Adoption is a topic close to my heart because my husband was adopted. I have learned from him the wonders of adoption, but also the hard topics and situations that may arise due to having a child come into your family in such a way. Adoption can be a hard topic for families to talk about with their child. However, feelings about being adopted can influence a child's sense of self-worth and esteem. While every family's situation is different, I want to discuss some general ways to make this hard topic easier.
Experts agree that it is best to begin talking about adoption when your child is young. Young children are egocentric, meaning they believe the world revolves around them. This is the time to tell them their adoption story. Kids usually love their adoption story because they are the center of attention and it tells how they came into your family. Although the meaning of adoption does not really sink in at this age, it is wise to begin telling them from a young age. Here is the basic adoption story you can tell your child:
1. He/she was born the same way as everybody else in the world
2. He/she grew inside another woman, but that woman was not ready or able to be a mother at that time
3. You wanted to be a parent very much
4. You adopted him or her and they will be your child forever.
Children need repetition to understand new and complicated concepts. Parents often overestimate their children's understanding of what they have been told about adoption and underestimate the need for ongoing dialogue. Do not expect your child to "get it" after just one or two discussions, talking about adoption is a lifelong process.
Some other guidelines for talking about your child's adoption story is:
1. Plan Ahead: decide ahead of time how you want to address questions about birth parents
2. Be honest: you do not need to reveal all of the details at once, but never make stories about your child's adoption. If they ask a question you don't know, simply answer "I don't know"
3. Be positive: Regardless of the details of your child's adoption story, their birth parents made it possible for them to be a part of your family. Make sure they are loved by you and their birth parents.
Every year my husband's family celebrates his adoption day. Another way to discuss adoption is to celebrate it! By celebrating your child's adoption day, you send the message that the day they became a part of your family was special and important. You can celebrate your child's adoption and their birth parents on Adoption Month (November) and Birth Mother's Day (the Saturday before Mother's Day).
One last topic I want to cover is concerned with development in an adopted child. The majority of adopted children show typical developmental trends. Adopted children are able to form bonds and attachments to their adoptive parents. If your child displays behaviors associated with Reactive Attachment Disorder or Adopted Child Syndrome, it is best to consult your doctor and seek further help.
References and more information:
"Biology is the least of what makes someone a mother" - Oprah Winfrey