Tell a Child They Are Adopted

Edited by Ian Gabriel T. Tolledo, Anonymous, Lynn, Eng

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"Mama, am I adopted?" As an adaptive parent, it is understandable that you will have problems relating to your child that he or she is adopted. Most adoption workers advise parents to introduce the "adoption" word early in the lives of the adopted children. This should be done to avoid awkward situations where the parents find it hard to reveal the truth to their child due to guilt and fear of hurting their feelings. Do not follow the same mistake. A child who knows early in his or her life that she is adopted will be able to adjust faster and comprehend the things in his environment better.

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It's All About Timing

Realize one danger of keeping the news of adoption from your child. He is very liable to find it out from someone else, perhaps overhearing it from conversations of his relatives, or from the teasing of neighborhood kids who may have learned from their own parents that he is adopted - what then? By all means, you must take responsibility and share the news yourself.

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How to break the news?

  1. 1
    Allow your explanation to be direct, simple, and most of all, honest.
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  2. 2
    Explain to your child that he or she is not born of you.
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  3. 3
    Tell the child that he is born of parents who were regrettably unable to take care of him.
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  4. 4
    Describe to your child why you chose to adopt him.
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  5. 5
    Relate briefly the process you went through to get him.
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  6. 6
    Talk about how you and your spouse wanted him/her and how much the both of you cherish him/her being in your lives.
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Stages of a Child's Understanding of Adoption

  1. 1
    5 to 7 years old.
    Your child may understand that he has "two fathers" and "two mothers" although the social customs and the real meaning of adoption might probably still be unclear. During this stage he is likely to ask queries regarding his mother and the reason she did not keep him. Understand that he may have anxiety regarding this, thinking that since his first mother left him, you might as well. Reassure him and explain that you are there to stay no matter what.
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  2. 2
    7 to 9 years old.
    During this period your child will develop a better understanding of the concept of adoption. Begin expecting to be asked varied questions regarding his real parents. He may also begin to create a more precise understanding/perception of his original family which in fact is just an illusion regarding his real parents and how he came to be adopted in the first place.
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  3. 3
    9 to 12 years old.
    Most children in this stage, including those who are adopted become increasingly concerned with their physicality (appearance) and fitting in. Understand that your adopted child may develop very serious sensitivity to your differences as a parent-son/daughter (e.g. if his eye color and hair color differs from yours). It is also normal in his stage for your child to become more interested with his real parents and what his original origins and culture may have been. Expect tons of questions about his biological and adopted relatives, and also about his family tree.
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Dealing with Emotions

Your Emotions

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As a parent, you may be reluctant about telling your children and find it very hard to break the news to them that they are adopted. You may also find it hard to accept that your son or daughter is not really your biological child, and so you avoid explaining the adoption to him or her only because it pains you deeply.

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  1. 1
    You may be hesitant to talk about their adoption because you are trying to protect their feelings against the truth, believing that they might be hurt at finding out that they were adopted.
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  2. 2
    You might also be afraid of being rejected by your adoptive children.
    You may think that they might choose not to live with you anymore or that they want to be with their real parents.
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These things above, as you might notice are products of presumptions which only serves to confuse your feeling and stop you from doing what it right and moving forward. Choosing to leave you for their real parents is a very uncommon reaction; understand that your children might not be serious about pursuing it. In short, if you have any apprehension about telling it to your child, get over it as soon as possible.

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Child's Emotion

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Keep in mind that it is very important for the child to know about the adoption by the time he or she enters school. You must be honest in this important issue early on to strengthen your relationship with the child and to strengthen his self-esteem.

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  1. 1
    Your child may get upset at first when you break the news to him or her.
    But if you wait until the middle years of his childhood to tell him of the adoption, you'll risk hurting his feelings more.
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  2. 2
    Always be there when your child wants to talk or clarify something with you.
    It may do him or her good to know his biological parents, based on the situation and his readiness. Talk about why he is angry or sad, and let him know that you understand and acknowledge these feelings.
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  3. 3
    Remind your child that you and your spouse love him no matter what happens and that he will always have a family with you.
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Later Questions

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Your child may have more questions for you in the days following your revelations; this may continue in the years ahead, so try and understand that this is normal and does not necessarily reflect a lack of respect and love toward you. In fact the more questions your child asks and the more he or she talks about the issue, the more comfortable he will be with it.

