Friend worries about delaying adoption disclosure
DEAR AMY >> Our good friends, a married couple, have one child. He is a son they adopted who is about to turn 10 years old.
Just a few days ago, the mother mentioned her son still “has no clue” that he is an adoptee.
Years ago, the father said something to us about telling him when he is in high school.
At that time I balked pretty vehemently, responding that current wisdom advocates telling adoptees basically from the beginning about their origins.
He shut me down hard, so I let it go.
As each year passes, my anxiety for them grows and I worry about the consequences for when this bombshell inevitably detonates in their family.
I know it is extremely not my business but yikes — any advice beyond keeping my mouth shut?
They are doting parents and the boy is very loved.
— Nervous Bystander
DEAR NERVOUS >> I shared your question with Ashley Fetters Maloy, an adoptee and reporter at the Washington Post, who wrote about this issue for a story published by The Atlantic.
Here is her response: “You're right that current wisdom (and now some research!) supports the idea that adoptees should know early about their adoptions.
“You're also right to be concerned about the potential damage to the parent-child relationship if the child's adoption isn't discussed openly early in the child's life.
“By the time a child is five or six, he's already made assumptions, or even asked his parents to tell him stories, about the day he was born or what his mother's pregnancy was like.
“Amanda Baden, a professor and researcher at Montclair State University who specializes in adoption, explained to me a few years ago that when a child any older than that discovers they are adopted, they may also put together that they've been lied to or misled — and that lots of people, even beyond their parents, have actively participated in this deception.
“That said: Just because your friends' son will likely one day put together that you and other family friends knew his adoption status all along doesn't mean it's your job to inform him. It's still his parents' news to deliver — and similarly, the consequences will be theirs to bear.”
Ashley and I agree that because you've already shared your opinion and misgivings, now it is time for you to stand down and continue to offer this family only your supportive friendship.