As hopeful adoptive parents, you may wonder how to tell your child they were adopted. And you want to do everything you can to help them adjust. As they get older, they will become more curious and probably ask you many questions about their adoption. This is very normal, and as you share openly and honestly with your child, they will better understand themselves.
Discuss Adoption With Your Child at Every Age
We encourage you to talk about adoption openly and frequently with your child. It’s best to begin the adoption discussion from the very beginning, as it’s very beneficial for the adopted child. Plus, it will create the foundation for conversations to come!
Depending upon your child’s age, you can explain their adoption to them in the best way they understand.
Babies to Two-Year-Olds
During the early years, you will talk about adoption all the time. If you have other children, they will understand adoption, so it becomes a normal household word. Your baby will hear the word and know it has something to do with them.
It’s important that your child’s adoption isn’t a big secret or an “event” they remember suddenly hearing about. It should be something they remember being told about all their life.
When your child is about two years old, you might begin telling them the story of how they came to be in your family. Make it their own story with them joining in with handclaps or funny little sounds to make the story fun. They will learn that adoption is a good thing and that they are loved, both by your family and their birth family.
Two to Four-Year-Olds
Most little kids are curious about where they came from. You can explain that they were born just like everyone else. Tell them that all families are different and you’re so glad that they came to be a part of your family.
Tell your child about their birth family. Never belittle the birth family or sound sad about the adoption. This can be confusing to your child. If you have contact with your child’s birth mom, this can help. Your child can see their birth mother in photos, emails, videos, Skype calls, and maybe even in-person in a visit! Be sure to tell your child how much their birth mother loves them. It was because of this profound love that she made the difficult decision she did.
Five- to Nine-Year-Olds
As your child gets older, they will ask you hard questions often at the most difficult times. Whether you’re in the checkout line at the grocery or the post office delivering a package, never belittle their question. Tell them that it’s a good question, but you want to answer it completely. Suggest that you two sit down and talk more about it at a more appropriate time.
Giving yourself time to answer is helpful since you may want to call your adoption specialist for advice on how to answer the question. These specialists have years of experience and know-how to best answer difficult questions kids ask. Don’t forget to get back to your child with the best answer you can give them. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know.”
Many adopted kids wonder why their birth mother didn’t keep them. You may not know the answer, but you can say, “I don’t know why your mother chose adoption, but I’m so grateful she had the courage to give you life. And I respect her for loving you enough to choose adoption.” For some kids, this will be enough for now.
Being in contact with his or her birth mother will help. Allow your child to write out their questions. If their birth mother is comfortable, she can answer the questions.
Your child may be more aware of not being biologically related to your family. Perhaps they have a different skin color, and kids at school have asked them questions. Draw your child out about their thoughts and feelings. It’s a process they must go through, and you can ease their hearts and minds by keeping the doors of communication wide open.
Ten year-olds and older
Depending on your child’s personality, they may have strong feelings about being adopted, some positive and others negative. Be sure never to withhold information. They will feel that they can’t trust you. Keep communication open between you and your child, so they know they can ask you any question.
Your child’s adoption story will look different from others. Throughout their life, be sure to emphasize the positivity of adoption and how much you love them. Express your gratitude to their birth parents for allowing them to be a part of your family. Tell them how much you prayed and how God answered your prayers.
If you have made an open adoption agreement with your child’s birth mother, consider a time for your child to meet their birth family. Arrange the visit and go with them staying nearby. If you and your child are comfortable, give them some time alone with their birth family. Reassure them of your love throughout this process. Sometimes they may act like they don’t need you, but they do. Walk with them and support them.
More Tips on How to Discuss Adoption With Your Child
Many adoptive parents wonder how they can bring up their child’s adoption story. Lifetime Adoption has held a webinar, “Talking About Adoption With Your Child,” to address some of the most commonly-asked questions about this topic.
In the webinar, several adoptive moms tell their stories about what it was like to talk with their children about their adoption. They share their experiences of raising children through adoption. You’ll get valuable tips to keep the topic of adoption open as your child grows up! You can watch this webinar by clicking here.
Founder of Lifetime Adoption, adoptive mom, adoption expert, and Certified Open Adoption Practitioner (C.O.A.P).
Since 1986, adoption expert Mardie Caldwell has been dedicated to bringing couples and birth parents together in order to fulfill their dreams.
“Many years ago, I was also searching for a child to adopt. We didn’t know where or how to get started. Through research, determination, and a prayer, our dream of a family became reality. I started with a plan, a notebook, assistance from a caring adoption consultant and a lot of hard work; this was my family I was building. We had a few heartaches along the way, but the pain of not having children was worse!
Within weeks we had three different birth mothers choose us. We were overwhelmed and delighted. Many unsettling events would take place before our adoption would be finalized, many months later. Little did I know that God was training and aligning me for the adoption work I now do today. It is my goal to share with our families the methods and plans which succeed and do not succeed. I believe adoption should be affordable and can be a wonderful “pregnancy” for the adoptive couple.
I have also been on both sides of infertility with the loss of seven pregnancies and then conceiving by new technology, giving birth to a healthy daughter. I have experienced first-hand the emotional pain of infertility and believe my experience allows me to serve your needs better.
It is my hope that for you, the prospective parents, your desire for a child will be fulfilled soon.”