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November is Adoption Awareness Month

Talking to Your Child About Adoption

For many adoptive families, it’s a looming, difficult decision: when and how should you talk to your child about adoption? Telling your child his or her adoption story might seem like a giant obstacle to be tackled, but in reality, it should be something discussed openly and honestly from the beginning. 

Weaving the topic of adoption into everyday conversation can help create a positive image of adoption, improve your child’s confidence and sense of identity, and build trust between you and your child.

Most experts agree that it is important to tell your child that he or she was adopted, and it is highly recommended that children are told about adoption early on. Adopted children that were studied, regardless of the level of openness in their adoption, were curious about their birth families. If your child senses that you are uncomfortable talking about adoption or answering their questions about their birth family, they might feel isolated or guilty for having questions. Talking openly with your child is the best way to show them that adoption is normal and that they can always trust you and come to you with questions.

Every child develops at his or her own pace, and each may process and react to adoption information differently. The following are some rough guidelines to help you talk about adoption with your child through the years:

  • Infancy and Preschool- Use adoption terms as you talk to your infant or toddler to begin building a positive association with adoption language.
  • School-aged Children- This should also be when you start giving your child more details about his or her adoption story. Gauge your child’s reactions and determine what he or she can handle and process, but keep in mind that this is often when children are most resilient and best able to digest difficult truths.
  • Adolescents- When your child is ready, you should begin to share more details about the adoption, as well as any documents relating to the adoption. Adolescents and sometimes especially adopted teenagers tend to be focused on identity. During this stage, your child will likely begin to wonder who he or she truly is, and how adoption has played a role in developing their identity.  

Regardless of your child’s age, when talking about adoption, you should always be honest, positive and supportive of your child and his or her adoption story. Give your child plenty of opportunities to ask questions and bring up adoption on their own and remember that all children develop and mature at their own pace.

If you need help talking to your child about adoption, consider consulting a counselor or therapist for suggestions and support. Adoption is a lifelong journey, and it should be a lifelong topic of conversation as well. Instead of waiting until your child brings it up or until you think they are old enough to fully understand adoption, introduce the concept little by little and build upon your child’s knowledge as their understanding of adoption develops.

For more information about talking to your child about adoption, visit here.