Finding out you’re adopted

What happens if you find out your parents aren't the ones who gave birth to you? The Mix looks at ways to cope if it happens to you.

Boy looking confused

"I'm adopted? Say what?"

What is adoption?

About 3,000 children are adopted in the UK each year. The decision to give a child up for adoption is not something that’s taken lightly and it can be for all manner of reasons. Many parents feel they are unable to offer their child the best possible care. They may have financial difficulties, health problems or feel too young to cope.

Getting the news

Finding out late in life that you’re adopted, or being contacted by one of your birth parents or relatives, can throw up a range of emotions. You may feel anger and hurt, abandonment and despair – not to mention all those questions you want answering. How do you begin to get a handle on things?

Firstly, take a deep breath. Rushing into these things hot-headed may result in you both saying things you don’t mean, especially if you’re in a state of shock. It’s totally understandable for you to feel confused and slightly lost. There may be many things you want to know and have to think about, from why your birth parents gave you up in the first place, to whether you want to have any contact with them. Then again, you may decide you’re happy as you are and harbour no burning desire to get to know those who spawned you.

You may want to talk to someone to work out how you’re feeling and what you want to do next, on the other hand it’s also fine if you feel you want to keep it to yourself. Many people find counselling helps and the BAAF and Post Adoption Centre are good places to find this.

Who am I?

As the dust settles it’s common to want to know more about your origins, what your birth parents did, and so on. Even if you have a close and loving relationship with your adoptive parents, it’s natural to want to know your own life story from the very beginning in order to forge some sense of identity. It may not be the easiest subject to broach, but they have brought you up and loved you as their own, and they should be able to help you through this. They may well hold information on your birth parents that they can share with you, such as the circumstances of your adoption, your birth name, or the name of the adoption agency. They may even have a life story book for you, or be able to help you make one.

Your birth parents

You can’t expect to have an instant parent-child bond if you do decide to trace your parents. They may only want to answer some of your questions and see how you’ve turned out. In some cases they might not want to go into detail about the adoption or life after you were born. Or they may be worried about their new partner or children finding out about you. They might not even want to meet with you, or they may stop returning emails or calls after any initial meetings.

It’s easy to make your birth parents out to be gods (or demons). Most likely is they fall somewhere in between (i.e. human). Nobody is perfect, so if you plan to start finding out where you came from and who your birth parents are, you will need to be open to them. Put them on a pedestal and they will probably fall off. If you use them as your emotional punch bag, unwilling to believe anything they have to say, that will also serve little purpose.

Your adoptive parents and siblings

You’ve either met with your birth parents or you’ve arranged to do so. While your adoptive parents will probably have been waiting for this moment to come your whole life, that doesn’t mean it’s the easiest thing for them to hear. It’s natural that you may feel confused and guilty about seeking out your birth family. The decisions you’re making are huge and can be life-changing, but at the same time, be gentle with your adoptive parents’ feelings. They’ve brought you up as their own flesh and blood and have stuck around through all your hellish tantrums and hormones. It’s natural for them to be both concerned for you, and perhaps even a little jealous of your birth mother and father. Tell them what you’re up to, but remember to let them know that you care for them as well. It’s worth remembering that your brothers or sisters may also find it hard to cope with the news, whether they’ve been adopted or not. Be understanding of their feelings at this time as they may find it just as hard to deal with as you.

Next Steps

  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.



By Written by Susie Wild

Updated on 29-Sep-2015