How do I tell my child that he/she is adopted?

How do I tell my child that he/she is adopted? 

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  • Answer ✓
         Tell your child from day one about their adoption story. If your child remembers the day they were told they were adopted, you've waited too long. If you hide your child's adoption story, you imply that there is shame in it, that it's some sort of secret. That is far from the truth, and your child deserves to know where they came from. 
         Many adults overcomplicate it, and think that children are not old enough to understand the concept of adoption. This isn't true at all. Adoption is complex, but children are perfectly capable of understanding that they grew in their birth moms' tummy before they came to their family. I've seen a two year old and a five year old handle that information just fine. Children don't automatically know that they grew in their mom's tummy before they were born even in biological families, it's something they're taught in age appropriate stages. The same goes with adoption.
         Telling your child from infancy is a great way to practice what you'll say when they're old enough to understand. As you rock your baby to sleep, tell them about how mommy and daddy waited and wished for a baby. Maybe they couldn't grow a baby, or they felt like God wanted them to adopt a baby. Tell them about how they grew in their birth mom's tummy, and that their birth mommy loved them so much. Even if she couldn't take care of a baby right now, she wanted them to have the best life. So she found mommy and daddy and decided that her baby was meant for them. Tell your baby how loved they are by both their families. You won't always say it perfectly- so practice as much as you can before they can comprehend you.
         As they grow older, answer their questions, no matter how hard they are. Some adoptees were conceived in difficult circumstances that can be hard to explain. It's okay to wait until you feel they're ready, but don't wait too long. It is better to tell your child hard truths than to keep secrets from them. Most young children are satisfied with a brief answer with minimal information. You can elaborate on that as they grow and mature.
         Telling your child they're adopted doesn't need to be a big sit-down conversation when they turn 18. In fact, that's the worst way to do it. Normalize the topic of adoption, and always emphasize how loved they are. It doesn't need to be scary- it's just part of their story. 

Answers

  • This is a great question! Someone once told me that your child should never remember hearing their adoption story for the first time, and that really stuck with me. Basically, you should start telling them their story before they even understand it! And it doesn't have to be a long, complicated story. It can be a super simplified version when they are really young. My son is only 18 months old, and he can only say a handful of words, but he's heard the story of his adoption many times, and seen pictures of his birth momma (we have one hanging in his room). I tell him how he grew in her tummy, and she chose me to be his mommy, and how we both love him so much. I'm grateful for the way he's come into our family and I want him to know that. I want him to know how much I love him, and how much I love and appreciate his birth momma. She is a part of him and our family, too. I'm sure he will have many questions in the years to come and I will answer them as honestly as I can, while giving age appropriate details. Adoption stories can be hard and messy because adoption comes from brokenness, so often there are things little kids may not need to know right away. But telling him what I can now also gives me the chance to practice the telling of his story so the words flow naturally instead of awkwardly. 
  • My son has always known he was adopted, currently he is 7 years old.  He has been in my home since he was 2.5, but wasn't adopted until nearly 6 years old.  He is African American, and as you can see from my photo I'm certainly not.  So he has always known he was different, and that I wasn't his birth mom.  He also remembers his birth parents and siblings, as he had visits with them until he was 3 years old, and even some till age 4.

    I have always just been as honest as possible with him, without giving him details that a 7 year old couldn't handle.  When he has asked why he doesn't live with his birth family, I have explained it was because they couldn't keep him safe and take care of him.  I have explained that his parents made some really bad choices in their lives that a judge felt it was best that he remain with me.

    He has a book with photos of his birth family and sometimes he reads it.  We also have several books on adoption and why children are adopted that he likes to read from time to time.  He also had therapy up until he was 6 years old, and occasionally if things come up that he needs help with he can still go to see his therapist.

    The best thin to do is be honest with your child, but don't give them more information than they can handle at their age.  Some day my son may come to know all the reasons he was removed (drugs, violence, threats of killing/harming him, etc)  At age 7, he doesn't need to know that his mother constantly wanted to kill him when he was a baby.

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