6 Crucial Things Kids Must Know about Adoption by Age Six

Dawn Davenport


6 Things Adopted Kids Must Know by Age 6

  1. That they were adopted. If you’re struggling with how to begin that conversation, start with reading age appropriate adoption books and making a lifebook.
  2. That adoption is a normal way for families to grow. Children can be raised by the parents who gave birth to them or by parents who adopted them. Both ways are great ways to create a family. Check out these really great books that talk about all the different ways families can be made.
  3. That they were born to a mommy and daddy just like all kids. They didn’t just appear; they grew in their birth mother’s tummy (or uterus). These books will help you explain that concept, and this Creating a Family radio show breaks down how to start this conversation at every age and developmental stage.
  4. That there was nothing they did that caused their birth parents to place them for adoption.
  5. That their adoptive parents care and speak respectfully about their birth parents. Yes, this is important even if you do not respect the choices that your child’s birth mother or birth father made. See Do I Have to Pretend to Respect My Child’s Birth Parent.
  6. That the groundwork for understanding their full adoption story has been laid. There may be a part of the adoption story and reasons for adoption that is too complex for children under the age of six to understand. (Ex. drug abuse, domestic violence, imprisonment, poor life choices, etc.) It is important to lay the groundwork for these parts of the story in the early years so that you can add more detail as the child ages. If you’re uncertain of how to begin (and who isn’t?!?), we have two really terrific Creating a Family radio show (here and here) you can listen to which explain why this is important with concrete examples of language to use. Also, check out this article: Should I Tell My Adopted Child He Was Conceived by Rape, His Mother Was an Addict, etc.

Have you told your child these six crucial things she has to know about adoption? What resources were helpful?


Image credit: #1 (Andre Chinn); 2 (Todd); 3 (Lali Masriera); 4 (jon jordan); 5 (svenwerk); 6 (Stephen)

25/03/2015 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Other Adoption Resources | 15 Comments

15 Responses to 6 Crucial Things Kids Must Know about Adoption by Age Six

  1. Avatar Susan says:

    My son cries every time we talk about anything related to his adoption. Even when he was too young to really grasp what it all meant. He didn’t know why he was crying then, just that he was sad. He is 14 now. He still gets upset and cries every time. He doesn’t have a bad back story, just that his birthmother was single and couldn’t manage to raise him on her own. We’ve even tried taking him to therapy. Any thoughts?

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Such a great question! We have several resources to help you with practical and age-appropriate ways to talk with your son. This resource page is a good starting point: http://ow.ly/C75W30nxMM9

      I think continuing to try therapy is a great idea. If you can get him to go and you can open up together, you might all learn things to make the conversations flow and help him process his story in ways that feel safe and make sense to him.

      You might also consider joining our support group where the conversations often revolve around how to support our kids in these conversations and how to navigate our own feelings about their stories in order to help them navigate theirs. I find so much wisdom from the members for my own family. You can find us here: http://ow.ly/kWTQ30nxMZ9

      Thanks for reading and for sharing your concerns. Best to you!

  2. Avatar 2nd Momma says:

    Any thoughts or comments about explaining name change?

  3. Avatar pia says:

    If you adopt an infant or very very young child–no excuse as being told a child is adopted, along with their name and that their parents love them–“normalizes” adoption or really does make it just another way of making a family.

    Adoptive parents should have nothing to fear. They’re the ones that are always there. It’s also normal for a child to romanticize a birth parent and again that’s normal. You always want what’s not there. I remember thinking that my birth mother would let me stay home from school, wear my hair down to my waist, and everything I wanted my mother (who wasn’t very strict) to change.

    When I met my birth mother I realized she wouldn’t have let me breath–she would have been the one who wouldn’t have let me do a lot. But I had to meet her to know that.

  4. Avatar Shirley Cameron says:

    we received no training when we adopted our son. We began telling his adoption story when we had an unexpected pregnancy of our own ! He was young and the story grew along with him. We were glad we started when we did. When he was 10, he was hospitalized. The doctor asked, in front of our son, for his family history. If he hadn’t heard the words before, he would have been devestated when we had to say, “we don’t know, he’s adopted”.

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  8. Avatar Robyn C says:

    Awesome article Dawn! This is one of those pieces that should be required for anyone involved in adoption.

  9. Avatar Mom of two says:

    Great list – and there’s absolutely no reason adoptive parents should be afraid of the items on this list!

  10. Avatar The Gang's Momma says:

    YES! And I’ll add that you’ll likely have to tell them these 6 things many times over again, sometimes exactly the same way each time. Sometimes differently with each new and growing sense of self and of awareness of others’ choices and others’ pain or struggle that led to the need for these 6 truths to be shared.

    A friend once likened it to the gourmet frosting process bakers take when making a cake. (Think Cake Boss and his elaborate works of art!) You gotta have a sturdy foundation of the cake first. Then there’s the “skim coat” of the basic frosting to hold all the coming layers. Then start the layering of the decor of the cake. Building evenly and steadily on that basic foundation and repeating steps for added depth and effect. It’s slow, steady work that can’t be skimped upon or speeded up. Their story is like the frosting and the decor – gentle layering, building on those layers and adding depth is our gift to them. And, sometimes you have to let some of the layers kind of dry out and cement together before you move on to the next step! (I confess, this is often my particular difficulty…)

    I never forgot that analogy and while I know it’s not a PERFECT metaphor (there seldom exists perfect metaphors for anything adoption related!), it really connected with me when trying to understand my daughter’s growing understanding of her story.

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