How much to share…

Can anyone advise this new adoptive mum who’s wondering what to Problemtell others in developing relationships…

I’m a fairly new adoptive mum to sibling girls age 4 and 6. Both are at school and I’m slowly starting to become friendly, though very warily of some of the other parents in the playground.

We’re also fairly new to the town we’re living in, so it’s been easy to say ‘yes we just moved to the area’ when explaining our sudden appearance at school.

Now, however, as I develop friendships with some of these people, and my daughters develop friendships with their peers, I’m wondering how much information to share. The school knows a little about their backgrounds, and enough to be able to support them if any issues become apparent (though everything is OK at the moment, we’re still in the honeymoon period I’m sure), but what to tell the parents?

I’m not ashamed of being an adoptive parent, but I don’t want to divulge too much as it’s simply not anyone else’s business. But if I become proper friends with any of them, I don’t want to start off by being dishonest or at the very least, not upfront.

How have others dealt with this?

10 thoughts on “How much to share…

  1. Mumtoone

    I’ve struggled with this subject myself, I’m happy to share how I’ve managed this. Initially when our daughter started school (Yr R) I engaged in conversation with other parents but over neutral subjects weekend plans, holiday plans etc. She is now into the 1st term of year 1 and I have identified the people that I will and have shared limited information with i.e. told the she’s adopted, has some challenges and I always answer the ‘why was she in care’ question with ‘oh you know, usual stuff’. I also know the people that I won’t share our family history with, that ultimately means telling a white lie, not responding to or changing the subject to avoid being in a position where you feel pressure to share information that you wouldn’t want too.

    One thing to bear in mind is that the playground can be useful as well, we have some challenges with our daughter in school and I know that her behaviour is fed back to parents through their children (mostly harmless tittle tattle) if I felt a situation warranted it, I would consider telling the class mum gossip limited information about our family journey, it puts a bit perspective on things for people.

    My advice, get to know the people, it will take a while and you will work out who you would trust with your precious family journey. It took me about a 9mths before I decided who I wouldn’t lie to when it came to it.

    Hope that helps, trust your instincts

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  2. Jo

    Congratulations on becoming a family! I have really struggled with this concept. My advice would be that it isn’t anyone’s business. You can develop real friendships without telling people. And if it becomes relevant in the future you can simply say – oh, didn’t I tell you? Yes, we adopted them.
    I am not ashamed of how we became a family, but a mum who gives birth to her family doesn’t feel obliged to explain how the family came about and neither should we, in my opinion. My reticence comes from my experiences that everyone who knows wants to share in more salacious detail – why were they given up. Do they still see their ‘real’ parents, oh what a shame and they’re such nice children.
    I’d be happy to give short shrift to most of that, but the children end up labelled and I don’t see why they should.
    At my Grandad’s funeral recently the eulogy referred to my brother’s children being born, and mine being adopted, and that differentiation really annoyed me in front of a church load of people I didn’t know.
    The time I do say something is if there is an apology or explanation needed, and then I’m careful who I say it to. So ours had no supervision or one to one time, or stories read to them or puzzles played with (from foster carers not birth family!) That means they struggle to sit still and concentrate even now. Sometimes I need to just explain that, because otherwise people think they are naughty. But then I tend to tell one person and make it clear I’m not telling everyone, but they can stick up f or them in my absence.
    Sorry for my ramblings, one of my three isn’t sleeping these days and so neither am I!

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  3. Helen Oakwater

    Only share what you don’t mind becoming public knowledge. Once it’s out there, it can never be “unknown”.
    Sadly many people think ‘adoption’ means it’s ok to share/gossip about your children. It’s “interesting” to others, adds colour to their lives. Plus people “interpret” and make both judgements and presuppositions.
    My experience over 20+ years is to be very wary. What is said at primary school can be used as ammunition at secondary or before.
    Plus you must equip your children with answers … I equipped the kids with a stock answer and if anyone (including nosy parents) wanted to know more the kids had the phrase “you can ask my mum if you want to know more”. That generally shut them up.
    I recommend general phrases like “we don’t talk about our children’s history as that’s private”. “Like many children adopted from the care system they had a tough start in life”. “I’m sure you understand our need to protect the children, so we don’t share any information with anyone. It’s not appropriate”
    Fix your boundaries early and stick to them. Friends in the playground today may become enemies in the future and information can be used to hurt. Kids can be cruel. Sadly so can their parents, especially if your little darling walloped their precious offspring. GOOD LUCK and stay safe.

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  4. Amanda

    We have a policy of being honest about our children’s adoptive status so they don’t feel it’s something to hide or be ashamed of so in the playground with other parents I have told some people and not others simply because it was appropriate to be honest in the context of a particular conversation. That said, however, we also are clear that our children’s life stories are private and not up for discussion. I have found that the people you want as your friends completely respect that and don’t pry. Our children are still young and came to us as babies so we have yet to navigate the minefield of them sharing their life story with another child and it later being shared inappropriately.

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  5. Adoptive mum

    Really good advice there! I completely agree. Children always hear/ guess/ somehow get hold of information we give to parents. So my assumption is always that whatever I tell parents, ends up being also known by children. As someone above said, once information is released, you have no control over who has it or how it’s used.

