Start talking about adoption with your kids early and use adoption language.
When my husband and I started talking about adoption, one of our biggest concerns was how our kids would feel about being adopted. Along with that concern was whether or not we would have the right words for the questions they were bound to ask. To try and be proactive, we (mostly me) started very early talking about adoption and using adoption language with our daughter. I mean really early on! Even as an infant, I would tell her how lucky I was that I got to adopt her and how grateful I was to her birth mother. We had made her a life book and I would read that with her on occasion. I will admit, I felt weird and crazy at times doing it since she could barely hold her head up, let alone understand adoption, but it did pay off!
By the age of 2, my daughter was able to explain adoption in her own terms. She would say, “I grew in C’s belly. I popped out, and then she gave me to Mommy and Daddy. And I was the best gift ever!” Not quite the terms we used, but to her 2 year old developing mind, that was what adoption was.
Let your child take the lead.
Now at 4, with a one-year-old brother who is also adopted, she is understanding more and more and will start talking about adoption on her own. Her favorite two places to have adoption talks are when I’m driving and right before bed. Seeing the process of adoption when we adopted her brother really helped her to understand her own adoption better. Although at times, she does confuse our son’s birth mom for her own. She is also starting to make sense of the fact that she has siblings that do not live with her. We just recently started talking about her brothers and sister that do not live with us.
I will admit, we were not sure when or how to broach this subject with a young child. We always told her about her half-brother that we met, but we never used the term ‘brother.’ We just told her that he grew in C’s belly too, and was her son. We showed her the pictures we had. She loved seeing someone who had blonde hair and blue eyes just like her!
Be honest, but keep it at your child’s level of understanding.
We felt uncomfortable not divulging the “whole truth” to her. We were unsure of how she would take it. Would it would confuse her and how do you start that conversation? I started by reminding her of the two boys she met when we visited her brother’s birth state. She did remember them and loved that they taught her how to play basketball. I then eased into the fact that those two boys were her brother’s older brothers. She didn’t like that! She told me that I was wrong, and that her brother only had one sister, and zero brothers. I quickly explained how he actually had three brothers and two other sisters. I explained that they either had the same birth mother or same birth father. At that point, she was pretty much done with that conversation so I didn’t push further.
A couple weeks later, (in the car of course), my daughter brought up my son’s biological siblings. I could tell she was starting to put the pieces together on her own. I just acted as her guide. She concluded that if her brother had siblings that didn’t live with us and they shared a birth mother, that she must have siblings too. She asked if B, A, and A all had the same birth mother as she did. I told her they did. She was very quiet for a few moments which worried me, but then she asked if they were her brothers and sisters. I told her they were, but that they didn’t live with us. I asked her if she had any questions. She said no. I asked her if she wanted to meet them someday, and she said she’d think about it. I let the conversation end there.
I find that sometimes she loves talking about adoption, but other times she just wants to stop talking about it. I try to let her lead these talks as much as possible. After all, she didn’t choose to be adopted. Her birth mother, and my husband and I chose that for her. I think it’s important to let her know that she can talk about it as much or as little as she wants without worrying about anyone else’s thoughts or opinions.
It has been about a month and a half since this whole sibling issue arose; she is asking more questions and talking about adoption each week. Her latest was, “So, we have one brother and one sister in our house. But my brother and I both have brothers and sisters who don’t live with us?” I told her that was true, thinking to myself, Where is this conversation going? Then she said, “I want another baby in our house. A girl baby, named Elizabeth.” I said, “Really? I don’t think that is going to happen, sweetie. Why do you want another baby?” She answered, “So I can have another person to play with.” The conversation continued with her telling me she was “getting” the baby from North Carolina (her brother’s birth state) and that she hadn’t decided yet if the baby would have blonde hair and blue eyes like her, or black hair and brown skin like her brother. Although she did add that it would be nice to have “one more blonde haired person” in our home!
Talking about adoption with your kids can be intimidating. Yet, if you give them the language early on and then let them take the lead, it’s really not that hard. Be open and honest and speak from the heart—it’s what is best for our kids!