“Why aren’t my eyes blue? Why is my hair a different color than yours? How come my skin is a different shade?” It’s no secret that children are filled with questions. From the moment words can spill from their tiny mouths, a question mark seems right at the tip of their tongue. They are curious about the world they live in, where they come from, and how they got here. Their young minds are anxious to absorb all of this information.
For a family blessed by adoption, the potential questions can seem endless. No matter how prepared you feel you may be as an adoptive parent, it is possible to be caught off guard and blindsided by the inevitable questions. There are many great resources and articles that can be beneficial in helping guide adoptive parents through this process. Adopting.org, Adoption.org, Adoption.com are great resources where you can find impeccable assistance on all sides of adoption.
You can reach out to many of the adoption consultants or specialists that can guide you in the direction of the information you seek. For every question our little ones seem to have, we are faced with ten times more. “When do I share with my child the fact that they are adopted?” “How much information should I share with my child?” “How do I make my adoptive child feel comfortable with the reality of their adoption?” “How can I help them appreciate where they came from as well as enjoy the life that we chose for them?” “How often should I make it a point to discuss their adoption with them?”
Honesty, from day one, is truly the best policy.
I can’t speak for all adoptive parents but many are plagued with one specific question upon bringing home our adopted son or daughter. “When do I share with my child the fact that they are adopted?” In short, from day one. It might seem silly or pointless with a newborn and you might think, “Well, clearly this conversation can wait.” But the more you familiarize yourself with the appropriate language, the more you make yourself and your family comfortable talking about adoption, and the more you will normalize it for your child. For me, because my son wasn’t legally free for adoption right away, I had to wait until I was sure adoption was on the table.
As moms, we have dialogue every day with our infants even though they don’t participate in said conversation. I used to say to him how thankful I was that I got to be his mom, that even though I didn’t carry him in my tummy, he was growing in my heart every day. I used to rock him and share the story of the day that I picked him up and brought him home. I’d tell that story often and it became easier to share as he grew older. You don’t have to throw all the specifics at them right from the start but an introduction to the words and growing more secure in sharing about the process is a good starting point to get the ball rolling. This way there will never be the shock of learning they were adopted. From day one, it will be just a fact of life. Adoption is part of your home, your life, and very much your child’s life.
Is there such thing as too much information?
“How much information should I share with my child?” Obviously, being honest with your child’s identity is extremely important. But, is there such thing as too much too soon? Well, yes. When talking with your child about their adoption, make sure to keep in mind their age and mental development. The details you choose to share with them will most likely differ as they grow older and have more understanding.
When I spoke with mental health professionals regarding this specific topic, I was guided to follow the child’s lead. Never answer questions that haven’t been asked and only give them as much as they can efficiently absorb. In regards to my own family, I have done just that. My child has extended biological family involved in his life, which I thought would open the door to questions at a younger age. Surprisingly, his questions are far and few between.
We have had an open dialogue since he was about six months old regarding his adoption. We talk about how he grew in my heart and that I did not have him in my own belly, that I was both excited and nervous to pick him up and take him home, that on the day he was born, even though I couldn’t be there, the room was filled with joy and love upon his arrival, and that on the day we stood before the judge, we had both made a vow to love one another for as long as we lived.
I keep it simple, but continuously remind him that whenever he has an adoption question, I look forward to answering any queries he may have. We as parents must provide a safe sounding board where our children feel comfortable bringing up this significant part of their lives.
Adoption, it’s a part of our everyday lives.
As adoptive parents, or as parents in general, our instinct is to protect our children. One of my concerns and plaguing questions was, “How do I make my adoptive child feel comfortable with the reality of their adoption?” I didn’t want him to feel there was some kind of disconnect or significant difference between him and other children. I wanted him to understand and feel comfortable with his adoption. I wanted him to see the beauty in this journey and one day possibly recognize the sadness in his story as well. Keeping the dialogue of adoption open and normalizing it from the beginning has been a significant help.
There may be some moments in the future where our adoptive children are faced with negative comments about their adoption. It’s important that we as their parents, after having been a continuous source of information, try our best to express positivity in regards to their story. Though it was something that the adults ultimately chose for them and they had no part in choosing this life for themselves, we can still show our appreciation for them allowing us to be their parent.
