We gotta talk about this.
A lot of my readers are contemplating adoption or are new to parenting adoptees. Some have been on this parenting path for awhile, but they didn't get an adequate adoption education. Thus, this topic comes up: how/what/when/where/who/why do I tell my child he/she was adopted?
I'm active on social media and in adoption groups, and the subject of telling kids they were adopted has come up frequently over the past month. Frankly, I was a bit shocked, but then I realized, there is obviously a gap somewhere in communication and education with parents-by-adoption. And because of this gap--they/we are crying out for help. Even asking "when" questions says that parents have an inclination that NOT telling isn't ok.
So here we go. The keep is simple guide:
When: Now. If you haven't already.
Where: The place you and your child are most comfortable.
What: Age-appropriate information in chronological order. If you need help with details and what's age appropriate, I suggest this book. You can also create a lifebook for your child and read it to him/her.
Who: You and your partner if you adopted with your partner, and your child.
How: With empathy (for your child's feelings) and honesty. Always honesty.
Why: Because the story belongs to your child and is about your child, so he/she has the right to know the story.
My child's adoption story contains some not-so-pretty details (drugs/rape/infidelity/etc.), so I should omit those, right?
-You should tell your child their full story---step-by-step, detail-by-detail. That's why this book is so helpful. Remember, it's THE CHILD'S story, and he/she has every right to know every part of it.
I'm feeling so nervous and uncertain about talking to my child. I don't want to screw it up, so staying silent is just better, right? I'll eventually muster the courage and have the BIG talk!
-There doesn't need to be a BIG and REVEALING talk. Step by step, naturally integrating your child's story into conversations, is the way to go. Don't think of it like THE sex talk (which I don't think a single sex talk is a good idea, either). This is an ongoing conversation!
What tools can I use to talk to my child about adoption? I want to use the RIGHT words!
-First, you don't need "right" words, but you do need empathy and honesty. There is something to be said for Positive Adoption Language; however, your child has every right to develop his/her own "language" (how he/she talks about adoption---and it's not up to us to correct their feeling-words, though we should correct any inaccuracies).
As far as tools, previewed and purchased children's books can be a great way to talk about adoption. Also the lifebook you've created for your child, as children love to be the center of the story! I also suggest having conversations with adoptees and ask what their parents did or didn't do that was helpful to them as they grew to understand adoption and their own story. I highly recommend Madeleine Melcher's book Dear
I'm stuck. What can I do to prepare myself to talk to my child?
-Reach out to an experienced counselor, your adoption social worker, and/or an adoption support group. Find out WHY you are struggling to talk to your child. Work out your own issues so you can be healthy and whole and confident when you talk to your child. It's ok to be nervous and to struggle, but it's not ok to be silent, to not tell your child the truth.
I want you to know that YOU are the parent. Your child needs you to be brave, strong, truthful, empathetic, honest, supportive, and encouraging. Remember John 8:32: the truth is the gateway to freedom.
Go forth, Sugar. You've got this!