reading-baby-adoptionQ: We have three adopted children, two are biological siblings. The third was an open adoption and we maintain touch with the biological mother while the two siblings’ biological parents’ whereabouts are unknown and we have no contact with them. We are curious as to when we should tell the children (we do want to tell them, just do not know when) that they are adopted, given that one will be able to contact the birth mother while the other two will not be able to. We are mainly worried about how the two siblings whose biological parents are not known to us will react and be affected by this.

A: In an ideal world you start telling your child the day she arrives. When you are blowing bubbles on her belly, you say, “I’m so glad we adopted you.” You read books on adoption to him when he’s a baby in arms and continue on up until he says he would rather read them himself. You also read books about all the different types of families there are in this world, and you share your amazement in how wonderful it is that families are families regardless how they are formed. Of course, these aren’t the only books you read to him, but in and among the books you own, should be a healthy assortment of adoption and family formation books.Now, the truth is that your beloved won’t get too much out of these early talks, but you will get practice at saying the words and telling the story. There is no one time that you tell, it is a continuous telling. As your child ages, you look for opportunities to fill in pieces of the story and to elaborate on things that you glossed over. You want to send the message, that no question is off limits and that you aren’t threatened by his wanting to ask them or wanting more information on his birthparents. All of the information that you know should be shared with her, even if it is hard for you to tell. You share in a very simple terms when she is younger, but gradually fill it what you know.

Now, don’t panic, all is not lost that you haven’t begun. You simply need to start now. On this page, I list some of my favorite books and video explaining adoption to kids. The main disadvantage is that you are probably going to feel awkward at first, and it would have been nice to have that awkwardness when they were younger, but it’s not the end of the world.

You raise an interesting point about having different degrees of information for your children. Those of us who have combined children by birth and adoption also have this issue. I wrote a blog entry on this, rather crudely titled “Tales from a Blended Family: Swimming in Mom’s Pee.” There is nothing you can do but be honest. I don’t know the details of your situation or even how old your children are, but one way to broach the subject is by talking about the different types of adoptions. Sometimes mommies know that they aren’t ready to be a mommy, and they make an adoption plan and pick out the family. Sometimes mommy’s and daddy’s aren’t ready, but they don’t know it. Other people cared about the children and stepped in to make sure that they had a mommy and daddy to adopt them and raise them and love them forever and ever and ever. We have also done quite a few Creating a Family radio shows on how to talk with your kids about adoption.


Image Credit: BenSpark