Archive for September, 2018

How to Talk About Adoption with Your Teenager (ages 13-17)

Adolescence is a crucial period of life that involves major development physically, mentally, and emotionally. There are many changes and adjustments happening during these teen years. They are just beginning to establish who they are in the world. At the same time, their world is growing into a more complicated place. Their education, relationships, and personal growth are all in a state of flux – and the rush of hormones is a completely different battle!

At this time of your child’s life, he or she is beginning to develop more complex emotions, as well as grasp onto more complicated concepts, like the meaning of adoption in his/her life. At this age, your teen is also likely to seek out more in-depth conversations regarding his or her birth parents.

For adoptive parents, this can feel like an overwhelming time. It is important to take each phase of development as it comes, and with as much honesty and openness as possible. Always be prepared for the serious talks and know that the questions your teen is asking are completely normal – and healthy. Teenagers are at a stage of self-discovery. Your child might need answers (about his or her biology, birth siblings, ethnicity, etc.) in order to form an identity and fuller sense-of-self. Think of these answers – whether they be details about the birth parents, or the reasons behind their choice – as missing puzzle pieces that your child needs to feel complete.

We understand it may be hard not to still look at your growing teen as your sweet, little baby. Try to remember that he or she has made great leaps and strides in maturity over the years, and can now handle some more sensitive information about his/her adoption story.

It is also important to remember that an open and honest approach will be best for your child in the long run. No matter their background, adolescents often struggle with self-esteem issues. Having a parent to trust is important for your child’s level of comfort and self-confidence as he or she grows. If your teen knows that you are in his/her corner, you will certainly see a boost in self-esteem.

While it is important to use age-appropriate adoption language in conversations with your teen, you should not avoid sharing tough information – drugs, rape, legal troubles – as a way to protect your child. This will only make the truth harder to share later in life. Hiding the difficult details can also set a child up to fantasize about his or her birth parents, which can cause greater disappointment and pain down the road. Be honest, but also be mindful of your tone and the way you frame your answers. If the birth parents had issues with substance use, for example, you might explain that your teen’s birth parents may have gotten involved with drugs or other problems a long time ago – not because they were bad people.

While you want to share as much information with your teen as possible, you should always be considerate, compassionate, and respectful when talking about his or her birth parents. Remind your child that his/her birth mother did the best she could in a time of crisis and that, by making an adoption plan, she was able to plan for your child’s life. She always had your best interest at heart. Ensure your teen that adoption is not an easy or quick decision, but one made with great love and thought. If you are in an open adoption arrangement, you may also consider involving the birth mother in some of these more difficult conversations.

You can also take these difficult conversations and turn them into great bonding time with your child. Ask for his or her opinion on something when the truth is less than glamorous. Try something like, “How do you think your birth parents felt when they went through that?” This serves a dual purpose. For one thing, it gives your teen a boost in self-confidence. It shows them that their voice matters, and that you care about their thoughts and feelings. It also helps them think about the situation from an empathetic standpoint.

Teenagers are working hard to “find themselves” throughout this emerging phase of life. As a parent, you can provide your son or daughter with honest answers, help your teen feel more confident in his or her adoption story, and help your teenager feel prouder talking about it. You are literally helping your child shape his/her own perspective and personality, and ultimately become an adult. Parenting is a pretty cool job, and you are the one who gets to do it!

Adoptions With Love can help you, too. We always have staff members ready to chat about these complicated, and often emotional, moments. If you would like to learn more about talking to teens about adoption, please download our free guide, “Explaining Adoption to Your Child” below. If you would like to learn about our active Search and Reunion program for adopted teens and their families, please reach out to us at 1-800-722-7731.


How to Talk About Adoption with School-Age Children (ages 6-12)

Children are, by nature, curious creatures – especially after age six, when they have started to develop a broader understanding of the world and their place within it. Whether children were born into their families, were adopted, or just know someone touched by adoption, they will likely have many questions for their parents. As a parent, facing these questions can feel overwhelming. It can be hard to know how much information you should divulge to your child, and how to handle the burning questions about his or her birth parents.

At Adoptions With Love, we understand the feeling many parents have when their school-age child begins asking more complex questions about his or her background. Gone are the infant and toddler conversations, when a simple: “You are ours and we love you!” would typically suffice. If your child is between the ages of six and 12, he or she is just now beginning to understand the greater scope of adoption and what it means. Your child may also be getting more prying questions about adoption from his or her peers at school.

In this article, we will break down some of most positive ways you can talk with your child about his or her adoption story. Having these conversations now, before and in early adolescence, can invoke positive feelings about adoption in your child and help him/her create a fuller sense-of-self.

First and foremost, it is important to keep all adoption conversations with your child as open, honest, and positive as possible. Your child deserves to know the truth, but this should always be framed in a positive light. Even if the truth about your child’s biological parents is difficult to share, ensure your child that they loved him/her very much and made the best possible choice they could. Always keep a calm, positive tone and show respect when talking about your child’s birth family. It is because of their choice that you came together as a family. By doing this, your child will also feel positive knowing he/she came from good people. Your child will also trust you for sharing this important information if you do so in an open and loving manner.

While many children will ask questions about adoption on their own, it is important to note that others may stay silent during early adolescence. Both temperaments are normal in growing children. As a parent, try to make frequent conversations happen. If your child is not asking questions, pose some questions to your child like, “Do you think about your birth parents?” Let your child know you will not be hurt and that you are open to talking about them.

Try looking for easy, organic opportunities to bring up the subject, as well. For example, if your child likes to play sports, you might say after a day on the field, “You are so talented! I wonder which of your birth parents gave you that incredible athletic ability.” This may help your quiet child feel comfortable with an open dialogue about his or her birth parents – Otherwise, your child may avoid bringing them up so as not to offend you. As long as you are happy to talk about it, they likely will be, as well.

With some forethought, sitting down to chat with your child about his or her adoption story can be very beneficial and enlightening. Your child is growing up and gaining a better understanding of his or her history and background. At this age, your child may also be looking for tangible information about his or her biological family. If you have an open or semi-open adoption, consider sharing photos of his/her birth parents and what else you can about their background. Explore your child’s heritage together. Read letters from his or her birth parents. Show your child is or her birth certificate, and your proof of adoption. This will all help your child connect with you and his/her adoption story. Look at baby pictures together that you might have from the very first time you met each other.

As the rule of thumb goes for any age and topic, parents should keep age-appropriate language in mind for the adoption conversation. You know your child better than anyone else in this world. If you know that he or she is not ready to learn the full context of his or her adoption story, hold off on divulging all of the difficult details until the time is right.

A 12-year-old, for example, is likely to handle sensitive details better than a six-year-old who is just starting to grasp the concept of adoption. If you know that your child’s birth parents had a drug problem, for example, you might consider saving that conversation until after he/she has learned about drugs, alcohol, and their effects.

As your child’s mind and relationships develop, he or she may have more complex questions about his or her birth parents. Be prepared to answer these honestly and compassionately. As always, take into consideration their sensitivity to the subject and share what you can with love. Tell your child the story with care and affection, to reassure the fact that his or her adoption story is a positive one, born out of love.

Adoptions With Love is a constant resource for help. If you want to learn more about how to talk to your child about adoption, or for help on finding the right words, please download our free eBook below, “Explaining Adoption to Children: A Guide for Adoptive Parents.” You may also email us at info@awlonline.org for more information on the adoption process.