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How to Talk to Kids About Their Adoption

Jul 23, 2014

Talking to children about their adoption can be a slippery slope to navigate. They may have many questions or very few. Your child may wish to know the basics, and others may have much deeper, more complicated questions to ask. These conversations will, no doubt, be anxiety provoking for parents, but they must happen in order for everyone to feel comfortable with the facts. Regardless of the specifics your child may be curious about, there are a few points to consider while discussing adoption with your adopted child.

Why Your Child Should Know

Parents often struggle with the decision to make their child aware of the fact that they are adopted. Some parents fear that children will be too confused or offended, and there is always the fear of future insubordination from a resentful child. Adoption and family therapist Jeanette Yoffe states that keeping the truth from your child can result in a loss of trust between child and parent. If this scenario should occur, your child may feel that everything they have known in life has been a ruse, and that they can longer believe what their parents are telling them. This is an understandable reaction to having a delayed knowledge about a child's own origins. In addition, children may already be feeling as if they don't quite fit in, and informing your children of the their adoption early on can give them answers as to why this may be. Whatever fears you have, it is your child's right to know where they come from, or at the very least, that they are part of wonderful and very special set of circumstances that brought them to you.

How, What, When, Who and Where?

Parents often become very nervous when revealing adoption to their adopted child. It can be difficult to know what the right thing to do or say is. Parent educator Kathy Gordon suggests the key to having an exceptionally adequate conversation with your child about the subject is to speak with your child about their adoption as the questions arise. There is no need to go into detail, simply answer what is asked, and when the child gets older they will probably have more in-depth questions that can be answered at that time. It is of course important to be truthful, but it is best not to overload children with too much information at one time, as this may confuse them. They may not even be old enough to truly understand what is being said. It is important to answer your child's questions as opposed to ignoring or avoiding them until a future date. Despite your fears about doing this, revealing and explaining the truth to an adopted child is a necessary part to being an adoptive parent.

Using The Correct Adoption Terminology

When discussing adoption, great care must be taken to include the proper terminology. According to Beth Hall, Director of Pact-An Adoption Alliance, this is important because there is a need for definitive roles that can be described to the child in a way that makes sense and doesn't cause issues for them. The recommended terminology includes the adoptive parents, the birth parents, and the adopted child. It would be counter-productive to the child's development to use terms that undermine the family the adopted child is a part of, as well as the security the child feels within their household. Hall provides the example of when a birth parent is called a 'real' parent. Although reality is nice, adoptive parents are not the 'real' parents. This is bound to lead to resentment and discontent throughout the family unit for quite some time.

Adopting a child is quite a task to take on, but it is absolutely worth it if you're willing to be an excellent adoptive parent. There are specifics that need to be taken care of in order for both parties and the child to live successful, healthy lives, but these little nuggets of advice can make the awkward conversation of where your child came from a lot easier to handle and a lot easier for adoptive children to understand.

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Talking to your kids about their adoption is so important because it establishes a greater sense of trust between you and them.

Talking about adoption is definitely a process and can't be done all at once. I agree that it is best to address concerns as they arise but try not to confuse the child as it is already a difficult situation. 

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