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Tips on how to (gently) tell your child they’re adopted

Explaining adoption to your child can be challenging and there are so many things to weigh up and consider.

Making the decision to tell your child they’re adopted can be daunting, especially when you’re unsure of how they will respond to the news. How will this information affect, hurt or shape your child? Although it is entirely up to the parents to decide when to tell their child that he or she is adopted, the advice is to read them an adoption storybook (such as Finding My Forever Family) from very small to explain the concept to them and to normalise it for them.

Here are some more tips to make telling your heart-baby that they’re adopted easier:

The earlier the better

Some research has shown that one of the most traumatic things for an adoptee is to remember the day they were told, whether it was done in a loving way or not. To avoid this, try talking about it openly from very early. They shouldn’t have to come to a realisation that they were adopted somewhere down the line – it helps so much if it’s just something they’ve always known. This is why a book explaining it to them becomes so handy, especially when it’s read to them from a baby.

Stick to the basics

Don’t demonise the birth parents or make them sound like the enemy. Try to keep it brief if your heart-baby has a sad beginning. Rather, focus on the fact that a kind woman let them grow in her tummy. She simply knew that what was best for them was for her to give them to a loving Forever Family because she couldn’t care for them right then. Avoid calling her their mother, but give her a respectful title, like Aunty Helen.

Create an open space for discussion

Try to provide as much information as your children are able to take before they even have to ask. As soon as there are questions and doubts, the issue becomes just that – an issue. Rather, create an open space in which they can express themselves freely and openly to you. This can be hard if you feel hesitant to share or insecure about your relationship with your adopted child(ren). But, it’s so important. Remind them that they’ve brought you so much happiness; that they’ve completed your family. Don’t make them feel emotionally indebted to you

Don’t make it about you

Try not to tell them that they were lucky to be adopted or lucky to find their Forever Family. Remind them that they’ve brought you so much happiness; that they’ve completed your family. Don’t make them feel emotionally indebted to you.

Don’t keep using the word ‘special’

Although your child is, undoubtedly, very special; using this term too often puts a lot of responsibility on their little shoulders. They might feel that, only when they are acting or accomplishing something extraordinary, can they earn your love and acceptance.

Do your research

Invest in helpful books, play therapists, social workers, and so on to give your little one the help that they need to come to terms with their family.

Be supportive

Everyone’s different. Some children may be nonchalant and carefree. Others may be anxious, even angry. Guess what… they might have had those exact emotions whether they were adopted or your biological child. Try not to mould them too closely and to hamper their emotions. Try not to classify every reaction and feeling under the umbrella of adoption. Just let them be.

Be kind to yourself

This is a journey with plenty of twists and turns and ups and downs for you too. Take the time to rejuvenate and care for yourself. By doing that, you’ll be the best mom you possibly can be for your heart-baby.  

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