Mental health: Why adoption disclosure is crucial

One of the biggest dilemmas adoptive parents are often faced with is whether to disclose the fact of adoption to their child. While the obvious answer is ‘yes’, it is not easily doable by most parents due to the complex emotional implications involved.

Trained volunteers at Viveka, a Not-for-Profit organisation, dedicated to promoting and sustaining a mentally and emotionally healthy society, outline the ideal ways to approach this subject and the related doubts.

The Viveka Centre for Emotional Support is there to help families at every stage of the adoption journey. For more information you can reach experts at

Note: The pronoun ‘she’ has been used for the adopted child for simplicity.

1) Why is it critical to let the adopted child know of his/ her adoption.

Adoption defines the child’s identity. Growing up with a false sense of his/her identity will severely impact the child later in life. The child should receive the information from the parents and not ‘by accident’ from an outsider. This would destroy the child’s trust in the parents. Adoption is an alternative way of building a family and not a ‘second best solution’ to be ashamed of.

2) What is the right time for disclosure? Is it best to wait till the child understands the meaning of adoption?

There is no ‘right time’ for disclosure. The right time is when the parents are ready to share the fact of adoption. However, the earlier the better. Start in the cradle! Otherwise the child will develop a false understanding of his/her identity.

3) ‘I have told my child that she is adopted, is that enough?’

No. The fact of adoption has to be shared with the child at every stage of growing up in an age appropriate manner. Adoption should be an open topic in the family and not a taboo. The child should be encouraged to ask questions, which should be answered as honestly as possible.

4) What makes disclosure difficult for parents?

Sharing the fact of adoption brings back painful memories of unsuccessful attempts of having a biological child. Infertility is perceived as a great loss. The grief must be addressed before the parents are comfortable with the disclosure.

5) ‘Will my child love me less if she knows she is adopted?’

No. If the sharing is done empathetically with complete understanding of the child’s feelings it will strengthen the trust between child and parents.

6) Will the child’s behaviour change if she knows she is adopted?

Most adopted children have an inkling about their adoption. The behaviour does not change abruptly when they are formally informed about it. However, adopted children carry a heavy ‘baggage’ of abandonment and pre-adoptive life experiences. Adoptive parents require immense patience and understanding to deal with their child in this respect.