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Adoption: The Best Time To Tell Your Child That He or She is Adopted
Let me eliminate any doubt regarding where I stand on the issue of whether or not you should tell your child that they are adopted. First, let me say that if you have never been adopted or never adopted a child yourself then your opinion on this matter is basically worthless. How can you possibly know the ramifications of such a decision if you have never been a part of the process? It would be the same if I were to give advice to a pregnant woman about pregnancy. One can only imagine how much weight my opinion would be given.
Having said that, if you have read the title of this article you should know that I emphatically believe an adopted child should be told that they are adopted.
As I have said before, regarding this topic “I have game.” I was adopted at the age of nine months after spending those first nine months in several foster homes. I was adopted by a very loving couple, Dale and Evelyn Holland, and never looked back. I have never known my biological parents and never made any attempt to find them, but we will discuss that particular point in a little while.
I am also the parent of an adopted child. My then wife and I adopted our son Tyler when he was three days old; he is now twenty-seven and the joy of my life. He has never met his biological parents but has shown interest of late in doing so. Again, we will discuss this point in a bit.
Suffice it to say that I bring a wee bit of experience to this discussion. Let us now discuss the reasons as I see them for telling your child that they are adopted and when to do so.
Why Tell Them?
Oh my goodness, where do I start? How about this point to start off the proceedings: they have a right to know! We are talking about their identity as a person and nobody has the right to keep that information from another human being. Do you think they are not going to figure it out? If I hadn’t been told I still would have known simply because I resembled none of my adopted family in appearance or behavior. It was quite obvious that I was the apple in the orange crate and not knowing would have led to doubt, suspicion and apprehension. I am so grateful that my parents told me and that I told my son.
Imagine, if you will, an adopted child who is not told about his/her adoption. Later in life, whether that be the teen years or as an adult, somehow this adoptee discovers that they were, in fact, adopted. The knowledge that they had been lied to for all of those years would have been devastating AND the knowledge that they had biological parents but were never given the option of finding them would be the worst kind of betrayal.
A child deserves to know!
If you have adopted, when did you tell your child about it?
So When Do You Tell Them?
I can only speak from my experience; others may have chosen a different time to tell their children and the results may have been excellent. I can only tell my story.
My parents handled this so effortlessly that I do not have a recollection of our talk. It seems to me that I have always known that I was adopted, so my parents must have told me at an early age, probably at the time when I was able to grasp the importance of the talk. It is to my parents’ credit that the way in which they handled this most important talk caused me no psychological scars at all. I grew up knowing that I was adopted; end of story. There was no shame in that fact; I clearly remember telling my friends early on about my adoption. In fact I marveled at the fact that I was blind at nine months of age and after my parents adopted me I gained my sight within three days. I thought that was a remarkable tale of love and still today I believe it to be so.
I did have a discussion with my adopted parents about finding my biological parents. Although my mother was bothered by the possibility both she and my father said that if that was what I chose to do they would support me. I always respected them for that and consequently I never had much interest in finding my biological parents.
My wife and I (we have since divorced) told our son at the earliest age possible; recollection is shaky but he must have been five or six at the time. We told him that we loved him as though he came from us but that he had other parents, those who created him and that they were unable to take care of him after he was born and so we adopted him. He handled the news beautifully and still to this day considers us his real parents. He has never lacked for love and never felt cheated by not knowing his birth parents.
He has, however, just lately shown an interest in finding them and he has my blessing if he should choose to do so. I do not feel threatened by that possibility and in fact think it would be good for him in certain ways.
Many Paths to Follow…except One!
It is my belief, supported by my experiences, that the proper time to tell a child that they are adopted is the earliest possible age at which they can understand. Whether that be five, six, seven or whenever, as soon as the child has the capability to process the information they should be told in the most loving way possible. I know for those of you who are now facing this situation that it is scary and you have doubts about when to tell your child or even if you should, but trust me when I tell you that if the information is presented in a loving manner it will turn out okay.
The only possible way that this situation could turn out badly is if you choose not to tell your child in which case be prepared for the ramifications of your decision later on in life and they could be very serious ramifications.
Are you willing to risk it and take that chance? I would hope the answer is no!
2012 William D. Holland (aka billybuc)
"Helping writers to spread their wings and fly."
One year later
It has been a year since this article was originally written, and in that time my adopted son found his birth mother....an amazing event in itself, but the event happened because of an article I wrote about adoption. Who says the power of the written word is not important?
In the past year my son has met his birth mother and they have begun to establish a relationship, and I can honestly say I am elated for him. This is a piece of his life that was missing and now a rather large hole has been filled.
There are, indeed, happy endings in life. I wish, for all of you reading this, a similar happy ending on your journey.