Adoption is a very central part of many families lives, and children who have been adopted often have questions about themselves. Curiosity and wonder are common feelings, along with uncertainty and confusion. Adoption professionals have come to many conclusions about the "right time" to tell your child that he or she is adopted. While you can find many answers online from professionals or nameless sources, it can be nice to hear from a family who has experienced and embraced that very challenge.
Curt and Paula adopted their oldest daughter Addison in 2007 and then adopted their younger daughter Ashlyn in 2011 through Adoptions of Wisconsin. AOW reached out to the family to ask about their experiences with speaking to their girls about adoption and the challenges they have faced beyond finalization.
Q: At what age did you begin to tell your children about adoption?
A: Like birthday’s they have been celebrated since the very first adoption or “gotcha” day. It has been part of their lives’ since before they understood the concept. We’ve read books about it together and retold the stories about the day they each moved in or the day we met them.
Q: As your children have grown, what questions have they asked you about adoption?
A: It began with general questions pertaining to the concept of what adoption is:
- I was in someone else’s belly?
- How old was I when you adopted/met me?
Eventually moving to their respective birth mothers names and other, more detailed, information:
- What was my birth mom’s name?
- What was the adoption hearing about?
Q: What has been the biggest challenge in speaking with your children about adoption? Most satisfying aspect?
A: Challenge: One daughter, in the middle of a fit and looking to hurt feelings shot out the words: “I’m going to go live with (her birth mother’s name)”
The most satisfying thing has been the girls discussing adoption and birth mother’s names with each other and conversing about adoption not as “the exception” but as the matter-of-fact way we live. For a short time there was a doll named after a birth mom.
Additionally, we have found friends and neighbors that have had adoption touch their lives in some fashion. Our children having exposure to the adoption community and seeing well-adjusted families where both children and parents have been adopted.
Q: What advice would you give other adoptive parents regarding how to talk to their children about adoption?
A: Don’t hide adoption from your child or wait to discuss it, talk about it now. Make sure the discussion is always framed in love and understanding not in the heat of an argument or any kind of fear. Make adoption not a concept of you “saving them” from their birth parents, if you frame the birth parents as flawed that has the potential of planting seeds of self-worth issues in your child.
You are not required to tell the whole world your children are adopted, your close friends and family will know, others may know over time. Don’t shrink from it when asked but don’t advertise it if it makes you uncomfortable. You have bright energetic child, adoption does not define the child or your family, it is just one of the many life-circumstances that has brought that child into your world.
Thank you to Curt and Paula for being willing to share your stories and feelings with us. Thank you for keeping in contact with us as your lives have progressed beyond our agency!