Talking to Kids About Adoption & Family

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The topic of adoption can be a difficult subject to bring up to your child, especially since adoption is a part of all your lives. And when to address adoption and what that means for your family will be different for every family. It’s important to base the timing off of your child’s curiosity and maturity. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help your child understand they are adopted. It simply means that you might want to consider waiting to tell your child all the details about how that placement came to be until they can start to grasp the concepts you’re providing them.

It’s important to be open with adoption in your home, but remember to keep it age-appropriate. Keep the adoption conversation open, so your child knows they can ask any questions that may come up without fear of embarrassment or guilt. Open dialogue is one crucial part of any healthy relationship.

Here are some fantastic resources to help you start and continue talking to your child or children about adoption.

Read Along with Your Child

Adoptive parent Mark Schneider wrote a tender story for his two children to help introduce to them the concept of adoption in the most loving way possible while avoiding the use of loaded terms. You are invited to read "You Came from My Heart" along with your child, and we thank Mark and his family for allowing us to reprint this story in its entirety.

More Resources

Adopt-A-Confusion
How Using Adoption to Catch Attention, Touch Heartstrings and Raise Big Bucks Exploits Children Who Were Adopted and Those Waiting for Permanency, by Patricia Irwin Johnston.

All About LifeBooks
Lifebooks not only give the gift of history to an adopted or foster child, but they can also serve as a great communications tool for parents.

Answering Those Awkward Questions
Suggestions on handling questions and comments from uninformed strangers, relatives and even close friends, who mean well, but...

Authentic Beginnings, Real Bonds
It's healthy to express a wide range of emotions, according to author Marcy Axness.

Being Adopted
For many adoptees, being adopted means intrusive or insensitive questions and comments. Therapist, author, and adoptee Marlou Russell, Ph.D., gives parents and adoptees tools they can use to respond.

Books for Talking to Kids About Adoption
Many of our children have difficult histories; some are full of questions; some want to ask but can't verbalize the questions; some are afraid to ask. These books can help.

Chat Transcript: Talking to Kids About Adoption
Adoption educator Ronny Diamond, MSW, answered questions from adoptive parents about how and when to talk to their children about adoption. From kids too young to understand to the "you're not my parent" comment, we covered it all!

Forever Families
Therapist, author, and adoptee Marlou Russell, Ph.D., explains why telling an adoptee that s/he is now in a "forever family" can sound more reassuring to the adoptive parent than to the adoptee, and offers alternatives.

Happy Adoption Books
Presenting only the happy side of adoption, even to preschool adoptees, may be denying the child's reality. Therapist Marlou Russell, Ph.D., explores one situation.

How to Talk to Kids About Adoption
Lots of adults talk to kids about adoption: parents, teachers, doctors, friends, and family members. Children take their cues from adults so it's important to be aware of how we respond to questions and start discussions.

Professionals Talk About Adoption
Straight talk from medical professionals about telling an adopted child about adoption and birth family, from the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Talking About Difficult History
Holly van Gulden believes children deserve their histories even when it includes difficult events and concepts like older siblings, rape, and prison. From Pact: An Adoption Allliance.

Talking About Infertility
Suggestions on how and when to talk to children about this sensitive topic, by adoption and infertility author Pat Johnston.

Talking About Sex and Adoption
Understanding our own attitudes is the key to good communication with our children, by Anne C. Bernstein.

Telling Your Child He/She Was Adopted
Suggestions on explaining adoption to your child, from the National Adoption Information Clearinghouse.

What Children Understand About Adoption At Different Ages
Author and parent Lois Melina offers insight into children's levels of understanding - an invaluable tool for parents to help keep answers and discussions at age-appropriate levels.

Why Children May Not Want To Talk About Adoption
Just because young adoptees don't talk about adoption doesn't mean they don't have questions that need answers, by Lois Melina.

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