Finding the Words: How to Talk to Your Child about Adoption
Adoption can be a difficult topic for parents to discuss with their children for a variety of reasons. Parents may feel unsure of how to broach the subject, or they may worry that their child will not be able to handle the news. However, it is important for parents to talk to their children about adoption, as it can help to foster a better understanding of their own self identity and of the adoption process.
Adoption as a Lifelong Journey
Adoption is thought to be a lifelong journey that begins when you first introduce your child into your home. It may be important for you to reflect on your own thoughts about adoption and what information you think would be important to convey to your child. One of the most important things you can do as a parent is to talk to your child about adoption in a way that reassures them that they are loved, secure and worthy of knowing all they need to know about themselves and their origin story.
Consider how you might be able to reassure your child that they were not ‘given up’, ‘thrown away’ or abandoned, but chosen and planned for. This can be a difficult task, but it is essential for your child’s understanding and development. If you’re considering adoption, or if your child has already been adopted, it’s important to know how to talk to them about it in a way that is both honest and reassuring.
It is important for parents to remember that every child will react differently when learning about adoption. Some children may be curious and eager to learn more, while others may be hesitant or reluctant to talk about it. Each individual is different and how an individual responds to new information about their identity can depend on a variety of factors, such as development level, attachment style, level of trust, vulnerability factors , and protective factors.
When a child is provided with the new information about their adoption, they may be scared, curious, uncertain, confused, conflicted, or any variety of emotions that may surface. But with the right approach, you can help them through this process and ensure that they come out the other side with a strong sense of identity and a feeling of being loved and supported by their parents
No Right Way for Everyone
There is no “right” way to talk to your child about adoption – every family will have their own unique approach. In considering how you would like to talk with your child about adoption, it may be important to convey the information in a way that is age-appropriate and sensitive to their stage of development.
You want to make sure that you are open and honest with them, while also respecting their feelings and answering any questions they may have. Your honesty will enhance trust in your relationship over time and while it may be difficult at first to experience and respond to your child’s reaction to the information, it will serve as the foundation of trust over time. Your openness will also foster a healthy connection with your child and communicate to them that it is safe to open up and ask questions when they are ready.
Talk About What Family Means
You might also find it helpful to discuss how families are created and what the components of a family might be- what the components of your family are. It is important for your child to have a clear understanding that they were brought into this world just as all humans are and that they have their own family that loves them and cares for them. When posed with the question “Why didn’t they keep me?”, know that it is okay to pause the conversation and validate the importance and validity of that question while also letting your child know that you want some time to really think about how to answer that question.
If you are aware of the circumstances for the adoption, consider what details would be age appropriate to disclose. If you are unsure of how to word your statements or believe that professional help may be needed, consider outreaching our family therapy services at Holistic Health Counseling Center. We can work together as you and your family navigate these next steps.
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