March 21, 2024

Developing Identity in Closed Adoptions


According to Google, identity is defined as “the fact of being who or what a person or thing is.” Identity is the core of each person’s being and our identity is often developed by our history, knowing where we come from, and our experiences as we grow and mature. Finding their own identity can be more difficult for adoptees as many have a large piece of that puzzle missing - the “where did I come from” piece. As an adult adoptee with a closed adoption, I can understand the struggles that your child may be facing as they work to discover their identity. I don’t have all the answers, and each child is different, so there is no “one size fits all” solution. Here are some helpful ideas as you guide your child to grow into the person who they are meant to be:

  • Encourage questions – Always leave the door open to have conversations about their adoption and their biological family. You may not know much, but what you do know will help your child catch a glimpse into what their biological parent(s) were like. My parents has very little information but they knew that my birth mother was 16, my birth father was just a couple of years older, and that they were a couple. This gave me insight into how I was conceived and why a plan of adoption may have been made. Be sure to tell your child their full story before adolescent because it is in the most significant time for identity development.
  • Embrace your child’s culture – You may have very little to no information about your child’s birth parents but you should know your child’s cultural background. Make sure that you are embracing that in your home and encouraging your child to embrace their cultural heritage. Take part in celebrations, celebrate holidays, explore the cuisine, discover traditions and implement those into your home. By doing this, your child can establish a sense of belonging into the culture that they were born into.
  • Explore their DNA – I was in my 30’s when I finally did Ancestry DNA. I had always told people that I was related to Abraham Lincoln but was I really (the answer is no)? Doing ancestry DNA gave me insight. I could proudly say, “Kiss me I’m Irish” because I was part Irish! It provided me a sense of belonging and understanding that I had not had before. It might also open doors to biological relatives that you had not been connected to before.
  • Champion their personality – Help your child find what they love. Encourage their personality as it develops. Identity is something that is formed over time, and is not only from knowing history, but also from what a child learns as they grow. Do you have a child who is a leader? Encourage that! Does your child enjoy arts and theater? Help them follow their passion. You can be an integral part of helping them discover who they are even with pieces missing.

I was blessed to finally connect with my birth mother a few years ago. While finding her did answer some questions, like where my green eyes came from, I do not feel that it overly altered my sense of identity. I had parents who helped me develop that even with pieces of the puzzle missing. Be confident that you can do the same and help your child develop a strong sense of who they are.

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