Preparing Your Child for Contact
If your child is searching, you will need to help her prepare for the reality of the meeting, should it come. Whatever her history is, with all its ups and downs, it can be handled if she feels loved and understood. If you make contact while your child is a minor, have in mind boundaries and particulars that will protect your sense of family and your child's primary attachment.
Before you or your child begins the search, talk about what her expectations are. Does she just want to meet her birth mother or is she hoping to be welcomed into the bosom of the family? Try to help her create some realistic expectations that are grounded in the possibilities of the situation.
Gently help your child understand that she may not be able to locate her birth family. If she does find them, there is the chance that they will not want to meet with her. This kind of rejection can be very painful for an adoptee who has waited her whole life for the chance to see her genetic roots.
If your child is successful in locating and meeting her birth parent, you should help her be prepared for the fact that there may not be that instant connection she is hoping for. She may physically resemble the person she finds, but they may be completely different and incompatible in all other ways. Don't let her get her hopes up too high, and suggest that she take things one step at a time. No matter what happens, you will be there to love her, listen to her, and support her, and she will always be an important part of your family. Finding the birth parent will not in any way end your bond or relieve you of your responsibility to her.
Making the first call to a birth parent can be a nerve-wracking experience. If you are assisting your teen in a search, rehearse with her what she will say when she makes the call. Remind her that the birth parent she is contacting may not have told other people in her life about the baby she placed for adoption, so she should always ask if it is a good time to talk.
Suggest to your child that the parent being contacted will likely need some time to work through his or her emotions, and might not have the initial reaction that matches her expectations. Be sure that she remembers to exchange contact information before getting off the phone so that the parent can contact her in the future.
Once you or your child have located a birth parent, it can be hard to know where to start. Your first couple of meetings should happen on neutral territory when possible, such as a restaurant, park, or other public place. This is especially true if your child is younger, there are similar-aged children in the birth family, or there's a disparity in economic circumstances between your households. Depending on their ages, children can be jealous or angry about each other's toys, clothes, or possessions. If your child has significantly more material possessions, she may feel guilty and can be set up for emotional problems that will get in the way of building any sort of relationship.
If your child is still living at home, ongoing contact will depend on your assessment of the situation. You may decide to continue meeting. As comfort levels increase, and if circumstances allow, you may visit one another's homes. The key is to allow time for relationships to develop. You can't expect everyone to fall in love with each other all at once.
Your relationship with your child's birth family may develop into something similar to that of in-laws or progress to the connection of cousins or other extended family. Continue to support your child in maintaining connections once the initial contacts are made, as long as your best instincts tell you the relationship is beneficial to her.
Your teenager may be excited about finding her birth parents, but after an initial meeting may settle back into her life with you, causing you to have to prompt her into sending e-mails or making phone calls. Be careful how you prompt, however, because having a relationship with her birth family is up to her, not you. Your responsibility is to facilitate rather than force.
There's a big difference between facilitating connection and extended family ties versus abdicating primary family roles. If you think the contact is creating serious issues and your child becomes defiant, distant, and rebellious, run — don't walk — to your adoption therapist and get counseling for you and the whole family. You would also be justified in cutting off contact if the birth family encourages your child to reject her adoptive family or has a very negative effect on your child.