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.