The biggest insult my brother could give me when I was growing up was to shout, “You’re adopted!” It wasn’t true, and I knew that. My parents were my biological parents, and my brother, like it or not, was my biological sibling. So why did it bother me so much when he’d say things like that? The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it sounded. I learned to shrug it off, and sometimes I’d even have a snarky comeback that even if I were adopted, I’d have been specially chosen, unlike him.

Adopted children are handpicked by their new parents. While it’s often sad that a birth-mother sometimes cannot provide the care and support a child needs, giving a child up for adoption is probably the most loving and generous thing she could do for that child.

Adopted children may suffer self-esteem issues because they think their birth-parents “didn’t want them” or “don’t love them.” It’s a tough hurdle for them to jump, and will probably always leave some kind of dark stain or shadow on their hearts when they think about the reason they were given up.

The trick is to treat them like they’re your own. Don’t give them special treatment, and don’t treat them like they’re not a real member of the family. As a parent, of course you would do everything for this child to make him or her feel safe, secure, and most importantly, loved. If there are other children in the house, however, it might be important to be more cognizant of this kind of behavior.

Whether an adoption is open or closed, it is always important to be open and honest with your adopted child. It’s tough to say when the right time is for your child to learn about his or her background, but these children have every right to know about their biological heritage as well as any genetic medical conditions that may affect them.

It’s never an easy conversation, and be prepared for your special, handpicked child to be upset, to lash out, or even become withdrawn. Give them the room they need to digest the information, and no matter what, make sure they know how much they are truly loved.

For more on adoption, read Lori Jakiela’s memoir, “Belief is Its Own Kind of Truth, Maybe” forthcoming in April 2015 from Atticus Books, and Emily Hipchen’s “Coming Apart Together: Fragments of an Adoption” published by The Literate Chigger Press in 2005.