All kids like stories. Make it about themselves and they are captivated. The key here is for the storyteller to be comfortable with the subject matter. They more you practice, the better. By the time your child understands and comprehends how you became a family, you will be an experienced narrator.
Infants – 18 months
Infants prefer the sound of familiar voices, which are reassuring and soothing. The volume and tone convey a message. Infants communicate with various sounds and by age 12 months most are repeating words. The fact that your child will understand little of the conversation is a perfect time to practice. Infants and young children love to be held and rocked. Make physical and eye contact with your child. Use the word adoption until it flows off your tongue easily. Some people repeat it over and over in a sing-song using a tune they know and like. Some just say things like “I am so happy I adopted you.” “Adoption is wonderful.” “”I am so glad to be your adoptive mom/dad.” You are saying this in the privacy of your home. It’s ok.
You can also start with a simple story. For now you are setting the scene. Later you will add more details. Describe how you decided you wanted a child. Try a “once upon a time” format.
Once upon a time there was a lady who very much wanted a little girl/boy of her very own. She knew she would love this child forever and ever. She just didn’t know where to find him/her. She looked everywhere. Up and down. Near and far. In and out. Then one day, she heard of a little girl/boy who lived in (where they were born) who needed a mommy. She got very excited and went to (place) to meet the child. She fell in love immediately and asked if she could adopt the child and be the mommy. She was told yes. That child was you and I became your mommy. We came back to (where you live now) and have been living happily ever after since. The end.
Or
Once upon a time I found out that I could not give birth to a baby. I was sad but knew there must be a baby out there for me. I asked everyone I knew what I should do to find my baby. I was told I should adopt. Someone told me there were people who could help me. I called them and they told me what to do. (Insert a few sentences about your process – I sent out notices in newspapers and on the Internet to find you – I hired an adoption attorney/agency to help me – And then I found you. I flew all the way to (where you met them) to meet you. I also met (the name of their birth parents) and (the names of the other people who helped you). We stayed in (city or country) for (length of time). We lived in a (hotel/apartment/with friends/etc.). I signed papers so I could adopt you. And then, they told us we could go home. I was so excited. You were too young to remember. But I will tell you everything as you grow up.
For children 12-18 months of age, you might find creating a photo album helpful in telling the story. Insert photos of yourself before you had children. If you are a couple, include photos of when you met, your wedding or dedication ceremony. Add photos of where your child was born or the country they came from, of the first time you met the child, and of the court where the adoption was finalized. If you have photos of birth parents you can include them, as well. Then add photos of you and your child’s daily life – things you do, family and friends you see and places you like to go. You can add captions for the photos. If you use a flexible format, you can add more photos and a narrative, including your child’s own words.
The story is simple at this age. The message is clear. You found and adopted them. You are a family.