April 28th, 2007
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Since I am not an adoptive parent, I have not dealt with this issue much so far. Eventually I will need to discuss adoption with my grandchildren. However, I would like to tell you how I think many birth mothers would prefer their children learn about adoption in closed adoptions:

1) Most birth mothers understand that their children should know about adoption from the very beginning. Not only does it make sense to me that adoption is treated as a fact of life to adoptees, not a Greek tragedy, experts agree. They also agree that in most cases you should not wait to tell your children until they are older about their adoptive status. How you view adoption and birth family can greatly affect how your child sees them.

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2) Never lie about the birth family. If there is a reunion later, your children may uncover your lies and feel betrayed. Even when there are ugly truths, children should know when they are old enough. If you do not know details when asked, never make them up. If you need to say something, err on the side of being positive. Just be clear that you are speculating and really do not know.

3) Mention your child’s birth family and/or adoption from time to time. When you discuss them, it signals to your child that it is okay to talk about them. Your child will probably take cues from you. If you never discuss adoption or birth family, they may get the idea that both are taboo subjects. Do not assume that if they never say anything that they are not thinking about the subjects. They may avoid these subject for fear of hurting you.

4) Remember that your child may or may not identify with their birth family. If they do, and negative comments are made about their birth families, they may perceive them as personal attacks on themselves.

More Resources:

How to Talk to Children About Adoption.

Why Children May Not Want to Talk About Adoption.

Photo courtesy Stock.XCHNG

3 Responses to “How to Talk to a Child About Adoption”

  1. John says:

    Jan, can I suggest something for kids adopted at an older age? It is important to try to temper an all positive or all negative attitiude the child may have about his birth family. He actually did live with them.

    Kids seem to need a simple ‘Readers Digest’ approach to dealing with an emotionally charged past. The birth family becomes all good, or all bad. Life is never like that, and the child will have to build a carefully created past to achive this one sided result. The child pays the price for this untrue creation, but he does it to protect himself.

    Using trial and error, I have had good results by simply talking with them about simple events they lived through, and pointing out whichever part got left out, with no long focus. Dealing with a child’s belief that the birth family was all bad, it the toughest job. You end up helping the child see postives, which he needs, but it can feel icky if he endured a lot of abuse there. John

  2. Jan Baker says:

    I completely agree with you John on this issue. In this post, I was referring to children adopted at birth mostly.

    I ALWAYS believe in the truth. For a child that have lived with birth family, it is entirely different than one who has not. Sounds to me as though you have a good handle on how to handle your situation with your sons. I can’t even imagine how hard it must be to know that your child has been abused.

  3. JudyK says:

    We actually had people asking us if we were going to tell our son that he’s adopted — mind you, we’re Caucasian and he’s Asian. Ummmm, yeah, I think it would be a good idea.

    Even if we were the same race and resembled each other, I would still tell a child. When Nate was about 3, we took him to an urgent care center for them to look at a bug bite that had swollen up 1/2 of his face. Of course when the intake worker asked about medical history (and he’s internationally adopted), we told her that we didn’t know, he was adopted from Vietnam. She leaned forward really closely and said very quietly, “are you going to tell him he’s adopted?” “Well yeah. We’ve already told him.” It turned out that her daughter was adopted and she hadn’t told her yet. I asked how old the daughter was and was expecting to get an age like 2 or 3, but the daughter was 7!!

    Oh. My. We were there for another reason and were being called soon, but I mentioned that there were many books that would help discuss being adopted with a child. I was simply astounded, although I know that there are adoptees who don’t discover their status until they’re adults. I just thought that those ideas were pretty outdated and that people were more aware of how important it is to be truthful with their children these days.

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