"For most adoptive parents, the process of adoption involves working on the resolution of their own feelings -- feelings of "failure" at not having borne a child, or recognizing that their child has a history that they may not know outside of the adopted family."


Being adopted into a caring family can be a very special "love story." But adoption can be difficult to talk about, since it involves one of child's deepest needs: the sense of security in belonging to a family that will always take care of him or her.

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Talking about Adoption

Each child has unique ways of dealing with being adopted, and those ways can change as children grow. Some children talk a lot about being adopted and they ask a lot of questions. Other children are quite quiet about it.

Some people tell "the story of when you were adopted" as they're rocking their infants or when they're snuggling with their toddler. Of course, infants and toddlers don't understand a lot of what's being said, nevertheless they're hearing about their history in a natural way.

Some parents worry that if they don't talk about adoption with their adopted child early on, someone else may reveal it to their child and that could raise even more concerns for him or her. In fact, a child could feel betrayed and wonder if adoption might be something shameful or something to hide if he or she hears such an important thing from someone other than family.

“It’s not your fault…”

As children grow, they try to make their own sense of why they were adopted. During the preschool years, as they work on controlling their own "bad" behavior, adopted children sometimes wonder if their birthparents didn't keep them because they were "bad" or because they cried a lot. Those children need a lot of assurance from adults that what they’re thinking just isn't true. It's better to say, "Your birthmother and birthfather just weren't able to take care of any baby at all," rather than saying, "Your birthmother and birthfather couldn't take care of you." In other words, there was nothing wrong with your child in particular; it was the birthparents' inability to provide care that prompted the adoption. If children are left to their own fantasies and think they were abandoned because they were bad, their next unspoken question to their adoptive parents might be, "How bad do I have to be before you give me away, too?"

Children need to hear there were probably many reasons why their birthparents couldn't take care of a child, but that those reasons all have to do with the grownups. You may want to ask your child why he or she thinks some birthparents can't care for a baby, so you can correct any misconceptions and maybe find out more about what your child really wants to know.

Adoption Is for Always

There are wonderful things about being adopted into a loving family; nevertheless, children feel that adoption also means loss -- loss of relationships with people they didn't even know, people who were a significant part of their history. Some children have said to their adoptive mother, "I'm sad that I didn't grow in your tummy." Adoptive mothers can let them know that they're sad about that, too, (if in fact, they are) but that they're also very glad that “you’re growing in our family!"

Many families nowadays avoid saying "You were chosen" because that could imply that those adopted children to live up to certain expectations if they are to remainchosen. Parents may think they're helping their child feel secure by believing they are "chosen" but oddly enough, that can have just the opposite effect. They need to hear, "You are special, not because you're adopted, but just because you're you. No matter what, you will always be part of our family. Adoption is for keeps."

Parents’ Feelings about Adoption

For most adoptive parents, the process of adoption involves working on the resolution of their own feelings -- feelings of "failure" at not having borne a child, or recognizing that their child has a history that they may not know outside of the adopted family. While some people deal with many of those feelings as they went through the adoption process, it might surprise them to find some of those same feelings surfacing again and again.

One of the most difficult things for adoptive parents to hear from their adopted child is, "You're not my real mother. I don't have to listen to you!" When children say such things, they may be reacting out of their hurt, their longing, or their fear of their unknown past. The interesting thing is that that's a natural reaction for any child when a parent says "no" to something he or she wants!

Almost all children, whether they were adopted or not, fantasize that their "real" parents were kind and loving perfect people who surely would have let them do anything they want. Children need to hear, "I am not your birthparent, but I’m your real parent who loves you and takes care of you!" Though our children may protest our limits and rules, they will feel much more secure when they know their parents are standing firm.

As the years go on and their children develop in many ways, parents often find that it helps to know some general things about child development so they don't have to attribute every "challenge" in the family to the adoption.

  • Find natural opportunities to talk about adoption, like when you're rocking the baby. looking at photos, or going through momentos. Let your child know that you wanted a child very much and that you did a lot of preparation to get ready for a child to come into your family.
  • Adopted children need to know that they were born, just like every other baby in the world. It's reassuring for them to know they had the same beginnings as everyone else.
  • When you're talking about your child's beginnings, it's helpful for children to understand that it takes a man and a woman to make a baby.
  • It's all right to say, "I don't know," if your child asks, "What were my birthparents like?" or "When I grow up, will I have babies grow inside of me or adopt?" or "Did my birthparents have other babies?" There's a lot we don't know, a lot we may never know, and while that may be frustrating for children, they learn that it's possible to live with unanswered questions. The important thing is that they they know we care about them, their questions and their feelings.
  • If your child is from another culture, another country, or another race, it can help to find out about that culture's food, songs, holidays and rituals so you can help your child feel connected to and proud of his or her original heritage. Many parents who have adopted internationally enjoy sharing experiences with other similar families through support groups or friendships.
  • Some adopted children think that everyone else in the world is adopted, too. Most young children assume that the rest of the world is just like them and their family.

Celebrate your Child's Adoption.

  • Make a photo album for your child. Most children love to look at pictures of themselves as a baby and as they were growing, and they often delight in hearing the story of "the day we adopted you."
  • Many families commemorate the anniversary date of the adoption in addition to the child's birthday. They sometimes have a special meal. Afterwards they tell the story of how their child came into the family. That is a day to celebrate!

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