Talking About Adoption
I am an adopted child. My sister is also adopted. That has never stood in the way of us feeling very much like sisters, with all the good and bad that entails, as well as understanding in our hearts and minds that we were a family. Our adoptive parents were never second in our minds to our mysterious and mythical biological parents, although at different times we had different perspectives on reaching out to find them.
I want to share how our parents talked with us about adoption. I have had many interactions with children and families in my life and I know some very heartbreaking issues that can occur when adoption is kept secret in a family. I also know now that what my parents did is what the research shows is the best way to help children of adoption understand their relationship in the family as well as the questions that will occur throughout their lives.
Start Simple Conversations Early
Parents, both Mom and Dad, need to be on the same page when it comes to talking about adoption in developmentally appropriate ways. In general the younger the child the less specific you need to be about the legal and technical issues about adoption. Stress should be placed on family love, choices to become a family, and the importance of the family. Grandparents, family members and friends also should be aware of what the family is sharing with the kids with regards to adoption. You don't want a family member blurting out more information than you think the child can handle.
There are some great stories to read to even very young children about adoption. Some of the books are designed specifically for families adopting children of different cultures, nationalities and ethnicities. Don't forget to also share information with biological children, they may be just as curious as to what is going on in the family.
Some great books on adoption for younger children include:
- Welcome Home Little Baby by Lisa Harper
- The Magical Friendship Garden byRebekah Barlow Rounce
- The Best Single Mom in the World: How I Was Adopted by Mary Zisk
- Twice-Upon-A-Time: Born and Adopted by Eleanora Patterson
- Did My First Mother Love Me? A Story For an Adopted Child by Kathryn Ann Miller
- We See The Moon by Carrie A. Kitze
- My Family is Forever by Nancy Carlson
- Over the Moon: An Adoption Tale by Karen Katz
- Let's Talk About It: Adoption by Fred Rogers
These books all focus in on the family and help parents in answering the questions children have in the pre and early school years about adoption.
Great Resources For Adoptive Parents
Don't Keep Secrets
The worse thing that can happen is for families to keep secrets about adoption. This makes children think that it is wrong, bad or something that needs to be kept hidden away from the rest of the world. Our parents talked to us about how to talk about the relationship in our family. At school or at the doctor when questions about the family would come up both my sister and I were very comfortable in saying that we lived with our Mom and Dad and we were adopted. It wasn't nasty, horrible or some type of socially unacceptable condition. I have never had anyone react negatively to that comment, although some people have actually said "Oh, I'm sorry" to which I have replied, "Please don't be, I have a wonderful, loving family".
An Adoption Poem
One way that our parents celebrated our adoption was to always have this poem, which was done in beautiful calligraphy, framed and hung on the wall between our school pictures. This poem is something I grew up with, and I still remember how special it made me feel.
Not flesh of my flesh
Nor bone of my bone,
But still miraculously my own.
Never forget for a single minute,
You didn't grow under my heart,
But in it.
Both of my parents passed away well over 20 years ago now. I still think of them as my parents and have never made any effort to trace my biological family. Now, with open adoptions, this can be less of an issue but when I was adopted in the 60s information was very limited with regards to the birth parents. I do know that my mother was 16 when I was born and that her family was of Scottish and First Nations heritage, but other than that I have no interest in seeking her and no reason to do so. I trust that she had a good life, and through her choice to put me up for adoption I know that I have.