Most adoptive parents understand the importance of talking to their adopted child about their adoption story and adoption identity. However, no matter how much preparation they do, some adoptive parents still wonder exactly how to talk to their child about adoption in a positive way that they can understand.
At American Adoptions, your adoption specialist is always available for support as you’re adjusting to your new life with an adopted child and looking for advice on talking to them about their adoption. Your adopted child may not be the only child you want to talk to about their adoption; you’ll also want to make sure that any biological child or other adopted child that you have in your home also understands this adoption process and what it means to you as a family. Above all else, you’ll want to make sure that any discussion you have about your child’s adoption is positive and a great experience for everyone.
To help you out, we’ve offered some tips for successful conversations with your child about their adoption story:
1. Start discussing their adoption from the moment you bring them home.
Many adoptive parents will ask, “When do I tell my child that they’re adopted?” While it’s understandable that parents may not see the point in talking about adoption to a baby that can’t understand them yet, it’s important to get into the habit of making an adoption discussion open and available from the very beginning. When you constantly discuss your child’s adoption 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.
2. Be age-appropriate.
While it’s important to talk about your child’s adoption at every stage of their life, how detailed you are with their adoption story may change as they get older. For example, if a child’s birth parents have a tragic backstory, there’s no reason to tell your child until they are slightly older and can fully understand. Instead, tell younger children that their birth mother could not give them the care she needed to and instead choose to place them with a loving family who could. Parents.com has a great guide for discussing adoption as your child grows up in terms they can grasp.
3. Always be open and honest.
As an adoptive parent, it’s normal to feel hurt when your child starts asking about their birth parents. But, while it may come off to you as their desire for their “other” parents, remember that this is a natural curiosity that children have about where they came from. Rather than brush off the topics that make you uncomfortable, take the effort to answer your child’s questions as honestly as you can at their age. Being honest and open about all parts of your child’s adoption story will be immensely beneficial for them in creating an adoption identity that they can be proud of. Secrets, no matter what the reasoning behind them, have the potential to backfire with a child’s young self-esteem. Remember that your child will one day grow up, and they’ll be hurt if you withheld information about their life, even if you meant to “protect” them.
4. Express your excitement and gratitude about the way they came into your life.
As children grow up, they may be faced with negative connotations about adoption. They may be teased at school or overhear other misconceptions about how adoption works. As the source of information on your child’s adoption story, it’s important that you always express positivity when speaking to them about their adoption. Sure, adoption is a bittersweet experience, and you can acknowledge that, but also make sure your child understands how wonderful the adoption process was — because it brought him or her to you. When your child senses your happiness about their adoption story, they’ll start to internalize the same feelings.
5. Recognize that talking about adoption is not a one-time thing.
When parents ask, “When do I talk to my child about adoption?” the answer is “Always.” Talking about adoption is not simply having one conversation and moving on; it’s a lifelong conversation as your child thinks of more questions, wants different answers and develops their identity as an adoptee. It can be difficult at times, but it’s important that you are always open to talking with a child about their adoption, no matter when they ask you. After all, this is an important part of your family story and should be treated as a first priority.
These are just a few of the tips you should keep in mind when you’re discussing adoption with your child. You may have specific questions and concerns about your child’s own adoption story and how to explain it, so we recommend you reach out to your adoption specialist for more ideas on how to have a successful conversation with your child about their adoption. You may also wish to turn to resources like books and movies to better explain adoption to your children, whether they’re biological or adopted. However you decide to talk to your child about adoption, remember that American Adoptions is always here to help.
I really like how you mentioned to always be open and honest about your child’s adoption. I think this will cause your child to become more curious about his or her heritage and try to research and learn about it. I think being open and honest will benefit your whole family in so many ways! My cousin is adopted and his family is very open with him and he embraces his adoption story and holds it very close to him. Thank you for sharing this. I have a friend who is telling her daughter she is adopted, so I will make sure to share this with her!
