Explaining adoption to your kid is rough. There are so many things to weigh up and consider, and so many of your own emotions to sift through. Plus, all these have to take a back seat to the most important aspect of all. How does this information affect, hurt, or shape your kid? Although it is entirely up to the parents to decide when to tell their child that they’re adopted, these tips can still make things easier for both of you.
Research has shown that one of the most traumatic things for an adopted kid is to remember the day they were told, whether it was done in a loving way or not. To avoid this, you should try to talk openly or give them hints about this early. Your kids shouldn’t have to come to a realization that they were adopted somewhere down the line. It helps so much if it’s just something they’ve always known. Also, you can start early by letting your kids read books or stories about adoptions so they can understand the situation even more.
Find Good Resources to Start With
We suggest browsing book stores or websites for resources that speak to you and how you’d like to talk to your kids about adoption. Specifically, we recommend checking out TapestryBooks.com or Susan and Gordon Adopt a Baby (a Sesame Street book). Here are some good books about adoptions for you: “Let’s Talk About It: Adoption”, “The Day We Met You”, and “Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born”.
Don’t Ignore or Criticize the Birth Parents
Well, birth parents should be a part of the story. By not mentioning them, adoptive parents send a message that they are uncomfortable talking about them or there was something wrong with them. But, birth parents will always be part of your child’s life, whether it’s an open, closed, or foreign adoption with very little information. Be sure not to say anything disparaging. Remember that they are the reason you have your child.
A Little Less of the ‘Special’
Don’t focus on how special your child is. Although this sounds harmless and loving, it’s actually not a great idea. If you talk about it too many times, believe your kids have to be special to maintain their parents’ love! In other words, your kid might think your love is just contingent on their specialness. This can translate into your child working tirelessly to become the best athlete or to get straight as all attempts at remaining special. Instead, allow your child to just be whoever they are.
Don’t Wait for Your Kids to Ask Questions
It’s not surprising if your kid doesn’t ask any questions particularly about their birth parents. It’s because they don’t want to hurt their parents’ feelings. Or, they assume you’re uncomfortable while talking about their adoption. The importance of looking for opportunities to talk about adoption. For instance, if your child is a talented artist, you might say, “You’re such a great artist. I think your birth mom was good at art too.”
Even moments of anger are good opportunities. For example, if your child yells “You’re not my real parents” during an argument. Understandably, this is very painful. However, it’s also an opportunity to say “Do you wonder about what your birth mother or father would’ve done?” This shows your child that it’s safe to ponder and talk about these topics.
Support Their Feelings
Everyone is unique. While some kids may be nonchalant and carefree, others may feel anxious or even angry. Your children might have had those exact emotions whether they were adopted or your biological child. Try not to mold them too closely and to hamper their emotions. Just let them be and everything will be fine. Also, there’s an expectation that adoptive kids will feel happy and grateful about this. Remember you give them the space to have a range of emotions about their adoption.
Find Help from Other Adopters
Seek out other adoptive parents to share your stories with. This is a great way to get support and to talk through the unique challenges, difficulties, and joys. Working with a therapist who specializes in adoption also is tremendously helpful. We know that talking to your child about their adoption is tough. But, the more you talk about it, the more comfortable you’ll become and the more comfortable your child will be in asking questions that are important to them. If you fumble, admit your mistake. This actually teaches your child to be gentle and forgiving with themselves. Plus, what truly matters is that you’re attuned to your child and their experiences.