Archive for August, 2018

How to Talk About Adoption with Infants, Toddlers, and Young Children (ages 0-5)

For adoptive parents, just the idea of talking to your child about adoption can be overwhelming. How will he or she react? Will it hurt your bond with your little one? What types of questions will follow as he/she grows? When should you start the conversation? There is a seemingly endless stream questions and conversations that are required throughout any child’s upbringing. Adoption only adds to the many emotional talks.

Adoptions With Love understands your hesitation. Know that we are here to help you navigate important adoption conversations as your child grows. Each phase of life brings a new series of questions from your child. It is important for parents to know how to respond in age-appropriate language, with honesty and compassion at every step of the way.

No matter the circumstance, an open, honest dialogue about adoption is always best for the child. In fact, over 97 percent of adopted children over the age of five know they were adopted, and 90 percent of these children have positive feelings about their adoption experience.

The tried-and-true rule to talking about adoption is to start early. Start adoption conversations in infancy and keep them going over the years, as your child grows. In this blog, Adoptions With Love offers advice on how to talk about adoption with infants, toddlers, and young children.

From the very first day you welcome your child into your lives, you can begin telling his or her adoption story. It is never too early to start using the word “adoption,” whether it is during a bottle feeding or bath time. As a baby, your child will not grasp what you are saying, but this practice can help you gain more comfort using the language. Adoption is something that you will continually discuss, intermittently, throughout your child’s life. Getting comfortable with “the talk” now will greatly benefit you both down the road.

Another reason it is so helpful to start the adoption conversation early on, is that when the time comes, your child will be more comfortable with (and confident in) his or her adoption story. Your little one will be used to the words and will not be shocked or caught off guard when his or her peers start asking questions, too.

Keep it Simple

Remember that young toddlers and children have short attention spans, so they do not require lengthy conversations to address the topic of adoption. They also think of things as black-or-white, and do not yet have the ability to understand metaphors or unclear “grey” areas. In the early years, use simple, straight-forward language to talk to your child about adoption. Save the more complex details for the later school-age, preteen, and adolescent years.

An Upbeat Approach

In addition to having simple conversations early and often, it is also important to be mindful of the language. Keep things positive! It is important to always send the message that the adoption is a positive, loving way to grow a family, and that is how you and your child came together. Always smile when sharing your child’s story and when talking about his or her birth parents. Young children catch onto emotions, even when they cannot fully grasp the words.

By using a positive, compassionate tone, you will help your child understand that adoption is positive piece of your lives. Your child will be happier and more confident in his or her adoption story if you portray it with pride and happiness.

The Baby Phase

New parents may be pleasantly surprised to learn that it is quite easy to discuss adoption with a baby. This tiny, beautiful miracle looks to you only for love and care. You can start with simple phrases during bath time and bedtime, saying things like: “Daddy and I love you! We are so happy we got to adopt you!” and “We are so grateful for Susie” (use the birth mom’s name, or a name/title you have chosen together to call the birth mom.  Using “mom” can be confusing to a young child). You may also just incorporate the word “adoption” into your day-to-day conversations. This way, your sweet baby will always be comfortable with the word and attach a positive feeling toward the subject.

Talking with Preschoolers & Kindergarteners

As your child grows, the adoption conversation will grow a bit, as well. At the toddler phase, your child may start asking some basic “why” questions: “Why don’t I look like you?” and “Did I grow in your tummy?” You may want to navigate the conversation using simple ways to explain the adoption story, such as:

“Mommy and Daddy were so happy to adopt you. Mommy and Daddy could not grow a baby in mommy’s belly.  Susie grew you in her belly, but she was not able to take care of a baby at the time. She loved you so much and wanted to make sure you had the best life, so she chose us to be your parents forever. Babies need to be taken care of, given food and clothing and a home. Susie couldn’t provide this all (for adult reasons), so we adopted you when you were born. And you have been our sweet baby from the day you were born (or adapt the story to your situation).” You may also tell this in storybook, “Once upon a time…” form at bedtime – Young children love hearing stories about themselves!

If, and when, your youngster begins asking more questions around the adoption, you should feel free to address them simply, honestly, and positively. For example, if your child asks: “Why does my skin look so different?” Just simply say: “We usually look like our biological families. You have skin like Susie (insert name, if you know it), and I have skin like Grandma. But we are all family and love each other, forever, no matter what we look like.” This will give your child the answer he or she is looking for, while redirecting the conversation toward a happy feeling of belonging.

While many young children frequently ask questions about adoption, there are some who stay quiet. This is normal. It is still important for you, as the parent, to encourage these conversations. You can take out pictures of the day you met them and laugh about how cute they were. This sometimes stimulates conversations. There are many adoption-themed books and kids’ shows that can help address the subject. Parents may consider using these to child understand more about his or her story, in a relaxed and comfortable manner, as well as relate it to others’ adoption stories.

