Under the Umbrella: Talking to Children about Adoption

When it comes to talking to your child about his or her adoption, have you ever found yourself asking one or more of these questions: What do I say? Where do I begin? What if I say the wrong thing? What if I hurt my child? Will my child understand? Will he/she resent me or stop loving me? Might it be best to keep my child’s adoption a secret or wait until the right time to share?
Talking to children about adoption is far from easy for almost everyone. It is not a one time discussion, but rather a series of open, honest, and age-appropriate conversations that happen over time. And while it might seem easier to wait for a better time or to avoid discussion altogether, the reality is, talking to your child about adoption is, without question, essential.
Why?

A few weeks ago, one of our Resource Specialists happened upon a very passionate response to a post on an online forum that had to do with this same topic. The response was written by Paulette Drankiewicz, a foster and adoptive parent. Her response is moving and her words were so full of raw emotions and so perfectly composed that we were compelled to reach out to her privately and ask her permission to share with all of our readers.


“This is my thought: just say, for whatever reason, you choose not to tell her. As her mom, that is your right. Eventually, she will find out.
An overheard conversation.
A birth certificate that doesn’t look just like her spouse’s.
Another family member telling her.
Somehow, at some point, she will know. She will then think back to conversations she has had with you about . . . growing in your tummy (trust me, she will ask eventually), the family tree she filled out in fifth grade, her birth story, her father.
None of which you will be able to answer truthfully if you keep her adoption secret.
When she is pregnant herself (I know she is only two, Mama, but, in 25 years . . .) she will ask questions about your pregnancy, labor, and delivery. With her.
If she ever has any type of health issues that you need detailed information or bone marrow etc from the other side of the family, how would that look?
The list is endless.
If she cannot trust her mama with the truthfulness of the most intimate details of her life, she may question everything.
I often ask adoptive parents who choose not to disclose the truth why, and the OVERWHELMING reason has something to do with them. THEY don’t want the child to love them less/think of them not as their real parent/want to live with bio parents etc.
As parents, we should ALWAYS be the ones to take the potential emotional hit. To spare your feelings (which are unfounded; your baby loves you as Mama and always will) at the risk of your child’s feelings is never a great parenting option, in my opinion.
Secrets equate to shame and that beauty is NOTHING to be ashamed about!
Now think of it the other way. Her adoption is not a secret. It’s not anything hidden. It’s not anything you discuss daily at the dinner table (although, for a season, it will be, as she is processing it – and that’s OK) because it is just a matter of fact, like you being a single mom. You are a social worker. The Earth is round. Grass is green.
Adoptive families are just like all other families (personally, I think we are all a little cooler!) but if we cloud that in secrecy the future ramifications can be devastating.
When is the best time to tell her? NOW! If you wait for the right time, it will never be “the right time.” Then, it will get to the point where it flips from, “I will tell her when she starts school or asks questions etc.” to, “Now she is an adolescent going through her hormonal stuff; I can’t tell her now” or, “She doesn’t like me (entire teen years), so if I tell her now, she will want to live with her bio parents” etc.
It’s easy now. Super easy now.
As a side note: we don’t say our children “are adopted,” we say they “were adopted.” Being adopted is a one time event, not an ongoing status in life. It is how they entered our family, it’s how they got this dreaded long last name, it’s how the got stuck as a “forever”  . . . just as my birth children became a Drankiewicz by birth, we wouldn’t say to anyone, “They are birthed/borned” – their birth was a one time event. Just as all eight of my littles had a one time event. Past tense, not a status.

You got this mama. We are all here to support you!”


As always, we welcome you to visit our website and contact us (info@coalitionforcyf.org, 414-475-1246, or 800-762-8063) at the Coalition if you have any questions, concerns, or comments you would like to share. Like Paulette wrote above: we are here to help you.
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