- Their full story—all of it (the good, the bad, & the ugly). What you know they should know. Here are some Creating a Family resources to help Talking With Your Kids About the Hard Issues In Adoption and Talking about the Difficult Parts of Your Adopted Child’s History.
- Adoption and birth parents are topics their parents won’t freak out about. It’s OK to wonder, ask questions, and talk about their birth family.
- How to answer questions from friends about adoption. A great resource is the W.I.S.E. Up Powerbook.
- Their parents (you) may be able to help them get more information about their past and birth family if they want it, or at least you will try
- Families are created in lots of ways, and adoption is just another way. Lots of people have been adopted. (See 35 Famous Adoptees and How to Introduce Them to Your Child.)
Resources you might find helpful:
- Talking About Adoption at Different Ages and Developmental Stages (1 hr radio interview with an adoption therapist)
- Talking About Adoption, Part 1: 0-5 Year Olds (blog)
- Talking About Adoption, Part 2: 6-12 Year Olds (blog)
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Sometimes, when interviewing prospective adoptive parents, they tell me they intend to speak to their child about adoption “when the child starts asking questions”.
At this point, I slow down the interview, and begin my response by talking to them about “receptive” and “expressive” language. I remind them that when they were learning Spanish in 7th grade, they could understand (receptive language) more Spanish than they could articulate (expressive language).
A child’s receptive language skills advance well before the expressive skills. You can ask a 1 year old to bring you the toy (receptive language – she understands and “receives” the language), but that same child cannot yet say to you “I want the toy”, as their expressive language skills are not developed to that level.
What does this have to do with speaking about adoption to your child? If you wait until the child is old enough to begin asking questions, you’re too late. That child has been receiving information about her adoption (overheard conversations between others, etc) for quite some time, and has formulated a belief about adoption in her mind.
So… we want to get ahead of your child’s understanding of adoption, by bringing it up casually from very early on. Read simple books about adoption to your baby. One of my favorites is “A Mother for Choco”, but there are plenty more.
Speak to your baby about her adoption with gratitude and love. The goal here is for your child to later reflect, “I always knew I was adopted – it just meant something different to me at different times in my life.”
I am reminded of a wonderful quote by the wonderful Dr David Brodzinsky. He was speaking at a meeting of adoption social workers at UNC Chapel Hill. One of the social workers asked: “When is the best time for new parents to begin talking to their child about adoption.”
His answer: “On the way home”.