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Monday, October 1, 2012

How Do I Tell My Kid That She's Adopted?

Maybe it happened like this- you got a call from the state asking if you would consider adopting a relative’s newborn. You have a couple of kids already and decide that you would be thrilled to have another one, so your cousin becomes your son.  Or maybe you had a foster child from an early age that led into an adoption. As your child grew, the subject just never came up. It’s as if you gave birth to this child- if feels like it to you and it does to them as well.  Things have gone along quite smoothly, the bio-parents have never contacted you and your child has fit into your family without a glitch. You haven’t felt the need to read up on adoption or contact a professional- this is just your kid- plain and simple. As your child grows, you have a nagging thought that crops up sometimes in the back of your mind, like you’re forgetting something. Your baby isn’t little anymore; she’s starting school. You still haven’t told her that she’s adopted. Before long, she is eight or nine and you’re pretty stressed about how you’re going to bring up the subject. If you’re not careful your child will be twelve or thirteen and a neighbor or uncle will “accidently” let the secret out. You’re worried that she will feel betrayed and “less than” and be mad at you for keeping it a secret all of this time. What are you going to do?

If any part of this story sounds like yours, you need to take some steps before the situation becomes a crisis.

S    Search inside yourself to see why you are uncomfortable with adoption. Do you think that it is shameful? Second-best? Are you worried that your child will be hurt by stories surrounding the beginning of her life? You need to work through these questions on your own before you can discuss them with your kid. Take a weekend or an evening away for reflection, read some adoption books, talk to another adoptive parent or Fiesta family contact to sort out your own feelings. But don’t put it off.
     Bring up adoption generically with your child for a few days. There are many books (available in our library or online) that incorporate adoption into the story. Make adoption language familiar. Talk about the many ways that families are formed. Go online to find pictures of families that don’t all look alike and discuss it with your child. Talk about where babies come from.
      Watch a movie together that has an adoption theme that you like. Some might make you cringe. (No, Travis, we are not wealthy enough to ride in a carriage through Central Park to see a Broadway Show, breaking into song along the way.) There are some good ones out there that will help jumpstart the discussion. Fiesta staff will be glad to give you suggestions if you need some to relate with your child‘s developmental level or situation.
      Don’t put it off any longer. Make it part of a natural conversation, not stressful or serious-scary. If your child is old enough to be upset that he or she wasn’t told earlier, apologize. We all make mistakes, you should have told him sooner, now it’s time to pick up the pieces and let your child know that your love is solid and has always been there, just as it will continue to be.

1 comment:

lavendergardener said...

I had a friend who was adopted as an infant and wasn't told until she was 16. At a family event, her uncle let it slip about how lucky they were to have adopted her. She was devastated. Not because of the adoption but because she felt like she had been lied to every day of her life by the people she loved most. I know it can be a difficult discussion to have but the sooner you make adoption an open discussion in your home, the healthier it is for everyone.