How do I talk to my child about adoption?

Ok so, you have adopted a baby or a child out of diapers and you are dreading “the convo”. Do you slip it in between bites of mashed potatoes and pork chop? Do you have a big sit down family meeting for “the convo”? I mean, how casual or formal should you be? “THE CONVO”, ya know, the one that includes “sooooo, you are adopted”! You don’t want to avoid it but you don’t want to rush into it. We get it. “The convo” has short term and long term implications. We decided to consult some experts and find out how you can have the talk and save yourself some regrets later.

Speaking with kids ages 0-2 years old about adoption

1. Start as young as you can saying the word adoption and allowing everyone to project positive feelings about the word. It shouldn’t be avoided or be a negative hush-toned idea. When it is time to have a more specific conversation about adoption, they will already have a built in positive feeling towards the concept. We don’t wait to say “I love you” till a child can understand what it means. Treat the word “adoption” with the same mindset.

2. As you begin to share bedtime stories, write or create a story that you stay consistent with the title. The story could be “How we became a beautiful family”. Then read or recite that story as you would any other and let them begin to hear it told as the enchanted fairytale that it is.

3. Keep a picture of the birthmother in the baby/toddler room and show your child the picture. Psychology Today recommends saying something like, “This a special woman who grew you in her belly and chose us to be your forever family.” Again don’t avoid the chance to begin to frame their forever story because they are so little and may not fully understand.

Speaking with kids ages 0-2 years old about adoption

1. The most common question that this age group asks is “Did I come from your belly?” Are you prepared to answer that? Children this age need facts and concrete info. They don’t do well with ideas or ethereal concepts. So be prepared to explain that they came into this world like every other kid they meet on the playground.

2. Children this age are developing their self-esteem and parents must realize that how you frame their story will contribute to or hurt the health of how they see themselves. Try and remember that they will soak up not just words but also your body language around the subject of their birth and birthparents.

3. This can be a great age to introduce and communicate with the birthmother of an adopted child. It can be extremely rewarding and also at times very delicate. Reach out to your adoption advocate/consultant, like our team here at Destiny, and let them help you develop a birthparent contact plan if you don’t already have one in place.

Ages 4-9 and 10 and up BELOW

Speaking with kids ages 4-9 years old about adoption

1. At these ages, kids ask a ton of questions and usually at the most inopportune times. You might get one that totally stumps you and makes your heart stop while checking out at Trader Joe’s and your child will intently watch your reaction so see if their is any shame dusting around the topic of his/her/their adoption.

Here is the plan: If you have an answer that seems right, compassionate, and age appropriate then let it fly and share your heart. If you don’t have the answer, let your child know that you want to think about the question because it is a really great question and deserves a really great answer. Then, hop on the phone and call us here at Destiny and we can connect you with a consultant or therapist that works with adoptive families that can walk you through a positive, age appropriate answer.

2. This is the age when children begin to wonder why their birthmom did not keep them. If your child has direct contact with the birthmom, make sure you discuss the answer privately with her and make sure you are totally synced in your answers to create some concrete and stable foundational history for your child’s development to be grounded in.

3. Most every family has financial issues at some point and these might be a topic of conversation that your child hears. It is important that you reinforce to this age group especially that those hurdles or hardships will not mean your child will be placed for adoption again. This is a question and fear that many children this age share. They must understand that as they come to grips with a forever family and home that forever means forever even if life brings some difficult circumstances.

Speaking with kids ages 10 years old and up about adoption

1. At this age, your child develops a pretty keen BS meter and you are the subject of constant scans with said meter. So, if you don’t have the right answer or don’t know, tell them and go and find a resource that can help you. If you try and fudge through an answer to their ever increasing more difficult questions, THEY WILL KNOW!! Don’t ask me how they are so aware since you have to remind them that showering has to include soap and shampoo and not just water.

2. They also begin to be more aware than ever of their peers and the pressure to fit in and find value in community. So have some pre-emptive conversations with them about what details they are comfortable sharing openly in school and with close friends respectively. Also, let them decide what details are too delicate or personal for them. Experts recommend that you never be upset with them for sharing too much as they will already be worried and potentially have a transparency hangover. Celebrate and empower them to own their story how they want, when they want, what they want, and to who they want.

3. Even if you are uber passionate about adoption and the beauty of it, never project on your child that they need to be an “ambassador” for the adoption world. Some children naturally want to tell their story and make it a part of their life journey and others want to kind of go through life and adoption not define them. This is important to be sensitive to as every child will allow adoption to steer their communication and passions differently.

Hey…hopefully we made the future of “the convo” in your family a bit less daunting and you begin to see the beauty in allowing your child to experience each of these stages fully and authentically. We realize that their is entire books dedicated to this topic and this is not comprehensive but we really hope, from all of The Girls of Destiny, that your family is strong and your future is brighter than you ever imagined.