Explaining Adoption (Part 2): Where to Start
The adoption process can often feel difficult enough without the added responsibility of helping your child understand what adoption means. But we know that having an honest talk about adoption with your child is always the best choice (Part 1). So, many parents wonder, how can we make it easier? These tips are great for younger children that need help learning about and understanding their adoption.
6 Tips to Help Your Child Embrace Their Adoption
Begin early. We can’t stress this enough — the sooner you start talking about adoption, the better it will be for everyone! You can start using adoption-centred words (like adopted, birth father, tummy mummy, step-mum, orstep-dad) even before they can understand what those words mean. When your kids grow up with adoption-positive language, they can view adoption as a positive, joyful, and normal occurrence.
Start in a safe place. As adoption becomes more prevalent in our homes, it’s popping up in media as well. You can find children’s books, stories, movies, and television shows that discuss adoption and step-parents in a positive light. So, spend some time with your child reading, watching, and discussing them in terms of your own family.
Teach by example. Adopting a pet (if your resources allow) is a great way to teach children about loving family members no matter where they come from.
Draw it out. Remember those days in kindy when you were assigned to draw a family tree? Why not do the same with your child now? You can take a trip to your favourite park and look at the trees, then go home and draw your own. Teach your child that family trees — just like nature’s trees — come in all shapes and sizes but that each one is beautiful.
Collect some stories. If you’re still nervous about discussing adoption and step-families, reach out to friends and family members who have experienced the journey and ask them to share their experience.
Take a breath. Even if you’re worried about having this conversation, remember that it’s going to be okay. It may be challenging to get started, but as long as you're respectful and compassionate about the child’s feelings, know that you’re doing a great job.
An Important Part of Your Journey
It may seem counterintuitive, but the sooner you have the conversation, the easier it will be. It might even surprise you how accepting young children are about their new family dynamic! Older children who are more aware of the adoption process will likely be more in the know, but it can’t hurt to take some time to discuss it with them and ensure that their questions are answered.
Talking about adoption — rather than choosing to delay or even hide it — teaches children that being adopted is an exciting, joyful, and beautiful experience. Help them learn to celebrate it!