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Explaining Adoption (Part 1): Is Now the Right Time?

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of the adoption process is telling your child that they are adopted. Luckily, this process is marginally easier with intrafamily adoptions — where at least one of the parents are related to the child — but some step-parents are still concerned about how their step-child will react if the child is unaware or doesn’t fully understand that they’re adopted.



Open Adoptions


In the past, well-intentioned parents have tried to keep adoption information hidden from adopted children, assuming that the kids are only able to deal with the facts of their life story when they’ve reached adulthood. These days, however, we understand that waiting too long to tell your child about their adoption makes things more difficult for everyone.

For this reason, NSW only grants open adoptions, or adoptions in which the biological parents are involved in the process and — in most cases — continue to have contact with the child after adoption. This means that in order to grant an adoption, the court must be satisfied that everyone involved knows and understands the situation. In other words? No secret-keeping allowed!


When Is the “Right Time”?


If you’re worried about when you should share the news, you’re not alone. Most parents find that this is a difficult conversation to have with their step-child. They aren’t sure what to say, how to say it, or when to get started and fall into the trap of waiting for the “right” moment.


Unfortunately for these parents, there is no single correct time to tell your child about their adoption. All children grow and develop at different rates and are adopted at different times in their lives. A child who is adopted in their teens will most likely not need to be told about their adoption, while a younger child will.

While there is no “right” time to tell your child they are adopted, it’s generally agreed that the earlier you have the discussion, the better it is for everyone. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes.


The Benefits of an Early Disclosure


It’s important to tell your child about their adoption early on — not only will this make life much easier for everyone involved, but there are also further benefits you can enjoy by doing so:

  • Your child won’t remember the big reveal — rather, they’ll feel like they’ve always known.

  • Your child won’t feel deceived or lied to when you are open and honest about the adoption.

  • Your child will have more reason to trust you.

  • There is no chance of someone else telling your child about their adoption before you do.

  • You'll teach your child that adoption is a positive and wonderful thing, a celebration rather than a secret.

  • You can help your child learn about and understand their life story.

While it’s normal to feel apprehensive or nervous about discussing adoption with your child, the sooner you do so, the better. Be open and honest from the beginning and you’ll likely find that things fall into place.


Next week, we’ll dive into part two of explaining adoption and discuss some helpful tips for getting conversations started, the right things to say, and more. If you have any questions or comments, regarding this post or your adoption journey, don’t hesitate toreach out. Until then!

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