Adoption is a journey that is very complex that involves beauty and pain. The child or children have a story of their first family and a past life before being adopted. While there should be no shame opening up about adoption and our son’s adoption, our son’s personal accounts are private and are handled delicately. I believe it is important to respect the privacy or my child’s adoption story.
While there is the desire for children to find a home, we do not wish to use the entirety of our son’s story pre-adoption to convince people to adopt children. We will advocate for adoption and share our story as his parents and the general aspects of what we faced to adopt him, but we wanted to protect our child’s privacy in the matter. We learned from the consequences of oversharing and asked ourselves the question: How can we advocate for adoption and respect our son’s privacy? After many missteps along the adoption journey, my husband and I came up with a plan.
My husband and I put together a list of things we would share and things we would not share. We consulted podcasts and friends who are adoptees about what may or may not be appropriate to open up about.
What is Oversharing?
Information given to the adoptive parents about the adoptive child is for more understanding of the child. The sacredness of this information is evident in the process to the adoptive parent. The amount of hoops that the adoptive parents have to jump through to receive the information is incredible. With the information about our son, it was essential for us to understand him and meet his needs. This information should only be shared with professionals or people close to the family to guide the situation. When this information is shared with just anyone that is outside of the circle, it could be considered oversharing.
Oversharing in adoption is sharing private information about the adopted child. It could be something so painful and complicated that the adopted child has not worked out internally. Oversharing is not unique to the adoptive parents. Other family members and friends of the adoptive child can overshare as well–intentionally and unintentionally. While it can feel like you are helping someone else, there are consequences to oversharing information.
Consequences of Oversharing
I remember sharing part of my son’s story with a teacher. I did not realize this, but the teacher was very overwhelmed by the information. It led her to want to know more, and then my son became the topic of gossip among the other teachers in the school. Eventually, this information went to other parents as well. People began to make assumptions about my son that were untrue and then started rumors about our family. It was in that situation I learned that there were consequences to oversharing my son’s story.
While we have the most excellent intentions to share our child’s stories, we need to realize that there are boundaries that we need to set on our family as a unit. The article, My Son’s Adoption Is Not My Story to Tell by Sarah Netter, expresses that with the joining of the child to the family, that his or her identity is part of our identity, many factors are still that child’s. She says, “And as his mother, I owe him the chance to figure out what that means to him before he shares his story with the world.” Finding out what information means the most to that child is a process that could take many years. This is where the family needs to discern what the difference between privacy and secrecy means as it relates to their adoption stories.
Privacy vs. Secrecy
Many adoptions are a secret. Some adoptive parents choose to withhold information about the adopted child. This is highly discouraged in the adoption community because it can cause distress and pain to the adopted child. There is a sense of mistrust regarding identity; thus, it is advised to always speak openly about adoption to the child and the people around you. However, within the walls of your home, that information should probably be private. This means that there are specific points of the adopted child’s story that can be shared and others that are left to the adoptive child to share.
I remember there were days that my mother would share about my talents playing the piano. She would brag and brag as if she were the one playing the piano. It seemed to take hold of her identity because it was the first thing she would say to anybody about herself. I remember feeling mortified because I thought that she was talking about it so much that it was not wholesome pride anymore–it was her badge of honor. I carry this memory when sharing information about my son.
Like any parent, there are times that we may be guilty of letting pride damage our relationship with our children. If our pride in them is uplifting us as parents and not uplifting our children, then it is indeed time for a pause in the conversation. One day, I was starting to share something that I felt would make me look great as an adoptive parent–I stopped myself and then quickly examined my heart. I flipped the switch to place acknowledgment back on my son where it rightfully belonged. Other times, I’m quick to end the conversation and avoid the topic when it is inappropriate for discussion.
While we are incredibly proud of our family, it is essential to note that our son’s story is only his. We share no shame in our adoption. The consequences of oversharing are so extreme that we work hard not to overshare. Oversharing can allow others to formulate unfair or incorrect judgments of our family–and that is unfair to our son. As his parents, I owe him the respect to discover what his story means to him and how to share it before inviting others into the conversation.
Deirdre Parker is an early childhood educator in Washington DC. She proudly hails from Baltimore, MD where she received her BA in liberal studies from Notre Dame of Maryland University. She continued afterward to receive her BS in Music Therapy from Texas Woman’s University and MS in Early Childhood Education from Boston University Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. She entered the adoption community with the adoption of her son from South Africa. When she is not at school teaching her “babies” and mentoring new early childhood educators; she is traveling, reading, writing, playing music, following politics, hiking, attending church, and cheering on the Ravens with her intelligent husband and her extremely bright 4-year-old little boy.