I love keeping track of how everyone is doing and how big the kids have grown. I love hearing about accomplishments and being asked if I can help direct a family for assistance when they have challenges. I am asked frequently about the "talking to kids" piece of any adoption story. More often during the young years, when first telling a child about their early life, as well as years later when more details of histories are being revealed or when kids start talking about searching or contemplating reunion.
Each child is unique and will ask for and process information differently. Every family has its own way of sharing and dealing with tougher information (not just adoption related). Some families tell everything; others hold on to secrets. Most adoptive families I know fall somewhere in the middle.
Parents usually share information with their sons and daughters but wait until they feel their child is ready. Parents themselves may not be ready to reveal information, feeling it will cause their child to become upset or raise even more questions.
The reality is that as we figure this out for ourselves and our children, we must never forget that the information - your child's early history, heritage and culture - are things they should know. Because only then will they be able to integrate their identity while being raised by you.
If you as a parent are hesitant, there are several things to consider:
- · Are you frightened information will challenge your role as the parent?
- · Are you questioning how much information to reveal?
- · Are you unsure how to say "it"?
- · Are you worried your child may react badly to what they are told?
- · Are you concerned your child will "tell others"?
- · Are you worried your child may want additional information you are not ready to share or do not have?
I always recommend parents start talking to their child about adoption even before the child understands what they are saying. This gives parents a chance to rehearse what they will say. In addition, by doing so, they will become more comfortable with the words and their body language will be more relaxed. This, in turn, will avoid a child picking up that talking about adoption makes a parent nervous.
This doesn’t mean a parent still won’t have apprehensions and worry how a child will react to the information, but if they have started to talk about the adoption since the child was young, and added details as they grew and could comprehend that information, the result should be emotionally smoother conversations.
In addition to talking to your child about the details, a parent needs to help a child understand how others may interpret their being an adopted child. There are several ways to do this:
- · Model how to share information (Your child is always watching and listening).
- · Share generic details of adoption (not the specific details of your child birth family and reason for adoption) with others.
- · Provide information on how adoption works (the process) - again not your child's process.
- · Get comfortable in saying "I don't feel comfortable sharing that information." or "Those details remain private in our family." or try "I am surprised you would ask such personal questions."
- · There is always the fall back - "I have been advised by professionals not to share that information until (the child's name) is ready to do so."
Each child is different and will require unique interventions and conversations from you. My daughters, raised in the same home, had different questions and different needs for information. I took my lead from them - still do.
Looking at pictures of my daughters at various stages (which are in my office) and receiving those from families I helped over the years, makes me relive those conversations. I learned from my own experiences, as well as those of others, and still enjoy passing along what I have learned and what worked.