November is National Adoption Month — a great chance to reflect on adoption and its place in the world today. How can we all do better to spread awareness and pride about all adoption processes?
Every year, the Children’s Bureau highlights a sector of adoption to do just that. This year’s theme: “Engage Youth: Listen and Learn.” While the Children’s Bureau’s materials focus on foster care adoption, there are plenty of lessons to learn for international and private domestic adoption, as well.
As a national adoption agency, American Adoptions works to spread awareness and education about modern domestic adoption. But we can’t do it without the most important person in the adoption triad — the adoptee.
Adoptees’ voices are crucial. They are the ones who live and experience their adoption every day. They play a key role in shaping the future of adoption — foster care, international and domestic.
Want to help your child discover their voice and share their adoption story? Check out the tips below:
1. Remember every adoptee has unique feelings and thoughts.
Even though adoption is a part of your family’s story, it’s your son’s or daughter’s to tell. Don’t assume that your child is ready to share their personal adoption story. Give them space and time to tell their story when they want, in their own way.
Being adopted is complicated. While adoption gave your child a life of love and opportunities, it can also come with some grief and trauma. An adoptee must take their own time to build and be comfortable with their personal identity. Pushing them to accept or share their adoption story before they’re ready can make them uncomfortable.
Recognize that your child has unique thoughts and emotions toward their adoption story. Some adoptees are happy and content with their adoption, while others have a great deal of personal trauma to work through. Support and empathize with your child as they walk this journey.
2. Make adoption a constant conversation in your house.
Your child’s adoption story shouldn’t only be discussed during serious, sit-down conversations. It should be a natural part of your everyday conversations.
Inspire this by placing photos of birth parents in prominent locations or filling your child’s bookshelf with adoption-themed books. Talk about your journey to adoption and your child’s birth parents often and without prompting. When you make adoption an easy and natural part of your conversation, your child will likely follow your lead.
Don’t hesitate to answer your child’s questions about adoption, either. They may come out of the blue, but show them respect. Give them your full attention and answer their questions honestly. Your child will see how much adoption means to you, and they’ll learn from your example.
3. Allow them to create a personal open adoption relationship.
Your child’s birth family can play a vital role in their identity as an adopted individual. If possible, give your child the space to develop a personal relationship with birth family.
An adoptee deserves to get the answers to their questions right from the source. These answers may not always be easy to hear, but it’s an adoptee’s right to understand their history and where they came from.
Your child’s birth parents trusted you when they placed their child in your arms. Extend the same trust to them. Let your child develop a personal relationship with their birth family, and it will help them develop ownership in their own adoption story.
4. Offer alternative ways to share their thoughts.
Not all children are verbal storytellers. It can be overwhelming to put complicated emotions into words, especially around adults. If your child is on the shyer side, give them the creative tools to explore their story in other ways, such as:
- Drawing or painting
- Writing or journaling
- Photography or videography
By celebrating and asking questions about their work, you can ease into a conversation and encourage your child to own their adoption story.
5. Suggest they share their story with others.
You should never push your child to share their story unless they want to. That said, if your child seems interested in and proud of sharing their adoption story, encourage this! Adoption is best explained by those with some personal experience in it, and an adoptee’s voice is one of the most important in the triad.
Sharing an adoption story can be as simple or involved as your child wants. They could take a photo of their birth parents to show-and-tell to explain their adoption story, or they could simply answer questions from their closest friends. If they want, they can even share their story through our blog or testimonial pages (with a parent’s supervision, of course).
How and how much an adopted individual chooses to share about their experience is always up to them. As a parent, it’s your job to support and encourage that desire — reminding them that their adoption story is something to be proud of.