As you’ve probably heard over and over again, it is important to talk to your adopted child talk to your adopted child about how they joined your family. If you gave birth to a child, you would tell them the story not of the conception, but of how you always wanted a child and were able to have them. You would show photos of when they were born and talk about the excitement everyone shared when they came home.
It’s no different with a child who was adopted. You can talk to them about how you always wanted a child, how you were lucky to find a woman who was able to have a child for you and how excited everyone was when they were born and finally came home.
But sharing adoption with the child often raises concerns for the adoptive parent. They worry the child will reject them as not being the biological parent, want to find their “real” parent and that the relationship they share with the child will never be the same.
An adoptive parent’s anxiety about sharing information can lead to them withholding information that is important for the child to have or providing too much information when the child is young, before they are able to process what is being said or they are not emotionally ready to deal with the information being provided.
It is very important that the adoptive parent explores their emotions regarding the adoption, as well as those of telling the child about how they joined the family. Children will pick up not only the words but the body language and emotions of the person sharing any information. This is why most adoption professionals will advise you to start talking about adoption way before your child joins the family. If you’re adopting an infant, you should be using the word from the day your child comes home. Saying such things as “I am so happy I adopted you,” “You’re the best adopted baby on the planet,” or just simply, “Adoption works, I can’t believe your mine”.
By saying adoption out loud, you are getting used to hearing the word and reducing the emotional power of the word itself. By the time your young child will understand the word, it will easily flow off your tongue and allow you to speak more comfortably and to observe your child’s reactions.
With an older child who remembers coming into the family, it is also important to be able to use the word easily. By practicing using the word and discussing adoption with your child before they even join the family, you should be ready for these conversations. Practice with a spouse, close friend, family member or seek the assistance of an adoption counselor.
Once you have laid the foundation with your child that it is all right to talk about adoption, raise questions or express concerns, you should continue to provide an opportunity to talk about adoption as they grow. Periodically you should bring up the subject of adoption, perhaps as the result of seeing something on TV or by reading an adoption book to your child. During any discussions is important to let the child lead the initial conversation to find out what your child knows or has heard. It is also important for you to be aware of what you want to tell your child or any information you want to withhold until they are older.
Adoption is something you and your child share. You have a history and narrative that led to your choosing adoption and bringing your child home. How much of that history you choose to share with others, including your child, is up to you. But it is important to share your child’s specific adoption journey with them. With a young child, you can weave it into a fairy tale of how you found each other, use a photo album highlighting key points of your family building process or select a child’s adoption story to read with them. With an older child, you can use photo albums including information prior to them joining your family and then highlighting the points after, helping the child write a narrative of how they joined your family, set time aside periodically to discuss adoption or respond to the child’s questions.
Adoption is part of your and your child’s shared story and history. You can each share the joys and challenges of becoming a family through adoption. It’s okay for your child to have questions. It does not make you less of a parent. It’s normal to wonder where you came from and who you look like. Gathering information and exploring adoption together is a journey you should embrace. It is an opportunity for you to bond even closer with your child.