"When I turn 18, I'm going to live with my birth mom."

by Adrian Collins

"When I turn 18, I'm going to live with my birth mom."

“When I turn 18, I’m going to live with my birth mom.”..Said my 10-year-old son casually as we were taking a walk. My feet stopped. The question surprised but I didn’t flinch. I didn’t protest. I didn’t change the subject. I didn’t take it personally (at least—I tried). Instead, I asked questions. “Why do you want to move at 18?”

 “Because we adopted our sister when she was 18,” was his response.

I blinked. It dawned on me that his perception of watching our family re-adopt our birth daughter had caused our son to think that’s what happens to every adoptee. They leave their home at 18 and move in with their birth family. He believed my husband and I would someday choose not to parent him any longer. My heart sunk.

I looked him in the eyes, “Your dad and I are not going to stop being your parents…ever. We love you. You will always be a part of our family.” But I couldn’t stop there-I reassured him that he was always welcome to spend time with his birth family—and love on his baby sister. “Cool,” he said.

I’ve learned this: Our children are always watching…and wondering. If I had acted threatened or became angry—my son would have shut down and stuffed his feelings inside. I need to engage better. To have a better understanding of what he internalizes. It’s my job to ask questions, listen, consider his thoughts and realize that my choices—good or bad—have lingering effects. I can change our conversations to become more proactive than reactive.

Perhaps I should have realized all this much earlier since my son belived babies were delivered by space ships since I neglected to have "The Talk" with him earlier. Oops.  

Children will manage their feelings in a variety of ways: Some are open and want to talk. Some are defensive. Some are angry. Some think adoption is no big deal. Spend time learning about how your child manages their feelings on adoption and approach them on THEIR terms. If they are open--share away. If they are defensive or angry--approach with caution and know when to seek outside help. If they think adoption is no big deal--share anyway. Give them the opportunity and freedom to express their true feelings.