The ‘taboo’ topic – when nobody talks about the origin of the child

January 24 2024

Vesela and Annie are mother and daughter, but they do not have a blood relationship – Annie has been abandoned by her biological parents and Vesela adopts her when she is two years old. As of today, Annie is already a teenager. We met them when they visited our complex with the request for help due to the worsening relationship between them two since Annie has entered puberty.  

The mother is worried that her daughter does not understand boundaries and angers excessively. She feels helpless because she sees that Annie is going into a bad direction and does not take any advice. In the course of the work with them it became clear that although the daughter had long been told she was adopted, it is like she does not know at all. She denies her ethnicity as well as she is adopted. Annie uses denial as a coping mechanism which is not accidental – behind her action are suffering and pain, lack of acceptance and a taboo topic.  

During the conversations with the mother, we realised that in their home the topic of Annie’s origin is not discussed. If it comes up accidentally, it is somehow awkward and it ends quickly. Annie is curious and has a lot of questions, but she does not dare to ask. Vesela is ‘open’ to the topic, but she somehow never finds ‘the right moment’ to bring it up and discuss it. If Annie initiates a conversation, the mother is in a hurry to end it and thinks there is nothing more to discuss.  

Thus, each of them, suppressed by their own fears, closes more and more and the distance between the two grows. The child’s dissatisfaction finds outlet in various behavioural expressions which are unacceptable for the mother and others. 

Stories like this one are not exceptions – ‘unacceptable’ topics which turn the way of thinking and talking into ‘taboo’ often come up in the family. This way parents turn their own fears into fears of their children. Fear is like a balloon – small at the base but once we start inflating it could become huge. We are the ones who inflate it, and we must be careful not to allow anything that could carry good emotions to cause problems.  

To ask and receive answers for his origin is the right of the child. It is not necessary for parents to have all the answers, but it is important to respond to the desire and interest of the child, to find the right moments and to do not reject his quests because of our own worries and fears. The kid is not asking because he wants to replace his parents but because it is a normal human aspiration of every person to know about his roots to piece together his own story.  

Sharing facts only is not enough – a space is needed for facts to become the personal story of the child and the parents. If a topic is taboo for the parents, it will become taboo for the children as well. This will inevitably create dissatisfaction and the sense of secrecy which will find a way to manifest itself.  

Vesela and Annie, as well as many other parents in the same situation, are about to build bridges towards each other. To all who might have a similar story and these important conversations lie ahead, we recommend that they do not wait for the gap to become large, but to prevent its creation in the beginning with timely communication.  

The story was told by Rositsa Kayryakova, psychologist at For Our Children Foundation.
*Photo for illustration purposes only. The names have been changed to protect anonymity.  

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