Talking to Your Child About Their Adoption
In the United States, 2.5% of all children are adopted. If you’ve welcomed an adopted child into your home, you probably spend time thinking about how to break the news. This conversation is not difficult, but it does need to be handled with compassion and respect.
Understand the Adoption Arrangement
When you tell your child that they were adopted, it will have a large impact on the way that they view your relationship. Because of this, you should have a clear understanding of your child’s adoption arrangement, so you can give them an accurate picture of what’s going on.
Some children are adopted by immediate relatives. In these situations, a child will probably want to know what their actual relationship is to their new caretakers. Some guardians take up the mantle of parents while others prefer to continue thinking of themselves as grandparents, aunts and uncles.
If the biological family is not related to the adopting family, make sure to double-check any privacy clauses on the adoption paperwork before starting this conversation. It’s not good for a child’s psyche to let them think that they can contact their birth parents if this is simply not the case. You can always ask your local New Jersey adoption attorney to review your paperwork before you take any further steps.
Choose the Right Moment for Your Child
The adoption conversation is too important and identity-forming to simply drop on a child during a casual moment. Instead, you should choose when to have this conversation based on the circumstances of the adoption and the child’s emotional and developmental needs.
In general, children should be told that they are adopted before they reach adolescence. Waiting to have this conversation with a teenager can greatly damage their self-identity. Waiting also runs the risk of your child finding out before you’re ready to tell them, which may damage their trust in you as a parent.
Children who are adopted at a younger age can usually wait to hear that they are adopted until they are around six to eight years old. Children who were adopted at the age of two or older will need to be told about the adoption at a much earlier age as this will prevent them from becoming confused about their conflicting sets of memories.
One of the best ways to prevent this conversation from becoming a point of tension is to tell your child early and make the adoption a normal part of your family narrative. Instead of treating adoption like a secret, help your child understand that this is a normal and healthy way to start a family.
Stick to the Important Points
When first talking to your child about their adoption, you may be tempted to tell them the entire story from your perspective. After all, the day your child entered your life was a big deal, and you probably want them to share in your joy and excitement. However, you need to remember that children aren’t able to properly process adult information. The more that you tell them, the more confused they will be.
The contents of this conversation should probably include the basic details of the arrangement, the date of their adoption day and any pertinent details that will add clarity without overcomplicating your explanation. As your child gets older, they will become more interested in getting the full details at a pace with which they are comfortable.
As you approach the situation, remember that your child may have traumatic memories centered around their adoption. You don’t need to pry about this kind of experience, but you should definitely be on the lookout for signs of shock or depression. Most children will be able to process the news easily if they have a supportive parental figure present to offer them emotional guidance.
Be Prepared to Answer Questions
Even if they are still young, you should be ready to let your child take control of this important conversation. They will ask you questions and tell you how they feel about the news. If you pay attention, you should have no problem providing your child with the emotional support they need.
An adopted child is a beloved member of your family who should feel like they can be proud of their past. After you’ve laid down the facts, be prepared to comfort your child, and reassure them that they belong with you.
If you have any questions about your adoption arrangement or need help starting this conversation, don’t hesitate to contact a New Jersey adoption attorney at (856) 429-5005. At Cofsky & Zeidman, we are happy to answer your questions and get you started on the next step of building your family.