Talking about the Difficult Parts of Your Adopted Child’s History

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Sometimes our adopted kids come to us from a history in their birth families or drug abuse, rape, incest, abuse, or prison. Should adoptive parents share this information with the adopted child? If so, how? Host Dawn Davenport talked with Beth O’Malley, author of many books about preparing lifebooks for adopted and foster children, including Lifebooks: Creating a Treasure for the Adopted Child; and Angela Magnuson, a licensed professional counselor with Bethany Christian Services with specialized adoption training through Rutger’s Certificate Program in Adoption, and seven years experience working with foster, kinship and pre and post adoptive families.

Highlights of the show (click to expand)
  • Should you tell your child that his birth parents are in jail, that his birth mother used drugs or drank alcohol when she was pregnant with him, that he was conceived via rape, that his birth mother abused him, that her birth father is in jail, or any other difficult part of his history?
  • How is it best to tell your adopted child these difficult parts of her history?
  • Can you use a lifebook to talk about rape, imprisonment, drug and alcohol addiction?
  • What is a lifebook and what should be included in a lifebook?
  • What if your child brings the lifebook to school or shows to people outside the family?
  • What language can you use with young children to help lay the framework for filling in later with more details?
  • Specifically how should parents tell their child that they were conceived during a rape?
  • What if you don’t believe the birth mother’s story of what happened?
  • Should you tell you child about abuse or neglect if they don’t remember it happening?
  • By what age should you have shared all of your child’s story with him?
  • How do you help your child understand how much of his story he should share with others outside the family?
  • Should you tell a child that her birth mother’s use of drugs or alcohol during pregnancy might be the cause for her learning disabilities?
  • How can adoptive parents help their children understand that they are more than the hard parts of their history and that they are not doomed to repeat their birth parents mistakes?

For more information from this show and a discussion of this topic, check out Dawn’s blog on the show: Should You Tell Your Adopted Child He Was Conceived by Rape, His Mother an Addict, Etc?. Please join the discussion or leave your thoughts about the show in the comments on the blog.

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Show re-aired in 2017.