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To tell or not to tell

Dear Amy: I am a 16-year-old girl with a 13-year-old biological brother, "Paul" and a 10-year-old adopted sister, "Natty."

My parents have never told Natty she's adopted. She resembles our family, so I don't think she notices.

She's recently started asking questions about her birth, and my mom has made up elaborate lies to cover up her adoption. My mom says she'll tell her when she's old enough. Paul and I think she deserves to know but don't want to defy my mom.

Can you help?

— Distressed Sister

Dear Distressed: Your mother's refusal to tell your sister her adoption story has now devolved from lying by omission to outright lying.

Your mom is putting all of you in a terrible position, and it has the potential to profoundly affect everyone.

Your sister is old enough to learn her adoption story. She was always old enough to know this story, because it's the truth. It's nothing to be ashamed of or worried about, except, of course, when it becomes this big and powerful secret that the whole family must keep.

Tell your mother you worry that another family member will tell your sister the truth, and this would turn a wonderful story into a confusing and traumatic event for everyone.

I assume that you have quite distinct memories of your sister's adoption. You should also say that you will never lie about this and that if asked you will tell the truth. You don't mention your father, but he would be the obvious choice to help you advocate for the truth.

A book that would provide inspiration to her is "Talking With Young Children About Adoption," by Mary Watkins and Dr. Susan Fisher (1995, Yale University Press). This book not only suggests ways to have this talk, but anticipates the many questions that children frequently ask.

101 interesting comments on this important topic. Please click on this link to The Washington Post

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