Discussing Adoption With Children
A family that has been formed through a Christian open adoption should be open with this fact. Children who are raised familiar with the term will not subscribe any negative connotation to it. Likewise, children who grow up knowing their birth parents will not think of the presence of a birth mother as unusual or odd. It will simply be part of their life.
Talking About Adoption from an Early Age
Toddlers and even pre-school aged children are not yet able to understand abstract concepts. They know mom, dad, self, and God. They may also know the birth mother, but probably only knows her as a friend of the family. They might hear about adoption, they may even understand it means that their mother did not give birth to them, but this is likely the most a pre-school age child will understand.
Just because a young child doesn’t quite understand adoption doesn’t mean the family shouldn’t talk about it. Contrarily, parents should read books to their children about adoption. They should watch cartoons and movies made for children that include central characters who have been adopted. Parents should not feel forced to discuss the adoption at every turn, but should never feel like they should avoid the topic.
As children grow, so do their questions. They may become very curious about the Christian adoption process. Parents should encourage this with open and honest answers. When parents allow children to ask questions, they build trust.
In the course of the adoption discussion, parents should be mindful to explain permanence. Children, especially at a young age, may be made to feel that they are in a state of flux. Parents must always reassure children that they are loved, needed and wanted. They should never feel that their parents will abandon them in any way.
Parents should also discuss all of the different ways families are formed. Find examples of friends, classmates, and the church family. Explain how some of these children have parents who have divorced and remarried. Some may have single parents. Others may be raised by foster parents, grandparents or other family members. The children might even have other friends who have been adopted. Using these examples helps children to see that there is not just one type of family but many kinds.
Children who feel comfortable with their parents may repeatedly ask questions. Sometimes these are the same questions asked time and again. Parents might eventually find this tiresome, but they should strive to be as patient as possible. The child wants to know everything about his or her life. Often, especially when young, that includes the very beginning. A wise choice may be to keep photographs on hand to share with the child. Provide notes that were written during the adoption process and in the early days. The more the child sees, the more he will feel secure with his place in the world.
Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P.
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