Later Mom! Talking to Teens About Adoption

Author: 
Katherine Crowe
Source: 
Focus on Adoption magazine

by Katherine Crowe

We adopted our daughter when she was nine-months-old. When she was two, I took part in a university-sponsored survey on parental attitudes. The only question I recall is the one that asked what my fears were for my child. I responded by saying I had none. Becoming a parent had put me in a bubble of bliss. Wiping a dirty bottom, soothing a teething baby, preparing formula and bottles, and being tied down by naps, were all joys to me.

Fear finally did enter my soul, and popped that beautiful bubble, when my child entered the school system. As she made her first forays from the protective environment of home, I found myself worrying about peer pressure, bullying, social interactions, grades, and so forth. I had many sleepless nights, but through her elementary school years, I learned to control my fears, by making sure that we were always communicating.

When she was younger, my daughter was eager to receive information from her parents. We established a pattern of communication that was open and honest. In those years we had ongoing, age-appropriate discussions based on many topics (sex, drugs, racism, adoption, etc.). For example, her adoption was closed, but we shared with her all the information that we had. Her willingness to discuss anything even remotely disconcerting changed when she became a teenager. Now, when I try to bring up emotional or controversial topics, I usually hear, “Gees Mom, I know all that!”; or, “Later, Mom, I have homework,” as she trounces to her bedroom.

We still have conversations that relate to difficult subjects, but these discussions now occur less frequently. Her father and I listen closely for things she says, like stories of student behaviour at school dances, to impart our views and words of guidance. If she participates in a discussion, that is great; if not, we say what we wish and move on. The topic of adoption, however, is one in which she rarely exhibits interest anymore.

She has explained to us that “there’s no point” as her birth history is closed to her at this time. She has also stated that we think of adoption more than she does because she “has lots of other things to think about.”

She is right - she does have many things on her mind, and I do think of adoption, drug abuse, sexual diseases and the like quite often. My fears have increased with my daughter’s growing independence. I constantly wonder if she has enough information to make wise decisions and if she is emotionally well-balanced. The question then becomes, do we take her at her word, back off totally, and only discuss adoption when she indicates an interest, or do we find indirect ways to broach this subject?

Every parent of a teenager must confront the communication issue. We have decided that adoption topics, like other vital information, are necessary to our child’s safety and well-being. Remaining totally silent is not acceptable to us. We will welcome any conversations initiated by her. We will also make use of appropriate  moments to pass on facts or new information and try to find innovative ways to develop her understanding of and emotional responses to adoption. (For example, while listening to some organ music recently, I reminded our child that her birth mother had played the church organ while pregnant with her. Our daughter had forgotten that information. She was intrigued when I told her that I think that her birth mother’s organ playing contributed to her musical ability.)

My daughter may sometimes be annoyed, or only half-listening, when I am discussing adoption-related topics, but I hope that the information will filter through. More importantly, I want her to know that the subject is always open. As she matures, there may be times when she does want to discuss adoption-related concerns; if we have been silent on the topic for a long time, re-opening it may be that much harder for her. We want our daughter to understand that communication is vital to relationships so, teenage angst or not, adoption and all those other difficult topics will, if for only brief moments here and there, continue to be discussed in our home.

I will never again be enveloped by the bliss of those early parenting years, and I long ago learned that fear and worry are part of parenting. I do, however, take comfort in the fact that there is always a “later, Mom” time in the offing.