Talking to Children About Adoption – Part 2 of 4

When talking to your child about their adoption story and you are discussing the circumstances around the placement, be honest with your child, but keep it age appropriate. Again, try to incorporate examples from every day life to make it easier to understand. For example, if your child’s birthmother was young, you could use an example of a young neighbor or cousin and talk about how “Amy is still living at home with her parents. She goes to school, has homework, is on the cheerleading squad, etc. Could you imagine her trying to raise you right now?” That’s going to make more sense to your child than just saying “She was too young to take care of you”. Your child is going to also realize that if she was young when she had him/her, she’s not young anymore and could possibly care for him/her now. It’s important to stress the permanency of adoption and that she knew it was a forever decision then and was, and still is, happy with her decision. If ongoing contact is part of your adoption, this is only going to be reinforced through visits and contact. If financial burden was part of your child’s adoption story, it’s ok to share that with your child, but don’t over emphasize it because the next time you tell your child you can’t afford something, they could begin to worry that you cannot afford to care for them and they may be placed for adoption again.

It’s important to bring up the subject of your child’s adoption periodically, especially if it’s not something they do on their own. It doesn’t have to be made into a big discussion, but a simple thought said aloud, perhaps wondering what their birthparents are doing now or commenting that your child is especially gifted in a certain area and perhaps they share that trait with their birthmother/father. Bringing up the subject is going to give your child permission to bring it up. It will let your child know they can talk to you about their adoption story and ask you questions. It’s also important to let your child know that you cared and continue to care for their birthparents. This is going to give your child permission to care for or love their birthparents and birthfamily. Some children may be afraid of hurting you by loving them, so it’s important to allow them to acknowledge how they feel.

It’s also important for both parents (if you are a two-parent household) to bring up the subject with your child. It’s going to be natural for your child to come to one of you over the other for different subjects (math homework, sports, friends, etc) and that’s ok. However, it’s important for your child to know that they can talk to either one of you, even if they prefer to always come to one of you.

To be continued…

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  • Mirah Riben

    I do not agree with your example and do not see how that helps the root of the issue: “If she loved me, she’d keep me and enver let me go.”

    Expecting a child younger than a teen to look at a teenager and see her as immature, I think is odd expectation. To a young child, teenager are invincible super-heros! And even if your child was exceptionally mature and understood what you were explaining, it would still leave the burning question: “but doesn’t she love me?” Your answer totally avoids the most painful issue at the heart of adoption. And to say she loved you enough to let you go leaves a child wondering if it will happen yet again…is that what love is? All very confusing and unexplainable!

    I have no better suggestion, unfortunately. I do not how you answer that, especially when the child’s mother is in the picture to any extent and is NOT a horrible person who is mentally ill, or in jail, or on drugs. How DO you explain that young woman is together enough to visit, and has made a decsion – a choice – to put her education or career before parenting at this time in her life? That’s a real tough one!

  • http://www.adoptionhelp.org Michelle Keyes

    You’re right, Mirah, it is a tough one! The majority of birthparents are not horrible people who are mentally ill, in jail or on drugs, they are simply people who faced an unplanned pregnancy and for reasons not everyone understands, feels they are not in the position they want to be to parent a child.

    The benefit of open adoption is that the child will know the birthparents and will know their love for them. It’s something they will be able to experience and hear from the birthparent themselves. It’s not necessarily that the birthparents loved the child enough to let them go, because you’re right-that could be confusing to a child, but more that they loved the child enough to try to give them a better life than what they could provide at that time in their own life. Love is grand, yes, but it does not conquer all. Birthparents make an often painful decision that they want what is best for their child and for whatever reasons, don’t feel they have what they think is the “best”. That’s not for us to determine, but to help a birthparent make their own choice-a choice that will be right for them. Then we need to help our children of adoption understand that love.

    The example I gave above wasn’t necessarily to try to point out that the teen is immature, but rather that she has a lot going on in her life and might not make parenting her first priority. Typically, children begin to question this around ages 5-7, so their understanding is going to be basic, but it needs to be tangible. Making the reasons surrounding their adoption story as concrete as possible is going to help a young child get a better understanding of the circumstances involved. This is something that will need to be reprocessed over and over again as the child ages and matures. A simple answer that satisfied them when they were 3 isn’t going to suffice when they are 6, 9, 12, 15, etc.

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