Not a day goes by that I don’t thank my son for letting me be his mother. “Thank you for being my son. Thank you for allowing me to be your mommy.” It’s a simple statement but one that holds great emotion and gratitude. Our adoptive children came into our homes because they were ultimately in need of parent/s who could give them a home. Despite everyone having their own personal adoption story, each adoptive child was in need of adults who could and would raise and love them as their own. Showing gratitude and appreciation that this child was placed in your arms does not take away from their story, but only adds to it. Embracing the normalcy of adoption and the significant role it has played in your family can help your child see the beauty this reality brings.
It’s not one life versus the other. It’s about finding the beauty in both.
It can be a very humbling moment the first time your adoptive child comes to you with questions regarding their biological parents. It’s not uncommon to even feel a little hurt that they are so keen on knowing more about their previous parents. Despite the discomfort or mild twinge in your heart, it’s important that you be forthcoming with your answers. Another common question that plagues a lot of adoptive parents is: “How can I help my adoptive child appreciate where they came from, as well as enjoy the life we chose for them?”
It can be hard to listen to their curiosity and excitement about learning about their biological parents, but it’s completely normal. The desire to know where we come from and the need to have the pieces of our own puzzle is very important. This is something that we as humans crave in any circumstance and not just in homes blessed by adoption. I can’t speak on personal experience since my son hasn’t reached that curiosity milestone just yet. I do believe it is only a matter of time and knowing this, I have prepared myself diligently.
Having talked with many adult adoptees, I noted the personal and emotional differences in families that were forthcoming with information versus families that kept a lot of information under lock and key. Our adoptive children that we are raising and loving as our own will one day become these adult adoptees. While we express love, appreciation, and gratitude towards our children, we also want to cultivate honesty and openness. We want them to wear the adoption identity proudly and feel complete in knowing their entire story.
We don’t want them to have to fight for the information that they deserve to have. I know that if my son was seeking any information about his past, I would want him to know that as his mom, I will do anything I can to get him his answers. Being as open and honest as you can about your child’s past ensures a more secure and trusting future.
It’s a discussion worth having as often as possible.
Once open, the line of discussion on adoption with your child is really not just a one-time exchange. My son and I live every day as mother and son. We don’t identify as adoptive mother and adoptive son. We live our lives as a beautiful family that at its main core, consists of love, faith, appreciation, happiness, and security. Adoption is what brought my child into my arms. Adoption is what gave him the option of calling me “Mom” and made me honored to embrace that title. Adoption is something that is significant in our family but not the main focus. On the other hand, adoption is part of my son’s identity. It’s not who he is, but it is part of who he was and he will carry that with him. It’s a topic that will circle around our lives like a revolving door.
So in answering the question, “How often should I make it a point to discuss their adoption with them?” I’d have to say whenever it seems fitting. If you established the foundation of keeping your child’s adoption a normal topic of discussion and made it a priority to familiarize your child and your family with the dialogue, just continue to keep the door open for the discussion and follow your child’s lead. It could be a simple few questions one day and could be an entire sit-down discussion another day. It may be a conversation you don’t visit until months out or something your child shelves for the time being. The real importance is not how often you should discuss your child’s adoption but rather how “available” you make yourself. Letting your child feel comfortable enough to vocalize the subject whenever the need arises is crucial.
There is so much that goes into a home blessed by adoption. A lot of information is at your fingertips. You can find countless articles, opinion pieces, experience pieces, and adoptee interviews on Adopting.org, Adoption.org, and Adoption.com. More and more resources are made available to our little ones as well.
Story publications can spark their interest and help approach the topic with them in a more age-appropriate, kid-friendly manner. “I’ve loved you since Forever” written by Hoda Koth, “Mommy’s Heart” written by (me) Janelle Oliveira, and “We belong together” written by Todd Parr are some of the first introduction books that I used in my own home with my son. No matter how you find the answers, know that just putting in the effort shows that you have your child’s best interests at heart. However you approach this topic and share the journey with your child, we are here as a community supporting you. You can do this.
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