For a variety of reasons, fathers may be absent from their children’s lives. When a father’s relationship with his child breaks down, he may lose all contact with his child. In other cases, formal adoption may have severed the relationship between a birth father and his child. Perhaps you’d like to contact your father now, or he’d like to contact you. Preparing for the meeting can help ensure the best long-term outcome possible.
Part 1 Finding Your Father
1. Look for your father. If you want to contact your father but don’t know where to look, you’ll have to go on a search. Understand that this search may take a long time and may not result in a meeting with your father.
2. Investigate relevant state or national laws. If you were adopted, look into the laws that govern your adoption records. You might be able to obtain your father’s name by obtaining an original birth certificate.
3. Look into adoption or reunion registries. These registries allow parents and adopted children who are looking for a match to post their information. The registries can then help people get in touch with one another.
Be cautious, however, about expanding your search to social media in general. Maintain privacy settings on your accounts so that you can control how much information you reveal if you find your father.
4. Speak with family members to learn more about your father. Finding out where he worked or his parents’ names and addresses, for example, could be the first steps in locating current information about your father.
5. Engage the services of a professional or a volunteer searcher. If you decide to hire a professional, make certain that they have been properly certified by a relevant oversight body. Volunteer searchers provide a more limited range of services, but they may be able to assist you in gathering valuable information.
Part 2 Deciding to Meet Your Father
1. Choose whether or not you want to meet your father. The decision to seek contact can be motivated by a variety of factors, ranging from a desire to learn about family medical history to a desire to form a relationship.
If your father initiates contact, remember that the decision is yours, not his or your other relatives’ or friends’. You can keep his contact information for as long as you want in order to be prepared for the encounter.
2. Emotionally prepare yourself. You might be interested in reading accounts written by others who have reunited with an absent or unknown birth father. Adoption support groups may be beneficial. You can also discuss your decision with your friends and family, but keep in mind that they may have their own feelings about the process as well.
Recognize that your father may not want to meet with you right away. Consider what it will be like if he refuses to contact you before making contact. If this occurs, make a plan to contact specific people, such as supportive friends or a social worker.
Your father’s reaction could be surprise, fear, joy, or a combination of these emotions. Parents frequently carry significant guilt or even trauma about children they have never met. Recognize that your father’s reactions will most likely change. Make sure you can talk to someone you trust about your feelings about his reactions.
3. Consider what you hope to gain from meeting your father. Avoid daydreaming about your “ideal” father. What do you expect your father to be like, and how will you deal with it if he is drastically different?
It’s better to concentrate on getting answers to basic questions or filling in gaps in your knowledge about yourself rather than fantasising about finding the perfect father.
Part 3 Meeting Your Father for the First Time
1. Don’t reveal too much, too soon. You may choose not to share your full name, or details about where you live and work, in your initial communication. He’s your father, but he’s also a stranger. He may also be hesitant to share personal information right away.
Try not to enter into a strong emotional relationship right away. Slower starts have been shown to produce better, more stable long-term results.
Before meeting, you could start by exchanging e-mails, messages, or letters. This can be a slower, more measured way of getting to know your father.
2. Make an appointment with your father. A two-hour initial meeting is a good length. During daylight hours, choose a neutral, relatively quiet location, such as a park bench or a calm café, where the two of you can easily speak to one another and express emotion.
It is entirely up to you whether you meet with your father alone or invite someone else to accompany you. Some state and national governments provide an intermediary service, in which a social worker will be present to mediate your first meeting.
3. Pose inquiries. This meeting gives you the opportunity to get answers to questions about your own identity. You should think about asking questions about your father’s life or about your paternal family.
For instance, you could say, “I seem to be the only one in my family who enjoys math.” Do you enjoy math as well? Is that something I got from your side of the family?”
Make a point of asking any health-related questions that are important to you. This is an excellent opportunity to learn about any genetic risks you may have for diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, or cancer.
Take note of what you share. It’s normal to spend some time during your first meeting noticing physical similarities between you and your father.
4. Make no grandiose plans for the future. The first meeting is likely to be highly emotional. You may be surprised by how you feel, and he may be as well. You both need time to process the meeting and decide what you want to do next.
If your father wishes to consider the future, you could propose something small but concrete. You could, for example, schedule a time to get a cup of coffee and talk again in a few weeks.
5. Create a support network for yourself. Make certain that the people who care about you are aware of your meeting with your father. Plan your next steps after the meeting and for the rest of the day. For example, you may intend to call one friend and dine with another. Don’t expect to return to work or school right away. Schedule a meeting or phone call with your therapist or counsellor, or work with a social worker, to debrief.
Part 4 Developing a Long-Term Plan
1. Don’t let a bad first date define your relationship. Even if your first meeting was disappointing, it may be worthwhile to keep in touch. Continue to try to get to know one another. Reunions do not follow a script, and they can be a difficult experience for both fathers and children.
2. Recognize the possibility of a “honeymoon” period. A good first meeting can result in euphoria and an immediate, intense connection. This feeling of connection will not last, at least not at this intensity. As the reality of who you are sinks in, you or your father may need to step back and reassess. Prepare to take a “time out” to sort through conflicting and confusing emotions and adjust the relationship. This is a common occurrence during the reunion process.
3. Set boundaries in each other’s lives. Starting with low expectations can help you both build a stronger, more lasting relationship. Because parents frequently bring higher expectations to reunions than children, you may need to take the lead in establishing those limits.
For example, if you have children, you might wait until you’ve gotten to know your father better before introducing them to him.
Make it clear what types of contact are acceptable and which are not. Even if you live close to each other, you might want him to call before dropping by. Or perhaps you prefer a scheduled phone call to a more casual relationship in which you can call or text at any time.
4. Allow enough time for the relationship to grow. Every relationship requires time and space to develop and deepen. If you and your father want to stay in touch, look for ways to spend quiet time together. You could plan a monthly lunch or phone call, for example, or go to sports or music events together on occasion.
5. Accept that the relationship may not deepen or last. Although reconnection can be extremely beneficial, some people discover that they do not want a long-term relationship with their father after all. Perhaps your values and lifestyles are too dissimilar, or he is incapable of maintaining a healthy relationship with you.
6. Don’t forget about your childhood family. Maintain the positive family relationships you already have. The people who raised you may appreciate confirmation that, even though you are meeting your father, you still value their unique role in your life.
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