I have asked families how they talk about adoption to their child. Here are four responses. If you have one, please send it along.
Every six months, we send our birth mother a little photo book telling her about our son’s new accomplishments and emerging personality. It is written to her, and while it doesn’t address her by name, it does speak directly to her with sentences like: “His beautiful smile came from you… as did his great intelligence… We will teach him to honor you for all that you provided him.”
One of the reasons we chose to send our birth mother a photo book, instead of a more traditional letter and pictures, is that we also wanted copies for our home. It’s important to my husband and me that guests, extended family, and all of our children clearly understand the gratitude we feel towards our son’s birth mother. Because we have two biological children and because our son is a different race from ours, we want to make it crystal clear that we *celebrate* the special way that Joshua entered our family. We also wanted our son to grow up feeling secure about the fact that adoption and his birth mother are safe, open topics in our home, and we felt that these books take the burden off of him by starting the conversation ourselves.
For the first time just yesterday, Joshua approached me with one of those books in hand. He turned around and backed up, indicating that he wanted me to pull him onto my lap. At the same time, he handed me one of his books. We turned the pages together and he smiled and laughed at “Jos-swa” as a baby. As I held him on my lap, I read the words I wrote to his birth mother.
Joshua didn’t understand the words I read yesterday, but for the first time, he heard them. Little by little, one reading at a time, hearing will turn to understanding. He will understand that he has a birth mother, that she loved him before we even knew of him, and that we honor her.
Every night we say a prayer…I say it as if I were Amy who is now 2. So it will be her prayer as she gets older and says it herself.
“Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the lord my soul to keep, when in the morning light I wake, teach me the path of love to take. God bless Nana, Grandpa, mommy and me, my birth family, my extended family and friends.”
Caiden is only 2 but since he was born we have talked to him about the fact that he was adopted. We are very open about it and use age appropriate language but we talk about it regularly so that it becomes “normal” for him and so that it is never something he feels different or shameful about. Caiden is African American and we are white so we also talk about our differences and similarities. We have childrens books about adoption and differences in families in terms of how they are created and the types of families there are. Sometimes when we are putting him to bed we talk about the first time we ever saw him (in the hospital nursery) and how excited we were to finally meet him. We tell him how we met his birth mother and that she wanted to meet us to make sure we would love him and take good care of him. We feel like the more open and honest we are with him, the easier it will be as he gets older, and the more confident he will be when other people ask him questions. We really want Caiden to be confident and proud of himself and where he comes from. Every family has to do what’s right for them but I can’t imagine not talking about it or having a date in the future when he will be told. It’s his history and we feel like he has the right to grow up knowing who he is, where he comes from and how we became a family.
I just wanted to tell you about how I tell my kids they are adopted. Have a little story to tell them. I started telling them when they were really little so it gave me time to try it out, to find out what I felt comfortable saying and make sure that I included everything that I wanted to say. The stories have evolved but have solidified into a predictable bedtime story. Sometimes I tell it every night. Then I go through phases where I don’t and then it comes back again. They start as every good story should: Once upon a time there was a beautiful girl named Josephine. You were growing inside of her. She was your birthmom. Daphne doesn’t quite know her’s the way Brett does yet. It is really fun. He knows when I get to the part where I say, “I remember the first time I saw you. I picked you up and I kissed you like this.” He turns one cheek to the side while I kiss it and then turns the other cheek while I kiss it. He loves the part when I say, “One night the phone rang and they said, “your baby boy was born! Your baby boy was born!”
Anyway I think what I want to share with other adoptive families is that I believe in telling my kids their story from the time they are tiny! It has helped me to say the words out loud so that I know how to do it. It is also a special thing to hear about their special story and because I use the same words every night it is familiar and they love it.
My kids who are not adopted have said, “Mom, do I have a story?”.
I hope this helps someone! I also have a few books that I have found that I like. I love You Like Crazy Cakes (Rose Lewis) and Over the Moon (Karen Katz) are about International Adoption but still share the feelings of adoptive parents. I Don’t Have Your Eyes(Carrie Kitze) is probably for transracial families. How I was Adopted (Joanna Cole), Forever Fingerprints (Sherrie Eldridge who is adopted and has written a book for adults called 20 things your Adopted Kids Wish You Knew), And My Adopted Child, There’s No One Like You (Kevin Leman) talk more about the feelings of the adopted child. I love the one by Kevin Leman even though the name doesn’t sound as interesting as the others. I also have the Jamie Lee Curtis book and love it. I always cry 🙂