We’ve discussed several aspects of adoption in the past, including talking to your older child about adoption. Today, we are going to discuss another important aspect of adoption – how to talk to your child about adoption.
When you live in India, you’re bound to get lots of unsolicited advice from all around. There may be people who say “You have adopted the child. He/ she is yours now. Is there a need to tell the child about his/ her own adoption?” “Why do you want to give rise to unnecessary questions in the child’s mind?” “The child doesn’t need to know this” “Do you really wish to tell your child?” and so on and so forth.
Why should you talk to your child about adoption?
Sharing the fact of adoption with your child is a very important aspect of parenting in adoption, for a number of reasons:
- It is the child’s right to know about his/ her own adoption.
- It is a matter of pride and happiness that you adopted him/her to complete your family so this fact should be communicated with the child.
- This is not something to feel ashamed about or to be hidden from the child.
- Everyone other than the child knows about his/ her adoption and so the child needs to get this information from the parents rather than anyone else
- Getting to know from someone else gives opportunity for the child to distrust the parent and to think about what other aspects the parents may have hidden/ kept confidential from his/ her.
- The parents need to be honest in the process of parenting their child. Trust is the foundation of the adoption and if that is not nurtured then the relationship will not stay strong.
How to Talk to your Child about Adoption
1. Start with the adoption story. Talk about how you wanted a child and so you approached the child’s “first home” (the adoption agency) for help. Calling the adoption agency the child’s first home helps to associate the adoption and adoptive home with postivity. Using terms like adoption agency or orphanage fails to do that.
2. Show the child photos or videos of her arrival at your home. This helps narrate the happy occasion of the child’s home coming in a better way.
3. You can give the child information that is right for his age. Let the adoption story grow with time depending on the child’s developmental phases. Make use of appropriate situations to talk about it.
4· Check out other resources on adoption for new ideas on communicating with your adopted child. Use media like stories, songs and lullabies to initiate the process.
5· Focus on how the child brought in joy and happiness into the parents’ life and completed their family.
6. Keep the child’s favourite persons informed about your process of talking to your child about his/ her own adoption. This will avoid any unnecessary confusion for the child.
Things to Remember when Talking to your Child about Adoption
- The child can read your body language too, so your gestures and overall tone need to be positive
- Respect and accept your child for whatever the child is and with all the child’s strengths and limitations
- Talk about adoption in happy or conducive situations, when the child is more likely to be in a receptive mood
- Sharing the fact of adoption is a lifelong process, so don’t try to stuff it into a single story
- The adoptive couple needs to be completely in sync when talking to the child about adoption. Difference of opinion about the same will cause challenges in future.
- Respect the fact that the extended family members may differ in their opinion about sharing the fact about adoption with the child. However, there is no need to convince the extended family members about their thoughts on the same.
- The child may make a general statement which may connect to adoption. It’s important for the parents to take that opportunity to talk to the child regarding the relevant aspects of adoption immediately as the situation is right.
- The child may want to share the fact of his adoption with one of his close friends. Give the child the space and freedom to do so.
When deciding to talk to your child about adoption, it is important to choose the right moment and avoid the wrong ones. This includes times when you or your child are angry or stressed, or during unpleasant situations like poor performance in an exam. Never mix the fact of adoption with any kind of disciplining aspects – this could create lasting damage in the child’s psyche. The language used during this process is as important as sharing the fact. Use positive words to convey that the child was by no means thrust upon you, but a desired, cherished and welcomed addition to your family.
Deepali has a BA in sociology from Pune University; Masters in Social Work from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Mumbai); PG Diploma in School Psychology from Janana Prabodhini Institute of Psychology. She has the experience of working in the field of Family & Child Welfare since the last 15 yrs. Deepali is currently a freelancer with 3 different adoption agencies. She is an adoptive parent herself.