One of the most frequent questions our adoption coordinators get from adoptive parents is, “How and when do we explain adoption to our child?”
The answer will depend on you, your child, and your own unique adoption story. There are some general guidelines that you can adjust for your family.
Your Adoption Story
From the time you start telling stories to your baby, you can share their adoption story. It is considered best practice today for a child to grow up knowing they are adopted, rather than some big reveal when they are older. Being age-appropriate, share your adoption journey in a happy, positive manner. You can let your child know how you hoped and prayed for him and how excited you were when you found out you were going to be able to adopt her.
Give specifics, like: “Mommy got a call to come to the hospital to pick you up and she was so excited she was jumping up and down, and Daddy thought she had gone crazy until she could get the words out to tell him and then he started jumping up and down.” Let her know how you felt the first time you looked in her eyes and how excited and proud you were to introduce her to the rest of the family. If you approach the subject of adoption in a warm, happy, loving way, the child will see it that way as well.
Take Your Child’s Lead
As your child grows, there may be times he is more interested in the subject of adoption and times less so. Adjust to his needs. If you talk about adoption all the time, it will become too much of a focus.
First, you are a loving family, you are his parents, and he is your son. Adoption is just a part of that story. Your four-year-old may have very little interest, and then he turns five and is fascinated by the subject for a month. Go with the flow, as they say. Watch and listen to your child’s cues, and always stay positive.
There are many, many books on adoption. Some geared toward the parents and how to talk about adoption. Others meant for the child. Have an age-appropriate book on hand should some questions arise. They can really help explain adoption in a way your child can relate to.
The Tough Questions
As your child grows, they will come up with some questions that may be hard to answer. It is best to be prepared and have an idea of how you will answer these questions ahead of time. Some of the more common questions are:
- Why did my Mommy give me away?
- Where are my real parents?
- Why didn’t my parents want me?
While some of these questions are hard to answer, and some may feel hurtful in how they are asked, it is important not to focus on the wording. Your child is only using words and phrases that they probably hear at school or on TV.
Instead, lovingly answer their questions using more positive adoption language. You might say something like, “Your birth mother loved you very much and placed you with us to be your mommy and daddy because she wasn’t able to take care of you the way she wanted you to be taken care of.”
The most important thing is to be honest. That does not mean you need to share information that would not be suitable for your child; it means you find the positives and lovingly share their story. Speaking of your child’s birth parents negatively will only have a negative impact.
Remember, you are not in a competition with your child’s birth parents for their love. You are his parents, and he loves you. Kids are naturally curious, and they should feel comfortable asking you the questions they have.
Adoption Webinar – How to Discuss Adoption With Your Child
Many adoptive parents are not sure how to can bring up the topic of their child’s adoption. In the webinar, “Talking About Adoption With Your Child,” Lifetime’s adoption experts answer some of the most commonly-asked questions about this subject.
Lifetime Adoption invited several adoptive moms to the webinar so they could share what it was like to talk about adoption with their children. These adoptive mothers share their experiences of raising adopted children. You can watch this webinar at AdoptionWebinar.com. It’s packed with valuable tips to keep the topic of adoption open as your child grows up!
If you have an open adoption with your child’s birth mother, consider a time for your child to meet up with their birth family. Arrange the visit, and depending on your child’s age, you can stay nearby. If both you and your child are feeling comfortable, you could give them some time alone with their birth family.
If you trust your heart and prepare for the questions and topics that will come up as your child grows, you will do great. Will you always have the best answer or say the right thing? Nope. Nobody gets it right every time a child asks a question. If you come from a place of love, positivity, and a little bit of humor in there, your child will follow your lead.
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., is a nationally-recognized adoption expert and the Founder of Lifetime Adoption Agency. She has been working in adoption since 1986 and is also an award-winning author and speaker.
Mardie knows the sorrow of coping with infertility, and is an adoptive parent who experienced many of the challenges adoptive families might face. In various media appearances worldwide, publications, and her podcast, Mardie important steps that must be taken to complete a safe and secure adoption. Having adopted her son, Mardie knows firsthand the joys of raising an adopted child.
Mardie’s life mission is to help adoptive parents and birth parents find each other. With Lifetime Adoption Agency, she seeks to build happy families and provide precious infants and children with a loving and secure future.