Truth upsets adopted son

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By Nyambura Maina

My 15-year-old son found out that he is adopted. He discovered the truth when he came across some adoption records my wife and I had hidden in our bedroom. We had every intention of telling him one day, but in our own time. Now he has become unmanageable and is even threatening to quit school. How do we get him to calm down and see things from our perspective? He is blaming us for everything wrong in his life and has done a 360-degree turn behaviour-wise. Neither my wife nor I can get through to him. Please help us out of this agonising situation.

Mark, Eldoret

This is a complicated state of affairs. Your motive behind keeping the adoption a secret for that long was probably to protect your child. Unfortunately, things did not work out how you expected and now you must deal with this volatile situation. Now that your son has found out he is adopted, it is probably wise to give him all information pertaining to his adoption. Keeping him in the dark will only serve to make an already difficult situation even worse.

Adoptions can be open or closed. In an open adoption the birth parents of the child are known and are sometimes involved in the child’s life. Interaction exists between the adoptive parents, birth parents and the child. In closed adoption, the identity of the birth parents is not known. Research shows that the child is better positioned to deal with the knowledge of his or her adoption when it is open. Processing overwhelming emotions becomes harder in a closed adoption. Issues to do with a personal sense of identity and the security of belonging are challenges that adopted children face. As a result, they suffer from poor self-esteem and acting up is a common response.

Help your son process this new information and allow him to vent if he needs to. Do not take it personally if your son rejects you in search of his birth parents. It is a normal response for an adoptive child to try and look for that missing link. Reassure him of your commitment to him as parents and of your love and support throughout the process.

Common counsel

Strike a bargain

Encourage him to stay in school because it is important for his future. In fact, use it as a bargaining chip — tell him that if he stays in school, you will help him locate his biological parents. This ought to calm him down and restore hope in life.

George, 40

No foundation

You must realise that discovering this news on his own must have completely shattered his world. His foundation has been pulled from under him and the poor boy is lost. To help him find his way back, you must tell him the whole truth about the adoption. Leave nothing out and help him to get through it all. Take responsibility for what has happened, but do not waste precious time blaming yourselves either. This is the time to support and be there for your son and each other.

Beryl, 47

Safe rather than sorry

Mark, you and your wife made a huge mistake. You should have told him as soon as he was of an age to understand. If you have other children then even they must be made aware of the situation. Maybe your son had already guessed that he was a ‘foreigner’, otherwise why was he snooping around in your bedroom looking through sensitive documents? In future, get yourselves a strong, unbreakable safe if you intend to keep secrets of that nature.

Lydia, 23

Life sentence of pain

I found out I was adopted when I was 17. I remember the shock hitting me very hard. I wasn’t able to focus much on anything else. Because I did not get any answers out of my mum, who was a widow at the time, I decided to run away and stay with friends. Things were tough for me because until today I have not found out who gave me life. It has been a painful process to undergo and I regret making my adoptive mum suffer so much because of my unruly behaviour. I still feel like a part of me is missing because I don’t know my real parents. That pain will be with me for the rest of my life.

Esther Kimani

Contents under pressure

Your son is almost a man and must find solutions to his own problems. Let him get whatever is bothering him out of his system, unless of course he is causing physical harm to himself or others. ‘Contents under pressure are likely to explode’, so do not add to the pressure by panicking and making hasty decisions. He will soon diffuse the negative energy and then you can sit him down and have a man-to-man talk. Be sure to take some positive action after talking to him because delaying will cause him to become restless and destructive again.

Robert, 39

You are the real parents

Mark, I can understand why you kept the secret — it was the safest thing to do for the time being. Unfortunately your beloved son discovered the truth. Now is the right time for you and your wife to make him understand everything. Tell him his history and let him know how much you love and care about him. I am sure when he understands you are his real parents — the ones who have seen him through thick and thin with unconditional love he will accept the situation and embrace you. I wish you the best.

Mwendwa Bundi, Meru

Involve pastor

If you are a church-going family, ask your pastor to counsel your son. Let the pastor tell him that you chose him and not any other child to adopt and you love him as your own. You could also ask some relatives and elders to make him understand he is part of the family and much loved.

Ali Wanje

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