Parents of adopted children will one day face the question about whether or not to tell their child the story of how they came to join the family. An intensely personal decision, parents must make the decision that is best for the child and family. There is no easy answer about how to approach this subject or when. That is entirely up to the parents and the situation surrounding the adoption process. If you are an adoptive parent considering having this discussion with your child, we have a few tips to offer to ease the process.
Naturally, open adoptions will result in more conversations about birth parents. When your child is younger, you can begin to lay the groundwork. As the child grows up, you can expand on the story and explanation. For example, when younger the child can learn to understand that any visitation or contact is with a family member or other name you feel is appropriate. As the child grows up, you can explain the nature of this relationship more and the nuances of birth and adoptive parents. You can explain the significance and how their unique situation is different from their peers.
Grow the Conversation
As above, you want to grow the conversation as your child grows. A three-year-old won’t be able to understand all of the details like a ten-year-old can. Questions may come up as children are very curious (as we all know!) and can often sense things. Even if your own child doesn’t, other children might ask questions. It’s important to be prepared as adoptive parents and know what you wish to discuss and when.
One common question that arises as a child gets older is “why?” If this does happen, remember to not speak negatively about the birth parents or the situation. Coming from a place of positivity and love will help you down the road when a teenager might ask “why?” again. Balance your answer between giving an answer to the why and expanding on all of the positive ways this decision has impacted everyone.
As children grow up they will likely want more details, too. You can continue to grow the story of the adoption and the experience of your family together. Perhaps tell the story with pictures or any other information you have on hand. And remember to be patient as your child will be rewriting some part of their personal narrative as the story of the adoption grows right along with them.