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Explaining Adoption to Your Child

Adoption, at its face value, is a simple concept. It’s just another way to build a family. But for those that are touched by adoption, it is much more complex than that. In particular, children that are adopted may have to deal with a variety of thoughts and feelings surrounding their adoption that their non-adopted peers can not understand. As a parent to an adopted child, it is important that you take the time and care to help your child understand what adoption is and how it pertains to them.

Why Is It Important To Tell My Child They Are Adopted?

You may wonder if telling your child about their adoption is absolutely necessary, especially if your child is an infant. It can seem as though withholding this information while they are young will protect them and help them feel more secure. But in actuality, it can cause the opposite effect.

For healthy development, children need to feel secure. The feeling of security is affected by many outside and inside factors. Having a stable home, maintaining routines, and forming strong bonds with caregivers are all ways a child develops a positive sense of security. Part of this security is being able to trust their parents or caregivers and this trust starts early on.

Children are far more perceptive than we tend to give them credit. They are naturally curious and at a certain age they will wonder about babies, where they come from, and how they were born. They will start to ask you questions and your reaction to those questions will affect them. If you show that you are uncomfortable with inquiries about their birth or their birth parents, they may feel guilty for asking questions or that their curiosity is inappropriate. They may start to isolate themselves as a result.

Sometimes, an adopted child will realize a difference — like a lack of pictures of them as an infant or that they don’t have similar features to their parents — but may not say anything. They will feel isolated because no one has acknowledged something that they can clearly see. This is why it is important to explain adoption to your child. Being open about their adoption story and their birth parents will lead to better confidence, security and trust in your child.

Where To Begin 

The way and age you tell your child about adoption differs greatly depending on the age and situation of when and how they were adopted. For example, if you adopted your child as an infant, you may feel less of an urgency to tell them because you will have more time. But if your child is of another race or ethnicity, you will have to address the topic much sooner.

The key to making this experience a positive one is making adoption a casual conversation among your household. Normalizing the topic from the beginning will make it seem less intimidating to you and your child and will also give them a more positive outlook on adoption in general. Starting from infancy or toddlerhood — if you have adopted them this young — you should tell them their adoption story regularly. Even though a child that young will likely not be able to understand the concept, it is good practice for you and will open the door to a more comfortable conversation in the future. You can read your child books about adoption or tell them their adoption story like you would a bedtime story.

As your child grows, they will become more curious about where babies come from. This is a good opportunity to explain that families are formed in many different ways and adoption is one of them. Eventually, your child may start to ask more detailed questions about their birth parents and the specifics of the adoption. The information that you give your child will depend greatly on how open or closed your adoption agreement is with the birth parents. Decide what information you feel comfortable giving and make sure it is appropriate for their age. Some details maybe should be saved for when your child is older, and that’s okay.

Tips To Make It Easier

Discussing adoption with your child is not going to be easy, especially for you as the parent. It can feel daunting when it comes up and you may feel unsure about how to approach it. Before you take the plunge, consider looking up different resources to help ease your stress.

Today, there are a variety of online resources to help you with how to talk appropriately to your child about adoption. Likewise, there are a great number of books you can purchase online or even find at your local library that will help your young child understand a complex topic.

Keep it age appropriate. The conversation will change as your child grows. Be sure to adapt along with your child. A book may be useful for a young child, but your adolescent child will want more direct responses. Being open to your child’s questions and honest with your responses will get you a long way. They are looking to you for answers about something they may not fully be able to understand and as their parent it is your job to help them.

Explaining Adoption to Your Child

Before anything, it is important for you to find support as an adoptive parent. Adoption is a lifelong journey with a variety of challenges you will face throughout the process. Telling your child their adoption story is one of those challenges and you are not alone in feeling intimidated by the thought. Remember that your adoption journey and your child’s birth parents are a part of your family’s history. This history is what brings you closer together and should be admired and shared.

Adoption Choices of Nevada

If you are currently in the process of adopting a baby and have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact, Adoption Choices of Nevada. You may visit the website here or contact us by 775-825-4673 (Reno Office) or 702-474-4673 (Las Vegas Office). Our hours are Monday through Friday, 9am-5pm PST.

Support Adoption Choices

CrowdriseAdoption Choices, Inc. is partnering with Crowdrise, a fundraising website for nonprofits, to help our adoptive parents and birth parents with much needed financial assistance. We understand that expenses keep clients from fulfilling their dreams. Both with birth parents making a plan for adoption, and with adoptive parents growing their family. It is our mission to provide financial assistance through grants and scholarships, awarded annually in November, in honor of National Adoption Month. Funds assist adoptive parents with matching and placements, adoption finalization and helping birth mothers improve their lives through higher education — and much more.

However, we can’t do it alone. Please read up on our programs and donate money where you are able. Your donation will make a huge impact.

About the Author

Devon Thornton

Devon Thornton is a graduate of the University of Central Florida with a Bachelor’s in Creative Writing. She has recently moved from Orlando, FL to Clarksville, TN, and is pursuing her writing career with Adoption Choices and also writing personal essays in her free time. Devon is an avid reader and a big Harry Potter fan.

When she’s not curled up reading a book, you can find her somewhere on a hike or a camping trip. She loves her cat, Minerva, and considers herself a true animal lover. She hopes one day to publish a book of essays and to maybe meet J.K. Rowling.

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 Sources 

Schooler, Jayne. “Why Children Need to Know Their Adoption Story.” Focus on the Family, 2002, www.focusonthefamily.com/parenting/adoptive-families/your-childs-adoption-life-story/why-children-need-to-know-their-adoption-story.

“Talking to Your Child About Adoption.” Considering Adoption, consideringadoption.com/adopting/parenting-an-adopted-child/talking-to-your-child-about-adoption.

Tartakovsky, Margarita. “How to Tell Your Child They’re Adopted.” Psych Central, 8 Oct. 2018, psychcentral.com/lib/how-to-tell-your-child-theyre-adopted/.

“When Should We Tell Our Child That He Was Adopted?” Parents, 3 Oct. 2005, www.parents.com/parenting/adoption/parenting/when-should-we-tell-our-child-that-he-was-adopted/.

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