By Amy Monroe
When telling and re-telling your adoption story it is important to remember that it is your child’s story! You are the guardian of this precious treasure, and while parts of his story should not be considered a “secret,” they are private. Therefore, it is critical that you think through the facts and decide ahead of time what you are and are not willing to share with others. This will help you to avoid being “caught off guard” when the questions come – and it is inevitable that the questions will come.
When someone asks a question that relates to information you have decided not to share you can always respond by saying, “that is a part of his story that we don’t share with others because we want him to know that information first from us and then he can decide whether or not he wants to share it.” This sort of response may seem a little awkward at first, but this feeling is far outweighed by being the knowledge that you have been faithful to your role as protector of your child’s story. In addition, protecting your child and his story in this manner will ensure that your child does not first hear sensitive information about his story from someone other than you.
Here are a few key things to remember when telling your child’s story:
• It may be ok to share the age of your child’s birthmother/birthparents if they were older, but you may want to consider not sharing their age if they were very young.
• It may be ok to share where your child’s birthmother was employed unless doing so would make others jump to conclusions about her. For example, grocery store clerk vs. exotic dancer.
• It may be ok to share characteristics regarding your child’s birthmother unless doing so would encourage people to make assumptions or jump to conclusions about your child. For example: height, complexion or personality of birthmother/birthparents as opposed to sharing about their addictions, history of mental illness or possible criminal activity.
• It may be ok to share the circumstances surrounding your child’s conception unless the circumstances could cause people to make assumptions about or stereotype your child or his birthmother. For example: pregnancy by boyfriend vs. rape.
• It may be ok to share the circumstances surrounding your child’s placement for adoption unless the circumstances will likely cause confusion or be intensely painful for your child if first told by someone other than you.
• It is always essential to remember that children in foster care have certain rights regarding confidentiality and therefore only information that is expressly permitted to be disclosed should be told to others.
It is important to remember this basic premise and use it as a good rule of thumb when deciding what to share and with whom: you only want to share information about your child’s story with others if you are comfortable with the fact that your child may hear that information from someone else before they hear it from you.
Copyright 2008 Tapestry, a ministry of Irving Bible Church (www.tapestryministry.org)