Were you adopted as a child? Some kids who grow up in adoptive families have no trouble accepting their adoptive parents as their “real” parents and don’t wonder much about their birth parents. Others feel they can’t rest until they track down the parents who conceived them and learn more about their birth family, heritage, and situation. It’s perfectly normal to hover between the two extremes, and even to have different feelings on different days. If not knowing much about your genetic family makes you feel ungrounded, here are some ideas to help you feel more rooted.
Order a DNA Test
Image via Flickr by Victoria Nevland
If you don’t even know what box to check when asked your ethnicity, this is a good place to begin. Services like AncestryDNA and 23andMe have made it very easy to learn more about your heritage. For about $100, you’ll get a report that breaks down your DNA and tells you where your biological ancestors came from. 23andMe also offers an upgrade with a genetic health report, which might be lifesaving if you don’t know anything about your family’s heath history.
Seek Out Your Birth Parents
If knowing your heritage doesn’t satisfy you, it may be time to seek out your birth family, but first, make sure you have reasonable expectations and are emotionally prepared. There are services that can help you find your birth mother, or you can register and file court petitions yourself. Childwelfare.gov offers a publication that can help you find local support groups and navigate the legal system if you decide to do the search on your own.
See a Therapist
If your thoughts race in circles and you can’t decide whether you want to try to contact your birth mother, schedule a few therapy sessions. There are lots of issues to consider, including your own emotions, whether your adoptive parents are supportive or feel threatened, and your birth parents’ feelings. Most people could use a little help working through all that. A therapist can also help you explore the expectations that you’re bringing, and will offer an unbiased ear to help you process the meeting if and when it might occur. If you’re not comfortable talking with a therapist, try keeping a journal to help you untangle any complicated emotions that arise.
Pay it Forward
Everyone has down days. There may be times when you feel a bit lost, or disappointed, or struggle with other issues that you carry around your adoption. One of the best ways to stay focused on the positive is to put your energy into helping others. Working with orphans or taking in foster children will help you appreciate the sacrifice your birth parents made, and the hard work and love your adoptive parents have showered upon you.
Growing up as an adopted child can be very complicated for some people. As an adult, you can practice self-care that will help you feel grounded, whether you decide to seek out your birth parents or not.