It was nice when you mentioned that the backstory of the child’s adoption should always be told in an age-appropriate manner so as to avoid hurting them. I will be sure to share this with my sister as she is planning to adopt the child of her friend. She needs to be careful when telling the story about the parents of the kid as it is not really a good one. Thanks!
My grandson has lived with us since he was about a year old, his parents were very uncapable of caring for him, he started calling us his mom and dad when he entered preschool at 3 yrs old. When the teacher tried to correct him he would have nothing to do about that, he was screaming no, so mom and dad stuck. We actually thought the parents would come around, get their crap together, but they never had? Now, we finally are going to adopt him. He is ten yrs old now? We had not talked about his parents or that we are his true grrandoarents? Help me ! How do I explain this situation to him now?????
Hi, Maria – this sounds like a complicated situation. Have you considered reaching out to a counselor that specializes in adoption? This article might be a good resource to start with: https://consideringadoption.com/adopted/adoptee-support/counseling-for-adoptees A professional like this may have suggestions for telling an older child about their adoption, and they should be able to provide any support you or your child might need during and after that first conversation.
Hi we have recently adopted a 3 and 4 year old. They still haven’t mentioned anything about their adoption. Clearly since they are older they know we are not their birth parents. Should we bring up the topic with them or wait for them to ask?
Hi, Tarina — Talking about adoption with your children shouldn’t be a one-time conversation. Instead, adoption should be a topic continually discussed in your household. Rather than ask them straight out about it, it’s a good idea to introduce the topic with books about adoption. That way, you can naturally include their adoption history into the conversation and let them talk about it at their own pace. Here are a few books you can use to get started: https://www.americanadoptions.com/blog/12-childrens-books-on-adoption/ You might also reach out to your adoption professional for more suggestions on tackling this conversation topic. Good luck!
My cousin and his wife have been thinking of adopting a child because she is infertility and they want to prepare for when adopting the child. I really liked how you suggested being open mind and always be honest for any questions the child might have about their birth. We will pass him the article so they can get started and prepare for any questions the child might ask some day.
Hi, i am an adoptee. Searching the net for the correct verbiage for my childrens story on adoption. I have all the right words about the adoption… I was searching for the rebuttal to the question “who are they” “why am i not with them”.
Honestly maybe i could just ask my mom what she told me. She told me early as i could understand. Around 4 or 5…. And then I knew but we didnt really ever speak about her frequently… I guess i didnt have a reason to. I was in a great family. Around 14 i started getting curios tho… And at 19-29 yrs of age. Completed all the pieces to my mysterious puzzle. Some dont want to, But i did. I recommend telling a child as soon as possible. At 10 or past 10 if a parent were to speing that on me i would be pissed, and resentful. Hope that helps anyone..
Thanks for explaining that it’s important to consider the child’s age when determining the best time to share details with them about their adoption and their birth parents. My sister had decided to meet with a resource center to get information about open adoptions happening in her area. I’ll pass along these tips so she can start making long-term preparations to be the best possible adoptive parent!
My husband and I have been thinking about adopting, and my biggest and hardest thought about adopting is to tell them the truth, even more, when they come into your life as babies. You made a great point when you said talking about adoption is not a 1-time conversation, and how it needs to be discussed, as well as always being honest and express excitement about how they came into your life. I know this might be a very hard process, so I will definitely take your advice into consideration so I can get to handle it in an easier way.
Thank you for explaining that it’s important to always be open and honest with them about all parts of their adoption story. We’ve been thinking about adopting recently and we’ve wondered how we would broach the topic of their adoption when they get older. This seems like some good advice that we’ll keep in mind.
only when u are assured of your self that your adopted children would not be heart broken and they are matured enough to receive the news irrespective of the age the are in. finally U your self should be confident as to the fact U would not be heart broken finally and if all the other things are in order is it really necessary to reveal the fact when U are sure of facing tumultuous mental disturbance…