1. Talk with your kids about adoption, early and often. Don’t stop the discussion when your child hits the uncommunicative tween and teens. Adoption should be a topic that everyone in your family feels comfortable to discuss. This resource page from Creating a Family offers a variety of practical tools for how to do that.
2. As your child ages, pay particular attention to their desire or need for more information. You don’t have to guess. Ask them. “Are you happy with the amount of contact you have with your birth mom and siblings?” “Do you wish you had more information about your birth parents or about your adoption?”
3. Become a source of information and support for your child’s natural desire for information on where he or she came from. Children are less likely to ‘go underground’ if they know you won’t freak out and will help them.
4. If you have little information and your child wants more, brainstorm with your child and your adoption agency about ways to get as much information as possible. For example, if your child was adopted from China and you have no information on the birth family, try to find out as much as possible about the child’s early life. Use Google Earth to see the orphanage or even the spot where the child was found.
5. If your teen wants to connect with his or her birth family online, help them. Start a dialogue with their first family to see what might be the best method for connection. How do they use their social networking account? Is that the appropriate forum? Do they post things that they wouldn’t want their son or daughter to see. If you both decide that Facebook or some other social network is a good place to connect, ask them to friend you as well.
6. If you have valid safety reasons for your teen to not connect online with the birth parents, talk with him or her about the reasons. Acknowledge his or her need for information or contact and then find other ways to get the information or safe contact.
7. Don’t overreact to what you perceive as negative exposures from the birth family online. Your child’s birth family may post about activities you are not thrilled about or may share information you don’t approve of, but your teen is likely to be able to put this information in context. If you think it is necessary, use those posts as a conversation starter about making choices in life.
8. If you are concerned about information or over-sharing online by your child’s birth family, talk with the birth family. They may simply be unaware of how this information may affect your child.
9. Establish common sense rules for your child’s use of the Internet. Seriously, you need to do this.
No, it’s not fun. Yes, it’s a lot of work. Children have no business being online without parental involvement. Early to mid-teens should not have unlimited access. Creating a Family has a practical tool to help you think that through.
10. Accept that you don’t have complete control. As your child gets into the middle and upper teens, you have very little ability to prevent them from doing anything, especially on the Internet. Your only hope is to go on the journey with them.