Another helpful resource is Adoptions With Love. Our caring staff are available to help adoptive parents and hopeful parents through the adoption process. For more information about talking to your child about adoption, please download our free guide below.

“Explaining Adoption to Your Child: A Guide for Adoptive Parents” is designed to help you find the right words, and answers, at each stage of your child’s life – starting in infancy and throughout adolescence. For any more questions, please email us at info@awlonline.org.


How to Tell Your Child They Are Adopted

For some adoptive parents, the notion of talking to your child about his or her adoption can be nerve-wracking. How do you broach the subject? At what age is it appropriate to discuss adoption with a child? How will he or she respond to the news? Should it be news at all? How do you say it, and how often?

While the how, when, what, and what-ifs can become overwhelming, it is important not to delay this conversation with your child. The sooner you start talking about your child’s adoption story, the more comfortable, happy, and proud he or she will be of it. Remember that, as a parent, you are your child’s biggest supporter and influence. How you tell your child they are adopted (and how often), can have a very positive impact on how your child’s story unfolds.

Today, over 97 percent of adopted children over the age of five know that they were adopted, and 90 percent of these children have positive feelings about their adoption experience. At Adoptions With Love, we want you to feel confident when talking about adoption with your child – so that your child can be confident in it, too. In this article, we will guide you through the process on how to introduce and explain adoption to a child.

Let’s Talk Timing

Adoptive parents often ask, “When should I talk to my child about adoption?” The answer is simple: always talk about adoption, especially when they ask about it.

It is never too early to start sharing your child’s adoption story. In fact, from the moment you welcome him or her into your lives, you – as mommy or daddy – can start sharing the incredible journey of how you became a family. Get comfortable with the term “adoption” by using it in a positive way throughout the day – during diaper changes, bedtime routines, and even walks in the stroller! Your sweet baby may not understand the message during this infant phase, but the habit will help you, as the parent(s), gain comfort and confidence in talking about adoption openly and honestly.

Just like parenting, you will know how to best approach the adoption discussion with your child when the time comes. If you, like many, have an open adoption, you may consider including the birth mother in this conversation. Here are some other tips for how to tell your child they are adopted.

How to Have the Talk – Child-Forward Thinking

In addition to the simple repetition of the word “adoption” in the infancy phase, it is important to have frequent discussion with your child throughout his or her upbringing. These conversations should be age-appropriate and tailored to your child. If your child is still in diapers, he or she may not be able to fully grasp the concept of adoption. That is okay! Mention it occasionally but keep the explanations short and simple. As the child grows, he or she will likely have more questions. Those can be tackled over time, as he or she matures and is better able to process the information.

Be Open and Honest

While adoption can sometimes be a sensitive subject for adoptive parents, especially when a child has questions about his or her birth parents, it is important to be open and honest with your little one as the questions come up – in age appropriate language, of course. If there are some complexities to the story, you can always share those later when he or she is able to understand them. Share your child’s adoption story as openly and honestly as you can at this time. Your child will only benefit from your honesty, and it will continue to build trust and love in your relationship.

These talks should also be given with a positive tone. Remember to speak positively of your child’s birth family and reiterate how much your child is loved. Help your child understand that he or she did not grow inside your belly, but rather, inside your hearts. Let your child know that he or she was not given up, but rather, planned for your family. Your child was chosen. Talk about the selflessness and courageousness of your child’s birth mom, and about the strength she had to make this decision and to give her baby the best possible place to grow. Most of all, explain to your child that adoption was a beautiful way to complete your family – and let your child in on that joy.

Find Resources to Help

Many parents find adoption books to be helpful in explaining adoption to a child. There is a wide variety of literature available – from board books made for toddlers, to “how to” guide books for adoptive parents.

Another move that can help spark positive conversation is to create your own photo book, much like you did for your family in the beginning of the adoption process. A photo book or “Lifebook” is a great way to journal your child’s adoption story from the very beginning. Like “baby books,” adoption lifebooks can help you keep track of important dates, events, and feelings throughout the adoption and parenting journey. You can include ultrasound photos, footprints from the hospital, and if you have an open adoption arrangement, even photos of the birth and birth mother. This will help give your child a better sense of his or her story – which is important to know as he or she grows.

No matter which approach you decide to take, it is important to be open and honest when thinking about how to tell your child they are adopted. Doing this is crucial for helping your son or daughter understand how he or she became a part of your loving family – and a part of your life. Let them know that you welcome their questions and feelings. You can help shape your child’s outlook on his or her adoption story and grow to be proud of it. Open and honest conversations with your child can help teach him or her to positively share this special story with others.

