There comes a time in every adoptive parent’s life when they ask themselves a very simple question. How do I talk to my child about adoption? It can be a difficult conversation for a parent to start, but it is an incredibly important conversation to have.
“With open adoption on the rise, we’re learning how valuable it can be to share what we can with our kids,” writes Angie Gallop, Today’s Parents. “Having a sense of history can be enormously powerful for kids.”
How Do I Talk to My Child About Adoption?
“Today’s adoptive parents face a big challenge,” writes Barbara Russell, Adoptive Families, “helping your children achieve a level of comfort and confidence with their adoption. And the most effective way to accomplish that is by talking about adoption to your children.”
- Start the Conversation Early: “Some parents may feel they are ‘off the hook’ if their child doesn’t bring up adoption very often,” says Jayne Schooler, author and adoption advocate. “But that’s the wrong way to think about it. Parents should bring up adoption themselves.” The longer an adoptive parent waits to bring up the topic of adoption, the harder it gets for both parent and child. So, start the conversation early and keep the conversation going using age-appropriate language. Let the discussion grow along with the child. “Lay the foundation by teaching children what adoption is, gradually share more age-appropriate information until the child reaches a full understanding, and continue the process throughout his life,” says Chuck Johnson, president and CEO of NCFA and a former adoption agency director. This helps normalize the subject, and repetition helps the child better absorb concepts surrounding adoption.
- Normalize Adoption: “It’s important to keep in mind that adoption is not abnormal, nor should discussions about it be stressful for adoptive parents,” says Dr. Kathleen L. Whitten, Ph.D., author, developmental psychologist, and lecturer at Georgia State University. Reaffirm with your child that adoption is a beautiful and completely normal way to start or grow a family. Adoption should be celebrated.
- Use Positive Adoption Language: How we speak is just as important as what we say. This is why Positive Adoption Language is the preferred language used by Adoption Makes Family. First created in 1979, Positive Adoption Language encourages respect for the emotions of all parties during the adoption process. For example, rather than referring to the biological mother as “first mother” or “natural mother,” we refer to the biological mother as the “birth mother” or “tummy mommy.” This indicates the role of the birth mother as the individual who gave birth, which is an integral part of the adoption process. Terms like “first mother” and “natural mother” insinuated that the adoptive mother is “second” or “unnatural.”
- Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help: Adoption Makes Family is here to help! We are a non-profit (501-C3) licensed adoption agency based in Maryland. Our adoption counselors are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for your convenience. Adoption Makes Family was founded to meet the needs of birth parents and adoptive parents in a manner that is sensitive, compassionate, and personal. If you would like our advice or just need to talk, please give us a call at any time on our 24-Hour Hotline 410-683-2100.
If you have any questions, you can contact us by phone at 410-683-2100, by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or use our online contact form.
- Brenoff, Ann. “8 Things Adoptive Parents Should Never, Ever Do.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 3 Nov. 2014, www.huffingtonpost.com/ann-brenoff/7-things-adoptive-parents-should-never-ever-do_b_6043650.html.
- Callahan, Nicole M. “Adoption Advocate.” Dec. 2011.
- Russell, Barbara . “Talking About Adoption with Your Adopted Child.” Adoptive Families, 22 July 2016, www.adoptivefamilies.com/talking-about-adoption/talking-about-adoption-with-children/.
- “When Should We Tell Our Child That He Was Adopted?” Parents, https://www.parents.com/parenting/adoption/parenting/when-should-we-tell-our-child-that-he-was-adopted/.