosing one family over another. We have become divided as one son chooses and feels more comfortable in a “white” identity, while the other chooses and feels more comfortable in the American Indian world. My husband is “white” but is extremely supportive of American Indian rights and causes. I still bleed a little in both worlds. So, for now, I tell my children about my adoption through my writing. That allows them time to absorb, time to ponder, time to consider, and perhaps time to forgive. The ripples have extended quite a long ways out. I don’t know how I missed that.

  3. Being a single girl and dating questions like these always come up a lot. I accept and am completely ok with the fact my child’s father will be Caucasian. But for me dealing with a biracial and bicultural child is a huge struggle. Most likely my child will look more Korean than Caucasian; Instantly everything people assume about Asians is now their shoulders. Sadly because of adoption they will not know who their birth grandparents are. They will not know if they have aunts, uncles, or cousins that look like them. Both sides of their family will be Caucasian; A struggle I’ve always been alienated by.

    The best way I can deal with this imbalance is teaching them every Korean thing I know from the moment they reach my arms. I will raise them in the city so they can see all the colors faces can come in. I plan to teach them it’s ok to be American while looking not Caucasian. I will teach them adoption is safe, can be good, and not all adoptions are sad like mommy’s.

  4. My parents told me I was born Korean, but raised as their daughter in America. My parents did not force either culture upon me, but rather provided equal opportunities for me to explore both my Korean side and my American side. Yes it’s true that I will probably never know my native language fluently, all the history or culture, or my blood ties, but I grew up knowing that I had parents that loved and raised me. Parents to me are the people that taught me how to love the life I was given and how to make the most of the opportunities my differences in life gave me. My mom especially always reminded me that even though I appeared different, those cultural difference did not in any way define who I was or create expectations that I had to achieve, but rather my own life was my own choice and who or what I became was up to me. Adoption is a good thing, it is awesome because we get 2 of everything and greater cultural diversity! We also get to part of a very unique and special adoptee culture/community. The faster you get connected to the adoptee community, the easier it is to realize that you are not alone in your struggles. It’s easier to recognize and deal with issues when you can learn from others’ experiences. The things we perceive as negative are not adoption itself. They can be tied or linked to adoption, but they have to deal with our past or the unknowns that cloud our future. Hopefully, when I have my own children, I can teach them to value diversity and value themselves as individuals who have the power to define themselves despite the stereotypes or misconceptions the world will try to confine them with…

  5. Good question, I was adopted by American parents who divorced and I wasn’t connected to the adoption community. My children are American now with even less connection to their heritage. I feel at times like an important part of ourselves is missing but I have come to accept what I have rather than dwell on what I’ve lost. Adoption issues are rarely simple considering they usually originate from untenable situations.

    • Hi Jeff:

      I agree with you completely that, as individuals, we would do better to dwell on what we have rather than accept what we have lost (I deliberately adjusted the wording there a little). But we re also, contrary to the dominant discourse in the United States, only individuals. For me, growing up, I had the realization eventually that I like and respect myself and all that, and if that was so, then my parents (adoptive or not) had a major influence on that. That made me stop resenting them. But did that fact mean that they were “off the hook”? Did it mean that what they did and didn’t do was “wiped clean”? Not at all. An for some of the things, they continued to iterate earlier “crimes” by continuing to be unable (in the present) to deal with the consequences of their actions.

      My dad, first confronted by my younger sister (who is also adopted) and then later, far less heatedly, by me, could only respond generally with, “I tried my best,” which is, of course, what parents (adoptive or not) have been saying for a long, long time. I remember him saying that more than I remember him saying, “I’m sorry.” Probably he apologized–he’s a big-hearted guy–but it doesn’t stick out to me as an important or consequential moment when confronted by his (adoptive) kids in their questioning of his parenting.

      So, while it makes the best sense for me not to keep myself on the hook for my childhood (adopted or not), to not dwell on what I’ve lost to the extent that it screws up my current life as an individual, I’m less convinced that this kind of assimilation is what’s good for society in general. That is, if I assimilate in that way, then I let society off the hook for the act of allowing adoption to occur in the first place.I want us all to be at peace, which includes those future people (not myself, and myself) who yet stand threatened by the act of adoption. Knowing what I’ve lost informs that engagement with the future, not the past.

Adoptees, what do you think? We welcome your replies!

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