For more information about the adoption process, please visit our Adoptive Parents FAQ page or call Adoptions With Love toll-free at 1-800-722-7731. You may also download one of our free guides about talking about adoption below!


When to Tell a Child They Were Adopted & Age-Appropriate Adoption Language

At the start of every adoption journey, prospective adoptive parents must consider how and when they will share their adoption story with their child. We will admit, this can feel a bit nerve-racking at first. What time is the “right” time to tell a child they are adopted? Is there a “wrong” time to talk about it? If you are considering adoption or have recently adopted a baby, you may have some similar questions about starting this conversation at home. You may be wondering things like:

  • When is it okay to start talking about adoption with my child?
  • Should I start the conversation now, or wait until he/she can understand what adoption means?
  • How should I approach this conversation? What can I say to help my child understand?

It is completely normal to feel a bit nervous about having the adoption conversation with your little one. However, the earlier you start talking about adoption in your home, the sooner your child starts hearing his or her adoption story, the more comfortable you and your child will be. Typically, the best approach to talking about adoption with your child is to be open and honest from the very beginning of your journey.

As a private adoption agency with over 32 years of experience, Adoptions With Love has helped many adoptive parents start the adoption conversations in their home. Below we share some tips for parents on how to tell their children they are adopted, and how to continue the conversation appropriately over the years.

When to Get Started

From the very first day you welcome your child into your lives, you can begin telling his or her adoption story. It is never too early to start using the word “adoption,” whether it is during a bottle feeding or at bath time. Your baby will likely not grasp what you are saying at first, but this practice can help you gain more comfort with these words over time. Adoption is something that you will continually discuss, intermittently, throughout your child’s life. Getting comfortable with the “talk” is one that will greatly benefit both you and your child long-term.

It is also helpful to open the adoption dialogue early on, so that when the time comes, your child will accept, understand, and be comfortable with his or her adoption story. Early discussions can help build self-esteem and provide a sense of safety and security for your child. From the beginning, he or she will know how much love was put into the adoption plan.

As a parent, it is important to make this a lifelong conversation. You do not just tell your child about adoption once. The more you talk about it, the more your child will be comfortable with it. He or she will also be more comfortable asking questions. At Adoptions With Love, we recommend talking about adoption often, when the opportunity arises, throughout every stage of your child’s development. Many parents turn to adoption books for young children. These can help your child understand and relate to other adoption stories.

Telling a child about adoption early on can make it a very natural experience – Because they have always known their story, they will not remember a solitary “stand out” or “shocking” moment in which they were told.

As Ellen Singer, LCSW, told adoptionsupport.org, “It is important for parents to share age-appropriate information, answer questions, and help children with their feelings about adoption before adolescence. Adolescence can be a difficult time to communicate about clothing and plans for the weekend, let alone birth parents, birth heritage, and complex feelings. For this reason, parents should seriously consider the advantages to laying the foundation for adoption conversations at a younger age.”

Words Matter

In addition to having the conversation early and often, it is also important to be mindful of language when telling your child they are adopted. Use language that is appropriate for your child’s developmental level. This will evolve as your child grows, of course. The discussion with a preschooler will be much different than that with a middle schooler. No matter the age, however, it is important to always send the message that the adoption is a positive, loving way that your family came together. Your child will be happier and more confident in his or her adoption story if it is one that sends a message of pride and happiness.

Simple to Start

In the infant phase, it is quite easy to discuss adoption with your baby. This tiny, beautiful miracle will be looking up at you with love and wonder. You can send simple messages as easy as, “Daddy and I are so happy we got to adopt you. We love you more than anything in this world!”

As your child grows, the conversation should grow, as well. At the toddler phase, you may find some easy ways to explain the adoption story, such as, “Mommy and Daddy were so happy to adopt you! A nice lady had you in her belly, and she wanted to make sure you had the best life. She found us and asked us to become your mommy and daddy when you were born. So we adopted you, and you have been our sweet baby from the start.”

The “why” questions will likely start at the toddler and preschool phase, but young children are often pleased with simple answers such as “because we knew you were meant to be ours!” This will help your youngster feel loved and truly at home where he or she belongs.

Growing the Conversation

Just like you know the best way to raise your child, you will know how to continually address the conversation of adoption. As your little one grows and develops through the elementary and middle school ages, he or she will likely have more in-depth questions regarding the adoption and his or her birth parents. Try not to fret as these questions are asked. Instead, encourage these questions. It is very normal and healthy for a child to be interested in his or her biological background.  If you keep the conversation open and honest – and stay mindful as to what information your child can grasp at the given age – you will continue to bond with your child through these adoption discussions.

