These days, 8-9 year old children are pretty mature. They are more independent and spending more time with peers and away from your supervision. They have been exposed to romance, drama, violence, trauma and real life through television and video games. They have seen adoption portrayed in TV and movies. They are hearing and being exposed to their friend’s families, seeing different lifestyles and hearing varied opinions. They are trying to make sense of it all.
They are more independent and trying to fit in. They are socially active and want to be one of the “cool kids.” They do not want to be different. They dress, act, talk and even eat the same foods as their friends. They are finding new role models outside the home. Teachers, coaches, television stars and music idols all fit the bill. They mimic what they think is cool and tell you when you are not.
Being adopted or having an adopted sibling makes them different. They have a lot of “whys” as they try and sort things through. They need answers for themselves and to give to those who ask about adoption. With a longer attention span and the capacity for conversations at a deeper level, you need to be on your toes and leave your ego at the door.
Typical questions and answers for this age:
“Why didn’t she keep me?”
There are many reasons a parent feels they cannot raise a child. They may too young to assume the responsibility and have no family around to help. They may not have planned on having a child and need to complete their education. They may not have enough money to provide for the child’s needs, like food and clothing. Children require a lot of attention. Sometimes people don’t have the skills to be a parent and don’t want to learn. Your birth mother told us/ We were told that your birth mother _________________.
“Was I bad?”
No. You were a baby/little child. You needed to be fed, bathed and dressed. I/We played with you, sang to you and read you stories. I/We took you to the park and for stroller rides and to see grandma and grandpa. You had playdates with you friends and came with me/us when we saw ours. I/We put down for your naps and woke during the night to feed and change you or calm you after a bad dream. You were not bad. But it was a lot of work and I/we were always tired. It was all worth it.
“Do I have any brothers or sisters?” “Did she keep them?”
Not that we were told. OR Yes, you have a brother. He was living with __________ when you were born. If their birth parent was raising a sibling, you need to give them an answer similar to the one “Why didn’t she keep me?” above, changing it to why a parent may be overwhelmed with an additional child. You will also need to include part of the “Was I bad?” tweaking it to include why an additional child is that mush more work and juggling to get everything done and everyone’s needs met.
“Where is my father (birth father)?”
I/We were told _________. You can include where he was (name of city or state) or other locations, if you choose. If you don’t know or the birth mother did not name him, you can state that, as well. For more difficult situations, where a birthparent may have been incarcerated, you can state that they were in jail, but follow up with a conversation of how some behaviors are unacceptable and may cause someone to end up in jail. If she named more than one father you need to determine if your child is mature enough to understand the ramifications of her behavioral choices. If you choose to wait until your child is older you might state that you will try and get that information.
“Will I ever see her/him/them?”
This question is a difficult one for adoptive parents, as it often raises insecurities. Your child is not asking this because they are rejecting you as their parent. It is a normal part of making sense of their adoption. It is also a means for them to know who they look like and why they might have a talent or skill. Open adoptions eases this part of the adoptee’s search for self. The child is aware who his parents are, and who his birthparents, are from an early age. The roles are clear. The child’s questions are answered as they arise. If you do not have an ongoing relationship, you may state “I don’t know. Is that something you would like to do?” This does not mean you need to run out and make it happen. It does mean, you should revisit this topic with your child from time to time. If they still have a need, you should begin exploring if meeting their birthparent or siblings is possible. Do not ignore your child’s questions or request. Children as young as 10 have found birthparents on the Internet.
“What if she/they want(s) me back?"
Adoption is a legal process in which a judge and court make the decision that you would be raised by me/us. Your birthmother/parents were asked several times if this is what they wanted. They said yes every time. OR Because your birthmother/parents could not take care of you properly, a court and judge made a decision someone else should raise you. Once the court makes the decision, it is final. This does not mean that your birthmother/parents might not want to see you. It’s not like they just forget about you after the adoption. She/They probably still think about you. One day maybe you will see one another, but you would still go home with me/us.
There are also questions you may want to ask your child:
You are asking a lot of questions recently, is everything okay? Am I giving you the information you wanted? Is there something else you want to know?
This reassures your child you are “there for him/her.” As in their younger years, it shows you are willing to talk about the adoption, if and when they want to. You are adding more details as they ask for, and as you feel they are mature enough to understand. Remember, they may repeat information to others, so you want to make sure they understand it fully.
No one said raising children was easy. Add adoption to the mix and you, your child and family have an additional complexity to transverse. If you are finding it more difficult to talk to your child or to share difficult information, talk to an adoption counselor. Remember, it is best for your child to hear their adoption information from you. You can do this!!!