Birth fathers can be a complicated topic for adoptive parents. You want your child to have all the information they can about their personal and family history, but you also know that a birth father can be a sensitive subject for many birth mothers.

So, when your child asks you questions about their birth father that you can’t answer, how can you get that information? How do you talk to your child’s birth mother about the birth father?

All adoptive parents should approach these conversations with preparation and empathy. Even years after placement, sensitive issues like birth fathers can bring up loss and grief for many birth mothers. Empathize with their situation, and use these tips to have as productive a conversation as possible:

Tip #1: Follow Her Lead

As tempting as it can be to lead with your questions, you should never initiate a conversation about a birth father. It can catch a birth mother off-guard to be asked such deep questions right away, and she may (understandably) choose not to answer them.

Let your child’s birth mother take the lead when it comes to conversations about the birth father. Listen to what she has to say rather than bombard her with questions. Remember that this may be a tough topic for her to talk about. Be empathetic to her feelings, especially if she has a difficult relationship or history with the birth father. However, be cautious about taking sides or speaking negatively about him, especially around  your child. No matter a birth mother’s relationship to the birth father, he is still your child’s biological father — and it’s important your child is able to grow up and form their own opinion about and feelings toward him.

Remember there are also two sides to every story, and people can always change over time — your child’s birth father included.

If you spend the time to support your child’s birth mother and be a sounding board for her thoughts, she will likely bring up this topic on her own because of the trust and respect she has for you.

Tip #2: Ask Appropriate Questions

When you and your child’s birth mother have a trusting enough relationship, you can learn more about the birth father with general, non-invasive questions. You may not get the information you’re looking for right away, but you should get enough answers to answer some of your child’s earliest questions.

Here are a few examples of positive questions you might ask:

  • What was/is the baby’s birth father like?
  • What do you want your child to know about their birth father?

Questions not to ask include those about specific details, like:

  • Where is the birth father now?
  • Have you spoken since the adoption?
  • Why wasn’t he involved in the adoption?

Remember that some birth mothers may not have much information about their baby’s father. Asking questions they don’t have the answers to can make them relive the complicated emotions they felt when they first discovered they were pregnant.

Tip #3: Take Notes for the Future

For many birth mothers, conversations about birth fathers can be complicated and bring up some difficult emotions. Because these discussions can be so sensitive, take care not to ask the same questions over and over again. Instead, take notes and keep those ready for whenever your child asks questions about their birth family.

While it may not be age-appropriate to tell an adopted child every detail from the beginning, they will always have the right to know their whole story. Having the information saved away will give you time to think about age-appropriate discussions and give some answers your child is looking for, even if the birth mother loses contact or does not want to discuss this topic again.

Tip #4: Remember Each Situation is Unique

Every birth father situation is unique, as is every birth mother’s feelings about their baby’s father. Some birth mothers will be willing to share as much information as they have, while others will only offer simple details. We know this can be frustrating when you’re an adoptive parent, but it’s important to show grace and understanding to a birth mother during these conversations.

Remember that there are more options for your child to learn more about their birth father’s family. DNA and ancestry registries can help them understand their racial and ethnic history, as well as potentially connect them to other birth family. Let your child determine if and when they are ready for this step, and support them whether or not they take advantage of these opportunities.

Tip #5: Reach Out to Your Adoption Specialist

Sometimes, adoptive families have complicated or sensitive questions about their child birth father. If you’re unsure of how to approach your child’s birth mother, remember that American Adoptions will always be here to help.

Our team of adoption specialists have seen all kinds of birth father situations, and they have experience navigating even the trickiest of conversations. They can talk to your child’s birth mother in a sensitive way and get any additional information they can.

However, it’s important to remember that your direct relationship with your child’s birth mother is important to maintain and cultivate; she will be the best source of family and personal history for your child as they grow up. Make sure to talk with and get to know your child’s birth mother outside of deep conversations like these to have the healthiest post-placement relationship possible.