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  1. 1
    The answers you give to his questions should be honest and direct.
    You also have to be sensitive to his emotional maturity level. Take into account his personality and the concepts of adoption that he might have already understood.
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  2. 2
    Never dismiss such concerns and questions and do not react to it violently.
    Understand that life as an adopted child is a little bit different from normal familial circumstances. Try not to dwell or emphasize this uniqueness in his upbringing though.
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  3. 3
    Your child's needs remain the same, whether he is living with his adopted or biological parent.
    Maintain normalcy in the adopted child's environment and he or she will fit in with his or her peers.
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Five Ways to Keeping Communications Open

  1. 1
    Be patient
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While your child may easily acknowledge that he or she is adopted, he or she won't really understand the concept until he understands what pregnancy and conception is. So never become frustrated if the child doesn't seem it get it 100 percent. It's just natural for the child to ask questions, even if they are the same ones over and over again.

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  1. 1
    Be Perceptive
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If your child asks you whether she grew in your tummy, explain conception and pregnancy in the concept she may easily understand. Simply say that she grew up inside her own mother, another woman, and that she came to live with you soon after. If, however, your child doesn't express much interest in his adoption, that's okay - learn to deal with it. A five-year-old child becomes much more interested with a human's life cycle; prepare your answers then because he may have tons of questions coming your way.

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  1. 1
    Memory Booking
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It is always fascinating to see what people looked like when they were little. Your child will surely appreciate it if you make a memory book for her, or better yet, allow her to take part in creating a personalized memory book! It will help them get over their adoption anxieties and create a loving environment and bonding for you.

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  1. 1
    Story Helps
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You can also help your child understand the concept of adoption through stories. For example, you can tell of a story about an ant that has nothing to share his overflowing food with, and eventually finding a couple who takes him in. It might not directly address the meaning of adoption but it will surely introduce the concept to them. Of course you can craft your very own story. Try it!

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  1. 1
    Using the Word "Adoption"
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Making the word "adoption" normal around your conversation with your child and regularly will make the word less distressing and allow your child to understand that it is not at all negative.

Questions and Answers

Should I wait for my adopted child to reach maturity before breaking the news?

That is a personal decision you must make. But in all sincerity, you shouldn't. Look at all the movies you watched and see how teenagers react to that kind of revelation. You should do your best to break the news as early as the child can comprehend the news. Not only does this make the adjustment better, but it also avoids future negativity which may arise from your procrastination.

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There are some people that usually wait for the child to became mature enough to be able to understand and cope up with the situation. Thus, as for my own opinion the best is to wait for the to become more mature before breaking the news. That day he/she could or can understand everything such as; reasons and explanation of what happened.

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Should I just wait for my child to find about his adoption himself?

No. Adoption, as you know, should not be kept a secret. Every child needs to have an honest understanding of his real origin. Adopted children may feel that somehow they are different, despite not knowing that they are adopted. This nagging intuition can negatively influence them, especially if they learn it from someone else other than you. They might get the wrong idea about the situation.

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Tips, Tricks and Warning

  • Some adopted children develop emotional and/or behavioral problems. This may result from issues or insecurities related to being adopted. Seek professional advice if this persists.
  • A child psychiatrist can help and assist you if breaking the news has been problematic.
  • If you have problems with the circumstance of adoption then you may get support from health and mental health professionals.
  • All adolescents naturally go through a stage of struggling with their identities.
  • Do not deflect on the issue, and encourage questions your adopted child may have.
  • Always remind your child how much you love and cherish him or her.
  • If you have problems with any of these steps, ask a question for more help, or post in the comments section below.
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Article Info

Categories : Family

Recent edits by: Lynn, Anonymous, Ian Gabriel T. Tolledo

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