I come from a family where many of us are adopted. I adopted my son. He’s beautiful and I love him very much. My husband and I discussed that when the time came we would tell him that he was adopted, I just didn’t expect for him to ask me at 4 years old if he’s adopted.
When he asked me, I didn’t know exactly how to tell him – I guess I wasn’t ready to have the conversation. Leo’s dad and I had talked about it before, and we did some research on the best method for telling Leo he was adopted.
While I was a bit apprehensive when the conversation first started, I felt relieved and glad, and my husband did too, after we talked with Leo and answered his questions about adoption.
Before the Talk
Despite having done research on how to tell Leo, we were fuzzy on the when. We both wondered if 18 years old was too late, but at the same time is any age before that too early? We all remember being a teenager, not the most graceful period of our lives.
We scoured the internet like most parents would. We also made a trip to the library to tear through all the books we could find and we even bought some of our own.
There was no one resource that gave us that “Ah-ha!” moment, but I do urge any parent in our position to do their homework and read, watch and listen to everything you can find.
When we started, we had a lot of questions. The more we learned about ways to talk to a young child, especially about sensitive subjects like adoption, the more we felt we had a handle on what we would say to Leo, as well as how we would say it.
Even though at the moment when Leo’s question came up we were not prepared emotionally to tell him, we were both in some way, maybe psychologically, ready to let this information out.
All my other family members have dealt with it as well. I’ve seen how my cousins have accepted that they are adopted. It gave me confidence that after Leo processed the information, he would come to terms with it as well and just be grateful for the family that he has.
Watch Your Phrasing
I read in almost all of the books that I looked at that the best way to talk to a young child about an important topic is in a direct, no-nonsense manner.
Not like a business transaction, and not without feeling or gauging your child’s emotional reaction and listening to what they have to say along the way, but all the books told us to tell Leo about his adoption in a clear and precise way.
I explained to Leo that he was not born to me and his dad, but to parents who cared for him, and that they couldn’t take care of him. I didn’t get into why his biological parents couldn’t keep him.
I told Leo that his dad and I wanted, and were able, to take care of him and that we loved him very much.
I even briefly explained the process of adopting him, though I obviously didn’t get too technical about all of the hoops we had to jump through. Adoption is really an amazing experience and incredibly rewarding, but it is a long and strenuous process so if you’re considering, do your research. I can’t tell you how rewarding it is though, there aren’t words.
Telling Leo the basics really only took a few minutes. Unsurprisingly, most of the conversation was spent with Leo asking questions and his dad and I answering them as best we could.
In all of the books we read and videos we watched, we were told to be ready to answer some basic questions.
Questions about who his mom and dad were, as well as where they were now.
When we adopted Leo, we were only given basic information about his biological parents.
I told Leo the truth: that his dad was tall and athletic, just like Leo is, and his mom was a bit on the short, petite side, like me.
Leo seemed to forgot about the second part of the question and we just kept talking, but I was prepared to tell him that I didn’t exactly know, but that he was born not too far from home.
We were a little bit worried that Leo might have a negative reaction to finding out he was adopted however, Leo really seemed to take the information in stride.
He continued with his regular routines, even the same day we told him.
A lot of the books say children might not fully grasp what adoption means, especially at such an early age. His teacher let us know that he’s doing fine at school, and he doesn’t seem to have been affected greatly by the information.
She also let us know that one of the other children in Leo’s class is also adopted, and she was the one that mentioned it to him because he doesn’t look like us. They’re becoming good friends, which I’m honestly happy about. He has someone to identify with.
Still, we’re happy he took the news well. As Leo gets older, we’ll be prepared to share more information with him, and we’re not going to avoid the topic. Leo knows that if he has questions he can ask them anytime, and we won’t shy away from the subject either. That way Leo won’t feel like it’s something he can’t talk about as his feelings and understanding of the world change and evolve.
A Note for Parents
Our experience may be different from what you have or will experience. I wanted to share our story with you because I thought it might give someone hope that it is possible to tell your child this delicate information, and to trust that it won’t harm your family.
My view may be different than yours, but I believe that my child has a right to know. When he’s ready to ask more questions my husband and I will be ready and willing to answer.
The best advice I can give you is: Love your child, and trust that they love and appreciate you.
About the Author
Marcela De Vivo is a full time mommy of 3 beautiful children. She owns a business with her husband, Baby Authority, where they specialize in helping expectant moms and dads prepare for their new babies, wherever they may come from.
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