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Telling Your Child That He or She Was Adopted

As an adoptive parent, you know the moment is fast approaching. Soon, you’ll have to start telling your child his or her adoption story. It’s something you want to do, something you’ve planned on doing for a while. Only, you’re not sure how to go about it. What do I say? What shouldn’t I say? How do I bring up? Is there a way to make sure that my child knows that this part of his or her life isn’t shameful? 

Adoption Choices of Oklahoma knows that broaching the topic of adoption with your child can seem intimidating. But you’ve got this! Telling your child that he or she is adopted is easier than you think, and the sooner you do it, the better. Open and informative discussions are crucial for the development of your child’s sense of self. Here’s what to say and what not to say!

Tips for Telling Your Child

Talking about a child’s adoption story in an age-appropriate way allows parents the opportunity to gradually build upon that story. By the time a child is able to embrace his or her entire adoption journey, he or she has all the necessary bits and pieces. This technique is called scaffolding!

Your child should never feel as if there was withheld information or that you’ve lied to him or her in any way. It’s recommended that you talk to your child about his or her adoption story often. This way, there is no specific moment of telling your child that he or she was adopted. Here are a few tips you can use to help you along the way as you start introducing your child’s adoption story:

  1. Use resources. It’s natural for your child to be curious and anxious about his or her background. Your child may ask questions about what his or her birth parents are like, where they are now, and why they chose to put him or her up for adoption. Your child might also ask questions about how he or she came to be with you. Answer these questions to the best of your ability, but keep your answers simple and appropriate to your child’s age or developmental level.
  2. Keep it simple. Keeping it simple is key! Children don’t need more information than they are ready for. Listen to your child and listen to your heart. Then, you’ll know how much to tell and when.
  3. Find support for yourself.  Seek out other adoptive parents to swap stories with. This is a great way to get support and to talk through the unique challenges, difficulties and joys. Working with a therapist who specializes in adoption is also tremendously helpful.

What Not to Do

Just because kids remain silent about their adoption doesn’t mean they’re not thinking about it or trying to make sense of it. Which is why it’s an important discussion for parents and kids to have.

Of course, knowing how to talk about adoption with your child doesn’t exactly come easily or naturally. Plus, there are many misconceptions about when to bring it up and what to actually say. Here’s what not to do:

  1. Don’t ignore or criticize the birth parents. Birth parents must be part of the adoption story. By not mentioning them, you can send a message that you’re uncomfortable talking about them or that there’s something wrong with them. Your child’s birth parents will always be a part of your child’s life. Whether the adoption is open, semi-open, or closed. Be sure not to say anything disparaging. Remember this: they are the reason you have your child.
  2. Don’t wait for your child to ask questions. It’s not uncommon if your child doesn’t ask questions about his or her adoption journey once you’ve made it known. He or she may not want to hurt your feelings. Your child could also assume that you’re uncomfortable talking about it. That being said, make sure you look for opportunities to talk about your child’s adoption. Even moments of anger are good opportunities. During an argument, your child might yell “You’re not my real mother!” Understandably, this is very painful. But it’s also an opportunity to say, “Do you wonder about what your birth mother or father would’ve done?” This shows your child that it’s safe to ponder and talk about these topics.
  3. Don’t talk about how lucky your child is to be adopted. Don’t let your friends and family talk about how lucky your child is either. You are setting up a situation where her or she will feel obligated to be grateful. Which also means that when your child starts questioning their adoption and identity, he or she won’t feel comfortable talking to you about it. You are the lucky one. Not your child.
  4. Don’t focus on how special your child is. That is, don’t tell your child that you adopted him or her because he or she is special. Although this sounds harmless and loving, young children if told that too many times, believe they have to be special to maintain their parents’ love. In other words, your child might believe your love is contingent on his or her special-ness. This can translate into your child working tirelessly to become the best athlete or to get straight A’s — all attempts at remaining special. Instead, allow your child to just be whoever he or she is.

Telling Your Child That He or She Is Adopted

Talking to your child about their adoption might feel really hard. But the more you talk about it, the more comfortable you’ll become – and the more comfortable your child will be in asking questions that are important to him or her.

Adoption Choices of Oklahoma believes in you! If you fumble, admit your mistake. Nobody is perfect! What truly matters is that you’re attuned to your child and his or her experiences.

Adoption Choices of Oklahoma

If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Oklahoma. You may visit our website here or call 405-794-7500 (Oklahoma City) or 918-982-6220 (Tulsa).

Support Adoption Choices

CrowdriseAdoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.

However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.

About the Author

Patience Bramlett, a University of Southern Mississippi news editorial graduate, is a seasoned and award-winning freelance writer. She is also a passionate reader, whose only wish is to live life without fear of the unknown. Her motivation and inspiration to live her best life stems from the words of John Lennon:

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy.’ They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.”

This year, she’s officially joining Adoption Choices Inc. as a Content Writer. Fueled by her love of family, she hopes to educate those looking to grow their families through adoption.

Bibliography

Bliss, Dr. Jennifer. “How and When to Discuss Adoption With Your Child.” Psychology Today, Sussex Publishers, 31 Mar. 2017, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/navigating-the-adoption-journey/201703/how-and-when-discuss-adoption-your-child.

Flannery, Angie. “Tools for Telling Your Child About Their Adoption Story.” Adoption Choice Inc, 13 June 2014, https://adoptionchoiceinc.org/2014/06/13/tools-for-telling-your-child-about-their-adoption-story/.

“How to Tell Your Child They Are Adopted.” Family Lives, https://www.familylives.org.uk/advice/your-family/fostering-adoption-kinshipcare/how-to-tell-your-child-they-are-adopted/.

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