How can I help my child make sense of where he/she came from?

Any tips on how I can help my child make sense of where he/she came from?

Best Answer

  • Regardless of a child being involved in a closed or open adoption, it is often inevitable that they might experience some sort of identity questioning as they get older. Adoption is not free of loss. Perspective is everything when it comes to trying to understand what your child is going through. 

    Take some time to browse the Adult Adoptee Forum on and ask questions. Your child will continue grow and likely had common experiences with these adoptees. Keep an open mind. Understand that there will be a lot you may not understand, however that does not invalidate what they are feeling. 

    To help your child make sense of where they came from in an open adoption setting, let them know that you are comfortable with them asking questions and seeking answers from their biological family. Children are often afraid of hurting their adoptive parent's feelings in this situation. You being ok and helping them in their pursuit will mean everything. 

    If it is a closed adoption, give them as much information as you can. You may have been given information prior to placement that you have not shared. If it is an option for you to reach out to their birth family for more information, open that door. I understand that it is not always an option, but there can be various opportunities to communicate safely. 

    If there is a cultural background to explore, help you child find ways and places to do so. Connect them with opportunities to have racial mirrors in their life. 


  • edited October 5
         The most important thing you can do is make their adoption story as normal as possible. Don't wait until they are 'old enough to understand'. If your child remembers the day they were told they were adopted, you waited too long. Adoption doesn't have to be incredibly confusing if you present it as something totally normal. Start from infancy- this gives you an opportunity to practice telling your child their story before they're old enough to understand. 
         You don't have to give them all the information at once- usually, a child will be satisfied with simple answers to their questions when they are young. Not every story is an easy one to tell, and you should never lie to your child. But providing information that is age appropriate is important so as not to confuse or overwhelm your child. 
         One way that really helps young children make sense of their adoption story is through books. One idea is to make your own. My birth daughter has a photo album full of pictures of me when I was pregnant with her, photos of me with her family, photos of the day I placed her with them, etc. Her parents go through it with her and explain that she is in my tummy in those pictures and that these pictures are of the day she came from my tummy into the world, and the next page is of the day I placed her with her parents and she went home with them. It's been quite helpful- last time I saw her she was so excited to go through her book with me and show me all the pictures of her when she is in my tummy. Having a visual of that really helps her to understand, even though she's only two. 
         These kinds of pictures aren't doable for everyone, and that's okay. There are some good adoption children's' books out there that explain adoption in a very age-appropriate way. Here is a list of good ones to start off.
         Sometimes you don't have the answers, or things just aren't making sense to your child. Maybe as they grow older it will be easier for them to understand, maybe it won't. But if your child's confusion is causing damage to their daily quality of life, consider consulting a therapist who specializes in adoption. They can help both you and your child to make more sense of their story with the information that you have, as well as helping you cope with feelings about the questions there are no answers to. 

    Best of luck!
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