    My son is from a different ethnicity and looks different, so we are more exposed. I often wish this wasn’t the case, as he has been stigmatised and the victim of some racism, at the tender age of 5. If he looked more like us, I would not reveal his background. And even though his different appearance compromises our privacy, I reject all questions about his past using some of the tactics mentioned above. Sometimes just not replying gives the right message.

    Giving the children some lines to use is also important, as they grow up their peers start to ask more questions as well.

    When my son came to live with us we took a long time preparing our niece, who was 3 at the time, and talking to her about adoption. At the end, we asked if she had any questions. Yes, she said. Can he stand on one leg?
    That’s the spirit, I say!

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  6. M&Ms

    During my three years as an adoptive Mum I have equiped myself with a few phrases.
    I too moved to a new area and didn’t tell any of the mums for a long time. Most of the conversations happened naturally as the more play dates there were the more chats you have. But I also trusted them and knew they were going to be real friends, not just a few play dates here and there. You say it when you feel comfortable and that is when you trust them.
    If they asked any questions about where my son was from I simply say “he comes from a chaotic place”. Done! It says enough and also says don’t ask me any more.
    It’s not about being ashamed, always be proud of what you have done, it is truly amazing! But I am still cautious and have learnt to be as time goes on. At the end of the day it is your business and yours to share when you are ready. But on the flip side don’t leave and leave it as it then becomes a bigger issue than it should be. Good luck!

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  7. Ha Mumbug

    I’m in exactly the same position – two recently adopted girls of the same age. I have to say that, although I’m of the opinion that adoption is the girls’ story and theirs to tell, I have let it slip to a couple of mums when asked questions about where they went to school before. People from the area know me by sight, if not personally, and are naturally curious as to why they’ve not seen me at the school before. Luckily, they were very discreet and didn’t ask any probing questions. I’m not great at fibbing convincingly so I’m going to have to practice some stock phrases for the future for me and the kids. I like the idea of “You’ll have to ask my mum if you want to know more” as it takes the pressure off them.

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  8. Nicki

    For me honesty and openness have always been key to help our children be confident and happy at school. I don’t want their adoption to be a secret, however its not a topic I want broadcast around the playground either, I want people to know my children because they are amazing not because they’re adopted. Whilst my children have grown up with their peers at pre school and school I have only told others who have come into our life when its relevant. Adoption comes up in strange ways at school, my children are never in the class photos which get sent home to parents and there have also been some school topics in which adoption has come up and the other pupils in class have shared snippets of the lesson at home with their families and I’ve had conversations after with parents. I have to say the conversations have all been either of surprise, support and interest. I have worked closely with the school about such topics and have been very well informed of when something relevant is coming up in the curriculum.
    Personally I would share with parents that they are adopted when its relevant. Whilst not wishing to shout about it in front of the children I also thinks its key to present it positively and proudly just in case any little ears over hear. I never discuss the children’s life stories to parents only professionals when its necessary.
    Good luck with your decision.

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  9. Gareth Marr

    I think the key point is ‘proper friends’. Only you can judge when one becomes proper but I would counsel caution about sharing too much. We adopted our son at age 6 and were very open as was he. He was delighted to be adopted. But school can be a snake pit. Son was bullied for being adopted, school thought him different, parents of children he clashed with rarely had any sympathy and blamed us as bad parents. We became the bad parents of a naughty child.

    If we had the time again I would share the info with the school leadership team, stress confidentiality, and make sure my child felt safe and secure in school. Over time as we got close to a few parents I might share the story, as after all it is a lovely story isn’t it? We had two or three families who were supportive friends and understood the special joy we felt when our son succeeded at anything.

    Hope this helps. You are doing a great job, changing lives forever.

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  10. newmum

    This is an issue I also consider a lot. I think I’ve settled on our stance is that people will know he’s adopted so that he can always feel good about this, but we simply won’t share any details more than that. I have already had to manage people asking more. If there is one piece of advice I could offer non adoptive parents it would be PLEASE don’t ask the next question which is usually ‘do you know his background?’ and to that I say ‘Yes’ and leave it there. If they push more, I say: we aren’t allowed to share his background or i say we don’t like sharing his background. It’s always a very awkward moment for me, I guess that a lot of friendships develop partly through disclosure, so maybe I feel that I am putting an abrupt stop to the conversation, but for me this is an area of disclosure that is not appropriate and fending off questions can feel tricky without feeling awkward! I hope that i will get better at saying this. Some people unwittingly pry, I give the benefit of the doubt and think that I guess adoption is a really interesting thing which triggers questions they don’t mean you to find hard. When I get irritated with insensitive people, I try to call to mind the people (majority) who when they know our son is adopted say ‘Oh how lovely’ and look genuinely touched and that is quite enough for them. In my mind I’m clear that interest in how my son is right now is appropriate, (he likes puddles, he’s speaking more, even he’s settling in really well and we love him) but questions about his life before living with us are out of bounds, out of respect to him, and to his birth family and foster carers. They have a right to privacy too. What has also helped me is that as my son is young, he can’t speak much yet nor understand his own story, and really, I want him to be the first to know his life story, not people who are random acquaintances. I feel it’s his story, not even mine or my husband’s, and I don’t feel that I have the right to share too much.

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