If you ask our 3-year-old daughter whose belly she was in she’ll tell you. We’ve been open with her about adoption from the very beginning and that will never change. It’s a part of her, and her brother’s, story. It always will be. And, that’s OK! It’s awesome.
We know the conversations will get harder as they get older but we believe it’s very important to set the groundwork now. Although most adoptive parents understand the importance of talking to their adopted child about their adoption, some find it hard to do and are unsure how to approach it.
Here are 5 tips we’ve used that help in talking to your child about their adoption.
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1. Start discussing their adoption from the very beginning.
If you adopt your child as a baby, that may seem too soon to start talking to them about adoption. It’s not! Get used to making adoption a topic of open discussion from the time you bring them home. By weaving it into your regular conversation with them, it will become a normal part of their life. They’ll never have a moment when they “learned” they were adopted; it will just be an identity that they’ve had since before they could remember. This doesn’t mean you have to over discuss it. Just allow it to be a normal part of their story.
2. Always be open and honest.
When your child has a question, do your best to give an honest, open answer. My daughter recently asked me if her brother was in my belly. I asked her if she remembered whose belly she was in. She did. I reminded her that her brother was in her birth mom’s belly too. It’s important to answer your child’s questions as honestly as you can at their age. Being honest and open about your child’s adoption story will be important in building their identity.
Although they are sure to have questions as the years go on, they will never have this huge revelation that they were adopted. Perhaps even more importantly, they will always know you don’t keep secrets from them. This will help them build their trust in you which will carry over to other topics throughout their childhood. What many parents have done in love trying to protect their adopted child has backfired and caused their child pain and more issues with identity than they otherwise would have had to deal with.
3. Speak to your child in an age-appropriate way.
While it’s important to talk about your child’s adoption story with them at every stage, you want to do it in an age-appropriate way. At this point, we just tell our 3-year old that she and her brother are adopted and that she was in her birth mom’s belly. Our son isn’t even 2 yet so we read books to him with simple concepts. We will add more, age-appropriate, detail as they get older.
And, this does not need to only include adoption books. Books about how much you love them are wonderful ways to express what a blessing their adoption is. Here is a cute book you can start as soon as your baby comes home.
4. Speak about their adoption in a positive tone.
Because only 2% of Americans adopt, we are in the vast minority. It means we get to enjoy this amazing gift most people never experience. But, it also means most people don’t really understand adoption. We’re kind of in our own little secret club. Unfortunately, because people don’t always respond well to things they don’t understand, it also means your child will likely encounter some negativity surrounding their adoption. They may be teased or overhear misconceptions about adoption.
The good news is you are always able to share the positive side. You are the one that knows more about your child’s adoption story than anyone else. There is no denying the fact that there is some amount of sadness, even tragedy, in every adoption. But, there is also a lot of beauty and you get to choose to focus on that as much as possible. Adoption is what helped build the family you have. Your child will sense your happiness and positivity about their adoption. And, your positivity and openness will help your child form their own feelings about adoption.
5. Make adoption an ongoing conversation.
Adoption is not a one-time conversation; it’s a life long narrative. This is great news and can take a lot of pressure off. You don’t have to tell all the details or “get it all right” in one single conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation you get the privilege of having with your child. As your child thinks of more questions and wants different answers, you can be there to answer those. Remain open to talking with your child about their adoption. This is an important part of their story and a big part of your family.
These are just a few tips that can help in discussing adoption with your child. There are many resources available including other blog posts and awesome books. Along with these I personally suggest prayer. Ask God to give you the words to say. And remember, you are 100% your child’s parent. You know your child better than anyone else. You know what they need and when they are ready for certain information. Trust that instinct.
For more adoption tips and resources, follow my blog at fortheloveofadoption.com.