In a recent episode of ABC’s Modern Family (Ep. 405 “Open House of Horrors”), adoptive parents Cam and Mitchell have to come clean after telling their adopted daughter Lily an untruth about her birth mother. In a weak moment, while trying to get Lily to sleep, Mitchell says that her birth mother was a princess. Lily latches onto the idea, decides she’ll be a princess for Halloween and chats up a “princess” at her parents’ Halloween party to try and learn more about her birth mother.
The funny exchange sheds some actual truth on talking about adoption. Even if you don’t have the answers or if the answers are difficult or complicated, it’s important to be honest with your child in an age-appropriate way.
National Adoption Month can be a great time to gather as a family and reflect on your child’s adoption by having a conversation about adoption or by sharing your adoption story.
Look at old family movies and photo albums. Read over an adoption scrapbook or lifebook. You can even share your Adoptive Family Print Profile or Video Profile with your child and family to show how excited you and your spouse were for your child.
AdoptiveFamilies.com has a great list of resources for talking to your child about adoption at any age, as well as telling others about adoption and tackling the tougher conversations.
Early adoption conversations, for pre-school children like Modern Family’s Lily, should start by introducing adoption language. This will help your child get comfortable with words that will be part of his or her identity and everyday life.
As you tell your adoption story, it’s ok to keep it simple. However, make sure the story is truthful and can be expanded upon as your child gets older – without you having to contradict yourself or go back on something down the road. Keep your tone upbeat, and share the excitement you felt as you created your adoption plan and met your child.
Be sure to help your child understand that he or she was born from a tummy. This is a good gateway into explaining who your child’s birth parents are. Often this will also begin a conversation about physical differences between you and your child and where your child’s physical characteristics came from.
Throughout conversations about adoption, make sure that you understand what your child is asking as clearly as possible. Let him or her know that it’s ok to ask questions or talk about adoption anytime. And don’t be afraid to revisit the topic again. Your child’s understanding will change and develop over time, but he or she may not bring up adoption on their own.
What are your best tips for sharing your adoption story as a family? Do you have any special keepsakes that are part of telling your adoption story?