Children who are exposed to the term adoption and their adoption story at an early age are more comfortable asking questions and talking openly about the subject. For children whose adoption story may involve some difficult details, it’s okay to share simple, age appropriate parts of the story through the early years. With the door open to the discussion, you can share the more difficult parts of the story as your child reaches his/her teen years as they mature enough to understand.
Studies show that 97 percent of adopted children aged 5 years and older know they are adopted- this statistic comes from another study where 67 percent of respondents said they had agreed to openness with the birthmother before they even knew they would be referred to a child.
So how do you keep an open atmosphere?
Have story time. Read stories on adoptions or like when we were kids, make up your own story- one of which you can tell over and over and for your child to be able to relate to it later in life. You can even make their adoption story into a story you tell over and over. Just make sure to resist the urge to embellish the story. Your child will likely repeat this story to his children and grandchildren.
Incorporate the discussion of adoption and story books from the very beginning. If the child was adopted as an infant, share story books ever so often-just naturally like you would any other discussion. Make it normal. When they are still toddlers and preschoolers, make it a point of approaching the subject occasionally. Then as they get older around 5 or 6, let them approach the subject with you. They will have questions-when they do ask them, stop and answer it to the best of your ability. Always be truthful (don’t have to reveal everything if not yet mature enough to process).
Keep a photo album or scrapbook. If you adopted internationally, it is a good idea to start a scrapbook or photo album almost immediately after you have been referred. Keep track of the day you found out when you were going to bring your child home. When you traveled to their homeland, take plenty of pictures of their culture and heritage. Most importantly, take pictures of the memories you created early on once the child arrived. If you adopted domestically, take pictures of you leaving to meet your child, holding your child for the first time and your trip home.
Be patient. Many children may not show any interest at first, because it’s just a part of who they are like having blue eyes or brown hair. He or she may ask questions, and the same ones over and over again, but staying patient with your child will work out for the best.
Make sure you stress that adoption is permanent. Some children will wonder that if she or he was given up ‘out of love’ from their birthmother that you may do that as well. Reassure them that you chose to be their forever family, and by forever, you literally mean until then.