Talking to Children About Adoption – Part 3 of 4

If your child’s birthparents close off contact at some point, it’s important to let your child know that they are always welcome back. Let them know that their birthparents still have your phone number or address and if you’ve moved, that you’ve provided the agency with your new information so they can get it when they are ready. Even if you’ve had to establish some boundaries with the birthparents, you likely haven’t said, “Don’t visit”, you’ve more likely said, “When you are ready/able/stable, you are welcome to visit again”.

Your child should have all the information about their adoption story before they are 12. You don’t necessarily have to tell them every single detail in adult language by that time, but there shouldn’t be any surprises after that age. Once children are teenagers, they have a wide range of emotions and trust issues. If they learn new alarming information regarding their story, they may misinterpret it, embody it, or not believe you. You will need to continue to process their adoption story over and over again as they age and mature. What satisfied them when they were 3 is not going to satisfy them when they are 5, 8, 12, etc.

Giving your child the power to decide whom to share their adoption story with is very empowering. Not everyone needs to know they were adopted. Let them decide whom to share with and you may be surprised by their choices. It’s important to teach your child the difference between secrets and private matters as well. Secrets can often be bad, whereas private matters are just things that are not shared with everyone. For example, the cashier at Wal-Mart doesn’t need to know your whole adoption story if you do not want to share it, so that’s a private matter. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things private and you are proud to share their story with those people who are important in your lives, but you needn’t be pressured to indulge curious onlookers.

To be continued…

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  • Mirah Riben

    Wuld it not also be a good idea to help assure your child that it is not their fault that their birthparent is no longer visiting??? Just as one would do on a divorce.

    That seems far more important than a concern to pat yourself on the back and assure them it’s not your fault and you are a good person by keeping the door open…thus putting all the onus on their bad birth parent while matinaining the high road as the “good adoptive parent” as your scenario suggests.

  • Yes, definitely. It is not your child’s fault that a birthparent has lost contact with you and it may be necessary to have a discussion about that. Again, you will want to be honest, but keep in mind that often when a birthparent looses contact, we don’t have the answer as to why. That’s why it’s important to let your child know they are always welcome back and can find you. Otherwise, a child may grapple with the fear that the birthparent has no way to get in touch or is searching for them and it’s the adoptive parent’s fault.

    My comment wasn’t to paint the “good adoptive parent” vs. the “bad birth parent”, but was intended to put the control in places it could be maintained. We don’t have control over the birthparents’ lives or what they choose to do, so we have to talk to our children with the answers we do have.

  • Mirah Riben

    Yes, definately, that is IMPORTANT to include in advise you give parents. Without that part, it is not helpful to them.

    And…intent or not, that is how it comes across. Focusing on “the door is open” in fact assures your child that you are not being the bad person and stopping the visitation. It puts the blame and responsibility for the lack of vists off yuou and on the other. Let’s be honest here. Yes, it is about control and you have all the control to frame it in a way that paints you as harmless and open and loving and caring and the other as…??

    That’s all about the adults, though. It is not addressing the child and his need. Is your goal to assure your child that you are not barring the visits or to help them deal with the lack of visits? Think about it a bit deeper before being defensive in replying and not addressing my point at all…

  • Mirah Riben

    “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.”

    Do you not see that is giving the child the message that THEY were not her priority???

    You are an adoption “professional”?

  • Ryan Schwab

    I am not going to censor this comment, but I ask that you refrain from ad hominem attacks. This is an open forum for discussion about issues surrounding adoption, not a trial on the concept of adoption itself.

  • The intent of my posts are to give an overview of some issues that might arise when raising adopted children. It certainly isn’t exhaustive of every conversation that needs to be had. Adoptive parents in our program do go through intensive training and it’s our goal to help prepare them to address issues with their child and be aware of things their child might be experiencing. Our adoptive families have lifetime support through our agency and our counselors and are always welcome to talk to us if they have questions when specific situations arise.

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