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How should I tell my child that he is adopted?

Michele Borba
Psychology
Here are some tips on how to tell you child he is adopted:
  • Begin those adoption talks early
Begin using the term "adoption" during your child's early toddler and preschool years to help you feel at ease. Just look for natural ways to bring up the topic such as a friend who is pregnant, a book, or a program on television or movie about adoption.
  • Create an open-door policy
Peter L. Benson, lead researcher of one of the largest studies on adoptees says that, "Quiet, open communication about adoption seems to be the key" to helping kids thrive and take their adoption in stride.

Your child needs to know he can come to you in ease and comfort with any question and at any time.

And your child always needs to hear this information from you in a context of love and commitment.
  • Stick to what was asked
While you should be honest, only give your child the information he needs to know at the time. Too much information is overwhelming. Remember, this is an ongoing conversation instead of a one-time marathon. Keep in mind that your answers will often be the same ones your child will use to respond to peer queries.
  • Be age appropriate
Use words and language that your child suitable to your child's age and ability to understand.

Research at Rutgers University found that all kids develop a gradual meaning of adoption in these predictable stages and regardless of whether they are adopted or not.
  • Keep painful stuff in the closet
Painful details about your child's past (such as sexual and physical abuse, a parent's criminal background, the birth mother's alcoholism or drug-addiction or that the pregnancy was caused by rape) should be kept confidential. Besides you and your parenting partner, only the child's doctor or mental health professional need to know those details for now.
  • Don't hide it from your child
Keeping the adoption "secret" -- or trying to "hide it" from a child -- only connotes to a child that there was something to be ashamed of when he does find out.

The central fear of adopted children is that they will be "given up" again.

Your child needs assurance -- both now and forever -- that your relationship is permanent.
  • Develop comebacks for insensitive questions
Let's face it, kids (and adults!) can be cruel and seem to be getting crueler these days. So one of the best things parents can do is arm adopted kids with the right vocabulary or a couple great comeback lines so they're ready for those guaranteed insensitive peer queries.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.