When Should We Talk About Birth Family?

Hi Rebecca,

Recently I posted a response to a question, “When should we start talking about birth family?”



I said it’s individual/unique to each family, I’d want to know a bit more about the family situation, what it means for everyone involved, etc.

You brought up an excellent point, “People should always have ongoing discussions.” And I do generally lean toward the “more/earlier is better” approach.

Three ideas came to mind:

1 – I’ve had clinical cases where children become extremely dysregulated (e.g., physically aggressive, somatic concerns, intense emotions/behaviors, difficulty soothing, violent, needs a positive support to stay safe or keep others safe. etc.) when the topic of adoption, birth family, loss/grief comes up, so much that it impairs functioning at home or school or in other relationships. This points to the brokenness and pain inherent to their separation from early attachment figures.

2 – I’ve also had cases where the conversation is extremely difficult for the caregiver(s). It brings up layers of need that must be addressed before the caregiver could navigate the conversation in a way that served the child. I want to be sensitive to that.

3 – Lastly, the “advocate” in me wants to set children free from that kind of family dynamic, from that kind of culture. As a clinician, though, I hesitate to push too hard in a particular direction to preserve safety and continuity of care for everyone involved, that in serving/coaching the parent in that situation, I might ultimately serve the child.

That’s where I’m coming from when I say I’d like to know a bit more about each individual situation as families wrestle with that conversation.

Where a family is located would make a difference in our goals and how we meet, learn, grow, and heal together.

In my personal experience and opinion (and I think I’ve expressed this general attitude in my writing), I agree with you and think the conversation should be offered from the start, as an ongoing discussion.

It should be offered openly, warmly, and candidly for children – not too much where they feel intimidated or pressured beyond their pace and comfort, yet enough for them to feel welcomed and validated, safe and supported, normal and not alone, with access to others in the adoption community, including peers and mentors.


We go to where our children are (listening for their interest, comfort, and skill), and we aim to speak the truth in love together, teaching them to do likewise. Not just once, but a thousand times.

I hope that helps clarify my thoughts, I’m very thankful to have this honest dialogue with you! What do you think?




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