I remember when we were busy with our adoption application, one of the questions we asked was: “when and how should we tell our child he is adopted?”
Our social worker advised us that it is vital that your child knows right from the start about the adoption. If it is kept a secret and told later on, the child may assume that if it was a secret, it must be a bad or shameful thing. She told us to use the word ADOPTION freely in happy conversations, not to make a big deal out of it, but make sure that it is “out there”.
We were advised to not force the topic but to answer questions honestly in an age-appropriate way. Children will ask many questions but they often don’t listen to the answer. They process information at their own pace and when they need more information, they will ask.
We have always spoken openly to our friends in front of our child about adoption. As he has gotten older, he has asked me a few questions about adoption but never with any huge interest or emotion.
We have lots of friends with adopted children and through my counselling work, I meet lots of adoptive parents. I always love hearing the stories people tell their children so I thought I would share a few.
These are some of the sweet stories I have heard:
- Mommies have hooks in their tummies where they hang their babies. My hooks are broken so another lady hung you on her hooks until you grew into a big enough baby and then she gave you back to me.
- We knew we wanted you so badly that we chose you. We asked a lady who knew lots of babies to look for you and we told her exactly what you would be like. She went and searched all over for you and when she found you, she called us and said we could take you home with us.
- Most babies are born from their moms’ tummies but you are special because you were born from my heart.
- Mommy and daddy could not have a baby of their own because they have a problem that the doctor could not fix. We adopted you because your tummy mummy could not look after you and she was so kind and loved you so much that she trusted us to look after you and make you our son or daughter.
There are lots of books that explain adoption to small children. The one I wrote is called The Greatest Gift and it is about animals rather than humans. I chose animals because they can represent any type of human – all ages, all colours, all sexual orientations. It is a story that can be used by all adoptive families and interpreted as their story. Whichever way you chose to do it, just make sure that you do it from the start if possible.
Article by: Terri Lailvaux – Adoptmom, Counsellor – Dip C (Inst NH)