One of the many questions that adoptive parents have is when to tell their child that they are adopted. Many adoptive parents fear that sharing lots of information about the birth parents will cause their child to suddenly stop loving them and long for the biological family they may have never known. While it’s true that a child may want to know their biological family, this does not mean that they love their adoptive family any less. In fact, knowing the sacrifices that were made for them to ensure they had a loving and secure home can help them feel even more confident in who they are.
As you strive to share your child’s adoption story, here are some tips on knowing when and what to share:
1. Tell them now. There is no better time than the present to tell your child they are adopted. The best time to start sharing their story with them is from the time they are in the crib. Waiting until your child is “old enough” is waiting too long; your child will begin to sense that you are uncomfortable around them. The earlier you tell them, the more likely they will just accept it as part of who they are and trust that you love them and are proud of how they came into your family. The longer you wait, the more likely they will be to think you had something to hide and will doubt your true intentions. Obviously, an infant won’t understand what you are telling them, but sharing this part of your child’s life story with them from the beginning will help this conversation to become more natural and comfortable for you.
2. Keep it age-appropriate. While you need to tell your child right away about their adoption, you don’t have to give them all of the sordid details. There may be details about how they were placed for adoption that would be more appropriate for when they are older. Be transparent with them, and let them know that they will eventually know their whole story but that some things are best left for when they are older.
3. Be careful about how you portray their biological family. While you may be tempted to describe their biological family as less-than-desirable, you will make a much better impression on your child if they hear you speak respectfully of the people who share their DNA. You may not think highly of them or their choices, but your child may perceive that you feel the same way about them.
4. Share their story with them often. Every child loves to hear how they came into the world and what their parents thought when they first saw them. Adopted children are no different. They want to know their story, and they want to hear it from you. Tell them how you went through the adoption experience and what made you want to adopt. Let them know how excited you were to be matched with them. And show them any pictures that you may have.
You may be tempted to hold off on telling your child they’re adopted. But what do you hope to accomplish? The longer you wait, the more likely it is your child will feel ashamed and distrustful when you finally do choose to tell them. Most often, adoptive parents don’t want to tell their child because they are fearful of how their child will feel about them. But adoption is a story of love-a story that can build up a child to know that so many people love them.
According to one study, “90 percent of adopted children ages 5 and older have positive feelings about their adoption.” You can help them feel that way by being positive about it yourself, and that starts by sharing their story with them from the very first moment you hold them in your arms.