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Adoptive Children Need to Trust–Earn that Trust

“You don’t trust me,” the boy was obviously distressed, but not distressed enough to stop eating fries from a generous serving. He appeared to be just headed into puberty and a growth spurt.

We were listening in the adjoining booth and expected the mother to lovingly assure her beautiful son that, of course, she trusted him. We were wrong.

The mother said,

“No, I don’t trust you. I love you, but I don’t trust you. Trust is earned, and you will have to earn my trust back.”

“How long will that take?” he asked between fries and ketchup. This conversation had nothing to do with adoption, but it does indicate–

If parents can stop trusting their children, certainly children can stop trusting their parents. 

Lying to a child means that child won’t trust you. They may still love you but not trust you.

Trust is earned.

When adoptees learn of their adoption after about three years old, studies indicate these individuals feel betrayed and that they–

They should trust their parents.

Like the mother told her son, she still loves the child, but trust will have to be earned back. Winning back their confidence can be complicated, challenging, and, in some cases, never occurs.

Delaying Adoption Disclosure: A Survey of Late Discovery Adoptees” was a study completed at the Montclair State University by Counseling Professor Amanda Baden. The results were published in May 2019 in the Journal of Family Issues.

“A lot of people think children can’t understand the nuances and complexities of adoption when they’re young,” says Baden, who is herself an adoptee and an adoptive parent. “I often tell families that they can use children’s books as guides. As children’s books get more detailed and complex as children get older, so should the details and explanations of adoption.”

“Growing up thinking that you know your heritage and then learning that what you have been told was false is extremely distressing for LDAs,” she explains. “It can trigger larger issues around identity – and identity is already pretty complex. To wait until middle childhood, adolescence, or even adulthood to tell a person that he or she was adopted means that the families would have had to tell many lies, half-truths, and total fabrications by the time the truth is finally shared or discovered.”

Trust is essential between children and parents as well as parents and children.

Make sure your children can trust you. If someone chooses to “give up my baby” to you, treat that child right.