Today, over 97 percent of adopted children over the age of five know that they were adopted, and 90 percent of these children have reported having positive feelings about their adoption experience. For more advice on when to tell a child they are adopted, as well as age-appropriate language to help you navigate the uncharted waters of this journey, please download our free guides below. If you would like information adopting a child in MA, please call 617-964-4357.


Children’s Most Common Questions About Adoption & How to Answer Them

Any parent can attest to the seemingly endless barrage of questions from our kids: “Why do I have to take a bath?” “When can we go back outside?” and a staple of long road trips, “Are we there yet?” Children are curious creatures. They ask questions in efforts to figure out the world they live in. Some questions, of course, are easier to answer than others.

Common family-related questions such as “Where do babies come from?” and “What is our nationality?” get deeper conversations going, but if you are an adoptive parent, your answers will be a bit more complex and thought-out than the typical response. Children’s understanding of adoption is part of a developmental process, and asking questions is their attempt to try and understand its role in their lives.

At Adoptions With Love, we want parents like you to feel prepared for their children’s more difficult adoption questions. We want you to have the confidence, compassion, and ability to comfortably discuss adoption – openly and honestly – with your child.

Depending on your child’s age, certain adoption-related questions will require simpler answers, such as: “Was I in your tummy?” This is one of the more common questions asked by young children. The answer can be handled with a simple reply, such as “You were in your birth mother’s belly before you were born. Mommy and Daddy wanted a baby but could not have one that way. We were so excited to adopt you!” It is important to take age and development into consideration before addressing your child’s adoption questions. It is also important to always be open, honest, and positive when talking to your child about adoption.

To help you navigate conversations with your child, Adoptions With Love has compiled a list of other common adoption questions that children may ask, ranging from the basic ponderings of a preschooler to the adolescent interrogations.

Adoption Question: What do my birth parents look like?

Answer: If you know what the birth parents look like, describe them as detailed as possible. Example: “Your birth mother has brown, curly hair and big, beautiful green eyes.” If you have a pictures of your child’s birth parents, this would be an appropriate time to share it with him/her.

If you do not know the birth parents, you may reply:

“They must be stunning to have made such a beautiful child like you!”Adoption Question: Why didn’t my birth parents keep me?

Answer: “Sometimes, a man and woman know they can’t take care of a baby that they are expecting. Your birth parents knew just how amazing you were going to be, but they also knew they could not give you the kind of care and support you deserve. So, they searched for the best parents, who could give you the best life possible. We wanted to be your parents more than anything in this world and feel so fortunate to have you in our lives.”

Adoption Question: How come I don’t look like anyone else in the family?

Answer: “Our physical appearance comes from our birth parents. You were blessed to be born with the same beautiful skin tone, hair and eye color as your birth parents. Nana and Papa are my birth parents, so that is why I have the same skin color/hair/eyes as they do. Just because you have different skin/hair/eyes, does not make you less of a part of our family. It is basically the only difference between us! You are our child and we love you with all of our hearts. We celebrate our differences.”

Adoption Question: Why did you adopt me? 

Answer: “Mommy and Daddy really wanted a baby to care for and to love, but we could not make a baby. When your birth parents reached out to an adoption agency, we were paired together! It was a perfect match, because we loved you the moment we laid eyes on you. We feel so lucky to be able to have you in our family.”

Adoption Question: Will I go back to my birth parents someday?

Answer: “Your birth parents wanted you to have a family that could take care of you and love you forever. Family is forever, and you are a very important part of our family. You will always be our son/daughter, and we will love you and care for you no matter how old you grow – or (jokingly) how cranky you behave! We are also very proud to talk about your birthparents.  This never hurts our feelings. They are part of you.”

Adoption Question: Is it okay to think about my birth parents?

Answer: “Of course it is! It is only natural to think about your birth parents. I, myself, think of your birth parents often, especially on special days like your birthday, Mother’s Day or other holidays. I hope they are doing well. I always feel thankful to them for giving me the gift of you. I am certain your birth parents think of you often.”

Like many adoptive families today, you may have opted for an open adoption. Depending on your relationship with the birth parent(s), you may arrange for the birth mother speak with your child at certain points of his/her childhood, particularly when questions are raised about your child’s birth family history, the birth parents’ feelings on the adoption, or any other personal questions related to your little one’s biological background. This approach is completely up to you and what you, your child, and his or her birth mom are comfortable with in terms of contact.

Handling it With a Little Help

No matter the focus, Adoptions With Love can help you navigate your child’s most sensitive adoption questions with compassion and sensibility. Our caring staff is available to our adoptive parents 24/7, and just one call away. Feel free to reach out to us anytime at 617-964-4357. You may also download our free guides below: “A Guide to Talking About Adoption” and “Talking to Your Child About Adoption: A Guide for Adoptive Parents.”