Advice on how to meet your adopted child


Dear Megan,

I gave my daughter up for adoption almost thirteen years ago and she is now ready to meet.  I have no clue how to respond to her questions.  Please help.  I am so scared I might mess this all up.  – E.



Dear E.,

Your fears are totally normal!  Don’t worry–you will not mess anything up.  Most adoptees want to meet their birth parents out of curiosity.  For many it satisfies the need to just see you and know you are a real person.  While she will almost certainly have questions, it’s unlikely that her goal is to be confrontational.  Think about the meeting as an opportunity for you to share your story with her.  It’s also an opportunity for her to ask questions about her biological family, something you two can really connect over. 

Before you meet, think about the questions you want to ask her.  She may appreciate that you are interested in her and that you want to get to know her as a person.

Consider bringing pictures of extended family to the visit.  She might really enjoy seeing photos of you when you were her age, photos when you were a baby, with friends, celebrating holidays or doing the activities that you enjoyed as a kid.  Photos can be a nice icebreaker and provide opportunities for conversation.

When she asks questions, my advice is that you be as honest as you comfortably can be.  If you aren’t sure how to answer something tell her so.  Let her know that you want to think about it and share your thoughts the next time you connect.

Many adoptees want to know about their biological fathers.  Your daughter might also ask you point blank why you gave her up, or why you didn’t want her.  These questions can be difficult to hear, but sharing the honest answer can also be liberating.  Hearing the truth from you might give your daughter the missing piece that makes her feel whole.

My son asked me why I gave him up, why I didn’t want to be his mom.  I told him my story.  And I told him how much I loved him.  He said that he loved me too, that he has a wonderful life, and he thanked me for being so brave.  Don’t be afraid to tell your daughter the truth.

Finally, if you’re still really nervous and worried, consider talking with her parents before the visit.  Find out how your daughter is doing in general and how she feels about the adoption.  Find out if she’s had any teenage struggles lately (you might connect over this as well!).  Ask about the story they’ve told her about her adoption.  Tell them what your fears are and perhaps they can help address these.

I wish you both all the best!  I hope you’ll write back and let me know how it goes.