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My 8 year old is outing me as a birth mother, what do I tell him?

Kids say the darnedest things.  Here’s some adoption advice about privacy.


I am seeking adoption advice about privacy. When I was 20 I gave my daughter up for adoption at birth; she will be 16 this year. Since then I have completed college, married and had a son, who is 8. I have always been honest with my son about being a birth mom and the adoption.  But now I’m a little concerned about our privacy.

My son recently started telling his friends and teachers that he has a sister. However, this is awkward for me because not many people know about the adoption and people keep asking my husband and me if we have another kid. My husband is worried about our son and wants me to talk to him, which I have in the past. This whole thing is hard and emotional for me. I’ve asked my son to stop telling people about the adoption but he won’t. How do I bridge these two things; my son’s need to understand this and my need for privacy? I am not mad at my son. Instead, I am just frustrated and hurt and do not want my relationship with my son to be damaged. Please help! You can feel free to contact me in whatever form is easiest for you.  – T. 



Hi T,

I can understand why this would be so challenging.  I do have some adoption advice about privacy and I have a couple of suggestions which I hope you’ll find helpful.

Private information

First, if you haven’t already, talk with your son about why this information is private and have a conversation about respecting privacy.  I also think it’s really important that your son understand that your adoption story isn’t private because it’s a shameful secret, instead, it’s private because it involves so many complicated feelings.

You might consider preparing your son for how others may respond.  While he might be enjoying a lot of positive attention over this exciting news, there’s a risk that the attention could also be negative.  On the other hand, everyone has their own opinions about adoption and may draw conclusions about your son and your family that he isn’t prepared to hear or respond to.   Kids on the playground can be especially insensitive and hurtful.  Talking with your son about this ahead of time will help him anticipate challenges and how he will respond.

Taking other’s feelings into consideration

One message you could send is that a private adoption involves many people, not just himself, and that he needs to respect everyone’s privacy.  In other words, remind him that he needs to think about what your daughter wants, what her adoptive parents want, and what you and your husband want.  You might explain that sharing this information with others is like giving a gift, and that he needs to think carefully about who he wants to share it with.  You might ask him to talk with you first before he shares it again with a friend or teacher.

Your pediatrician might have ideas, too

My second suggestion is that you talk with his pediatrician about this.  She might know of a counselor who can help with the respecting privacy conversation.   This could be really helpful to him to talk about adoption as well and what it means to him to have a half sibling.   It might be hard for your son to understand, at his age, that some people will feel awkward knowing about the adoption.   Learning who to tell and when it’s appropriate to tell is an important life lesson for an 8 year old.

None of these issues are easy, and learning about privacy is an important part of growing up.  I’m just happy that your son is so excited about his sibling and clearly supportive of you!  I hope my email has been helpful.  Please let me know what you decide to do and let me know how it goes.  I’ll be thinking about you and sending good thoughts.


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