Talking about adoption is an important element of being an adoptive parent. Just like nurturing a child with the repetition of the phrase “I love you” is pivotal, being lovingly open and positive about adoption is a crucial part of caring for your son or daughter. Adoption is an essential part of your family’s story, and must be talked about repeatedly, positively, and compassionately.
Many parents do not know how to begin the adoption conversation with their little one. This is completely normal. Some worry it might affect their relationship with their child. Others fear it will make their child confused, or worse – feel like he or she does not belong. The bottom line is, the child whose parents are open and honest about their adoption story is a happier one. Open adoption conversations lead to more answers, more confidence, and a more complete sense-of-self.
Bringing up the adoption conversation early and often can help lay down the groundwork for more evolved conversations as your child grows. Adoptions With Love has been guiding adoptive families for more than 32 years now, and it is truly remarkable for us to see how children flourish and relationships between parent and child strengthen because of this level of honesty.
There are many tools and tricks of the parenting trade for talking about adoption with young children. We have discussed many of these in our recent eBook, “Explaining Adoption to Your Child: A Guide for Adoptive Parents.” Below, we outline some additional resources parents can use to help guide adoption conversations.
Children love to hear about themselves, especially in story-book form. Your child will be excited to hear about how your family came together (and will probably ask you to repeat the story time and time again!). This is a sacred story that is deeply personal and only for them. It makes your child feel special. It is meaningful. Most of all, it helps your child understand more about adoption, even at a young age.
Creating a story for your child will come naturally. You can explain that, once upon a time, your child was born to a beautiful, brave woman who loved him/her with all her heart. However, , she was not able to take care of the baby (for adult reasons). So, she chose a nice family to love and raise her child. They became her forever family. Use real names if you have them, to associate positive language and tone with your child’s birth parents.
Much like the photo book you created early in the adoption process, adoptive parents may choose to make a special adoption photo book to share with their child. This is commonly called an Adoption Lifebook and holds the small details of your family’s adoption story. It may begin with photos of Mom and Dad just getting started with the adoption process – such as filling out paper work. It may also include photos of the birth parents, if available, or photos from the delivery room. Everything from nursery prep to the first days of school are also great moments to include. Be sure to write special captions to describe your feelings of excitement. Include specific stories, like dad’s reaction to the phone call confirming a match. This can drum up positive vibes and great conversations about the adoption. You can look at this together as a family, when talking about adoption. This will help you tell the story and allow your child to have visuals as you do.
In addition to photos, there are many other items from the adoption journey that can encourage conversations with your child. Ultrasounds, your child’s hand or foot prints from the hospital, or a special gift from his/her birth mom, are just some tangible examples. If your child has a special blanket from the hospital or infancy, this can be used to bring up the adoption conversation, as well. You may say something like, “I remember when we first laid our eyes on you, you were wrapped up in this blanket. Sweet as can be. We drove as fast as we could for hours to reach the hospital where you were. We could not wait to hold you.”
Children’s Books About Adoption:
Many parents turn to adoption books to help broach the adoption discussion with young children. These books can help your child understand adoption. Children’s books about adoption can also normalize the concept for your child. They can give him/her something to relate to, allowing your child to see that there are other families out there that were formed just like yours. This an important distinction at a young age – that adoption is a normal way to create and grow a family.
Of course, no children’s book story will be exactly the same as your child’s adoption story. That is because your child’s adoption story is unique. Adoptive parents often use children’s books about adoption as ice breakers, to introduce the concept repetitively, without being too intrusive. Some popular adoption books for kids, as recommended by Parents Magazine, are:
- Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born – Jamie Lee Curtis
- A Mother for Choco – Keiko Kasza
- The Day We Met You – Phoebe Koehler
Adoptive Parent Groups:
It can also be extremely helpful to join adoptive parenting groups for additional resources and support. Like-minded individuals can share stories that help spark ideas for having continuous and positive discussions about adoption with your child.
Of course, there are going to be many moments throughout your child’s life that present natural, organic opportunities to talk about adoption. For example, when rehearsing for a school play, you could ask your child, “Do you think you got the acting bug from your birth mother? Or maybe your birth father?” This will give your child the reassurance that it is okay to think about things like this – and it will also give your child freedom to ask more questions about his or her background.
Adoptions With Love wants all adoptive parents and children to feel comfortable discussing adoption. Our caring staff is here to help support you through this parenting journey. Download our free guides below for more information about starting the adoption conversation or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We are here to help start and continue these conversations for stronger and healthier relationships between adoptive parent and child.