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How To Tell Your Children That They Are Adopted- From An Adopted Child's Viewpoint
Adoption is a beautiful situation that can come with many problems. One of these difficulties can be wondering when and how to tell a child that you are not their biological parent. You may be filled with fear and dread when you think about how your child will react. As an adopted child myself, I want to share exactly how my adoption was explained to me and why I have no psychological problems because of it.
No parent is perfect- not me, not my own parents, not even you. But I can confidently say that my adoptive parents did a wonderful job at explaining to me when, how, and why I was given up for adoption.
These are the steps that my parents took to tell me the complete truth without making me feel abandoned, unwanted, or different than other kids.
- Never Keep Adoption A Secret: Since before I knew how to talk, my parents told me that I was adopted. Of course, as a baby and young child, they didn't give me too many overwhelming details. One of the best things they said to me was, "We love you, Caroline. We're so glad we adopted you!" This helped me to understand why my adoption was a good thing before I even knew what it was.
- Teach Your Child What Exactly Adoption Is: I grew up with a few other friends who were adopted. Unfortunately, most of them did not handle their knowledge of where they came from as well as my younger sister and I did. One confessed to me, "My parents told me I was adopted, but I never knew exactly what it meant. One day, on the bus, somebody told me that my mom and dad weren't my real parents! I demanded an answer from them, and they finally told me that somebody else had given birth to me." From the time I was little, my parents told me what adoption meant- another man and woman had given me away for my parents to raise.
- Keep It Age-Appropriate: Of course, when I got into my pre-teen years, more information about my birth parents was explained to me. I found out that they had me very young and wanted to finish school before raising a baby. They felt that I would have a better life with an older, more stable couple. It's important to remember that your child is still a child, and even though you should always help them to understand what adoption is, they don't need to know every gory detail, especially in unpleasant cases such as rape and incest.
- Always Keep It Positive: Say something negative once about how you wish you hadn't adopted them, dislike their birth family, etc., and they will remember it forever. Even when my parents were angry at me, they never said anything about regretting their adoption of me. Mention some good things about their birth parents, too, such as how they made a selfless decision by giving you a child. Never say that your child was "gotten rid of", even if the circumstances mean they basically were, such as abandonment.
- Don't View Their Birth Family As A Threat: Someday, your child might want to meet his or her birth mother, father, or both. Please don't take offense to this. It's perfectly natural to be curious about your roots. Another acquaintance of mine once told me that she often imagines meeting her birth mother and getting to know her, but she knows her adoptive family wouldn't like it. In circumstances where your child knows their birth family, (open adoption, adoption of relatives, etc.) don't feel like you need to keep them apart. When mad, your child may even say something like, "You aren't my real parents!" It's hard, but try not to take this to heart. Remember that, no matter what kind of relationship develops, you will always be their parents.
I hope the above suggestions will help you to tell your child that you adopted them. Remember, the earlier you start, the better. Some people decide to wait until their child is a certain age to let them know. This almost ALWAYS backfires! Treat your child with the respect that you want them to show you. Let them know how special they are to you and how glad you are to be their parents. Try to find books appropriate for their age level that talk about adoption, and if possible, let them meet other adopted kids. Don't make it into too big of a deal, and don't get too stressed when adoption is mentioned. If you treat the adoption of your child in a calm, cool, happy manner, that's exactly what it will be.