Written by: Cally Worden
There comes a time in every child’s life when they develop a natural curiosity about their roots. Telling your child they are adopted can be challenging, and cause stress and anxiety for you both. It is a very important moment in your child’s life, so it is crucial to approach it in the most sensitive way possible.
There is no right or wrong time to tell a child they are adopted, but experts generally agree that earlier is better than later. This helps to ensure that the child does not discover the news from a third party, and allows more time for the child to get used to the idea that Mum and Dad are not their birth parents.
It is important that adopted children view their circumstances in a positive way, and they may need reassurance that they are truly accepted by their adopted family. Upon being told they are adopted, it is natural for children to ask questions about their birth parents, and why they were given away. Parents should endeavour to keep the answers simple and straightforward, and as positive as possible.
What your Adopted Child Needs
Learning and understanding that Mum and Dad are not your birth parents can be scary and confusing for a child. They will need to be reassured that they are special, and reminded of just how much they are loved, and always will be. Children may ask the same questions many times about their background and their birth parents, and it is vital to be consistent and honest in your answers.
As an adoptive parent it may be painful to be bombarded with questions about your child’s birth parents, especially if they were neglectful or abusive towards the children. Whilst youngster should not be lied to, it is important to shield them from overtly negative details about their birth parents that may cause them to feel bad about themselves. If you are confident and comfortable with the whole adoption history and process, then this will help your child to feel loved and secure.
Tips for Telling your Child
- Tell them how excited you were when they came to live with you – share photos or a memory book if you have one
- Share the information when you child is still young, so they don’t find out from someone else
- Be positive about why they were not able to stay with their birth parents – keep the story simple, and avoid difficult details that your child is too young to comprehend
- Try not to show it if you feel any awkwardness about the adoption – your child’s radar will pick up on this and it may cause them to view it as a negative thing
- Be patient with your child – they may have many questions that they need to ask, again and again
- Accept that your child may have a delayed reaction to the news, and may start to act out if they find it hard to deal with
- Explain that being adopted does not make them loved any less than a child who lives with their birth parents
- Try role-playing or using pictures to explain the concept of adoption if your child is very young