PBS Kids GO! It's My Life
Adoption: The Search for Identity

"Who am I?"

Everybody asks this question at some point...usually when we're tweens or teens, when we're leaving childhood behind and growing up. Life is a journey of self-discovery, and being adopted can make this journey more complicated. Among the things adopted people often wonder about are:

  • What part of my personality comes from my adoptive family, and what part comes from my birth parents?

  • Who are my birth parents? What do they look like, and where do they live?

  • Why did they put me up for adoption?

  • What would my life have been like if I hadn't been adopted?

  • Do I have brothers or sisters I don't know about?
When young people feel they want to know more about where they came from, it can sometimes lead to a sticky situation with their adoptive parents. They might feel like they're being disloyal to the parents who've raised and loved them, and parents can sometimes feel awkward because they don't have more information to offer, or because they worry that their child is hurting, unhappy, or somehow feeling incomplete. Here's the best advice we can offer for kids in that department:

Be open and be honest. Sit down with your parents and tell them, as best as you can, exactly what you're feeling. Chances are, they knew this day was coming and have thought a lot about it. They're probably pretty confident that you see them as your "real" parents, and totally understand your need to know more about your birth parents. You may worry about hurt feelings, but it's when people hide the truth that feelings really get hurt.

Ask them all the questions you have. They may not have all the answers, but they might be able to help you find them, or get you started. It's important for them to know what you want to know.

Listen when they talk. Encourage your parents to be totally honest about their own feelings...even their worries and fears. They may think you're too young to know absolutely everything about your adoption story, and may encourage you to wait a little while. They may be happy to answer some of your questions (if they know the answers) and ask you to wait for the answers to others. The important thing is for you, and them, to say what you feel and stay honest.

Remember that you're not alone. No matter what, you are part of a family. Your parents adopted you because they want you, and that will not change because you want to know more about your birth. Your adoptive parents have been beside you for all the steps in your life journey, and this should be no exception. There may be times when you want to be alone, and that's okay. But your family can be with you in spirit even at these times.

On the next page we talk about Foster Families.

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