So…I May Have Goofed…

I messed up. Can I have a do-over?

Okay, did I mention that I’m exhausted? In a recent entry, I attempted to discuss living the “adopted lifestyle.” By this, I meant that I did not want our family to live in a cloud of fear or guilt regarding our choice to adopt. I expressed that it is my belief that some families avoid vacations, certain movies, television shows, books, etc. because their child is adopted. While some of this avoidance may be necessary for older adopted children who have scars related to their adoption or time in foster care, I don’t think it’s necessary for every adopted child.

I then went on to tackle the subject of talking to your kid about their adoption. {Insert foot in mouth here} I received some understandably concerned comments from readers who interpreted my stance on the issue to mean that I plan on avoiding the topic of adoption with our children.

At first, I didn’t understand how this could have been conveyed, and then I re-read my late-night entry.

Doh.

The phrasing I chose was not the best. I see that now. I did not communicate my stance on this very effectively, and I am bothered so much by this that I decided to dedicate another entry to this subject by itself.

Please Talk

My biggest plea to adoptive parents would be that they discuss the topic of adoption openly and honestly with their children from the very earliest age of comprehension. I have heard from so many adult adoptees who feel betrayed by their families because they did not allow for adoption talk to run freely throughout their homes.

Avoiding the topic of adoption is so damaging, I cannot even accurately describe it. It can create feelings of betrayal, anger, hurt, confusion, confused sense of self, resentment, etc. In other words, nothing good.

Keeping your child’s adoption secret is selfish and misleading. It conveys that you are ashamed of the fact that you adopted them, and it will only distance them from you.

Why Avoid the Truth?

It is my understanding that many families who fail to mention their child’s adoption from an early age do so out of fear. They fear that telling them the truth will push them away somehow. They fear their child wanting to search for a birth parent, or fear that revealing that they are not blood related will sever whatever ties exist within the family.

However, honesty breeds trust and trust breeds love. Out of fear of losing that love, some parents avoid telling their adopted children the truth of their origins, and in doing so, they create the scenario they fear most. If they were honest from the beginning, their family would be grounded in trust, and trust provides very solid roots for a family.

The best way to help your adopted child feel confident in who they are and how they came into their family is to support them in their questions and their searches. They may have a thousand questions one day, and then not even mention their adoption again for several weeks. Just as trends come and go with kids, so does their focus and curiosity. Their curiosity about their adoption may be replaced with a curiosity in horses. It waxes and wanes, and it’s our job as adoptive parents to keep up with this dance, never pushing them in their pursuits but instead following their lead to be right there as a constant source of comfort and information.

How to Treat the Adopted Child

You treat your adopted child like a child that you love with all of your heart. You treat them like a special individual, but you don’t treat them as “different.” Kids are so receptive and observant. They pick up on partial or impartial treatment faster than most adults would. Just love them. Love them for who they are, who they hope to become, for what they enjoy, what they’re good at, for their sense of humor, for their laugh, for their sweetness, their excitement, their compassion, and for their very special place in your family.

Kids just want to be loved and accepted. They don’t want you bending over backwards to tip-toe around the adoption issue. It isn’t an ugly stigma that should be handled with kid gloves. It’s a beautiful journey that brought your family together. Consider it a blessing, and discuss it in your family with joy. Encourage them in finding their niche in the family and in society as you would with any other child. I love hearing mothers with several children say, “Joey is our clown, Sarah is our studious one, Alex is great at basketball, Mary loves music…” That’s a mother who knows her children and finds delight in what they find delightful. She also views them as individuals and encourages them to express themselves in the areas they favor or excel at.

The most important approach to adoption with kids is to treat it like a normal way of building a family. It’s just as “normal” as any other way of building a family. It isn’t weird or abnormal or strange. It’s different from a pregnancy, but no less special or important. If adoption talk is common in your household, your kids will feel confident bringing their adoption-related questions to you. You become a trusted source of information and support as they grow up knowing they are adopted.

Ways to Address Adoption with Children

Parents tend to address the topic of adoption with their children in whatever way feels natural and right to them. There are adoption-themed books for children that make the subject easier to explain. Reading these books to children from a very young age can open the door for more fluid discussions as the children get older. It also puts the word “adoption” in the common vernacular of your home, so it’s never something that you have to break down and officially introduce.

I can’t imagine how hard it would be to finally “tell” a child who had been kept in the dark for any period of time. Instead, we plan on reading adoption-themed books, watching positive adoption-related movies, and just openly discussing the subject together in play until the child is old enough to wrap their mind around the topic in a more concrete way.

In fact, already with LB, we discuss adoption when he watches movies that involve the subject. I’m certain at his young age, he doesn’t really “get it,” but it opens the word up as a common and accepted phrase in our home.

I hope I’ve done the topic better justice this time than in my previous entry. I would never want to give the impression that adoptive parents should not tell their children about their adoption, and I hope that I provided some encouragement to any adoptive parents out there who are avoiding the topic because of fear or insecurity. You would be amazed at what a child can handle. Hearing early on that they are adopted is so much easier for a young child to process than hearing it later in life. I promise.

Thanks for letting me take another shot at the subject. How’d I do this time?

Kat

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3 Comments

Filed under Adoption Questions, Parenting

3 responses to “So…I May Have Goofed…

  1. I think this is a good approach. Just weave it into the fabric of their story and your family’s story. It is what I have done with my daughter. And even though she didn’t understand, she does now, and it is just accepted and part of her make-up. Although the circumstances are a bit different, as she isn’t legally adopted. But she has a daddy who is not biologically related to her, but has raised her from the womb, and she has a biologically related father who does visit her now and then. She just understands or at least can recite “mommy and X made me, but mommy and daddy are raising me.” And she has some concept that people choose not to or to parent for various reasons, she knows age appropriately why her biological father choose not to parent because I think thats important to, its not a rejection by the biological side of the family and it was also an affirmative acceptance by the non-biological side and I think that does or will help her adjust and bring comfort.

    • I really like what you said about “its not a rejection by the biological side of the family it was an affirmative acceptance by the non-biological side.” That would bring me a lot of comfort were I in her position. I think its important to reassure a child with a step parent or adoptive parent that they were never unwanted by their biological parent, they were just given the opportunity to experience daily love and care from a non-blood relative. One parent chose to give them a more stable life, and the other parent chose to love a child that wasn’t born to them biologically. Both choices came from love.

      Thanks for that perspective and angle. I really like that.

  2. I love these thoughts you share as you go through the motions of your reality.
    I’ll have to get my hands on a beautiful photo that was taken on Mother’s Day this year. My ex-husband, his biological father (I found him in 1988 before the days of internet), my 2 adult sons, my grandson, and my amazing husband. I know the adoptive mother smiled down from Heaven while we all enjoyed a beaufiful day.
    You are opening your heart to a life that will be so interesting. So different and, perhaps, unconventional—but so blessed beyond measure.

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