How to tell your children they're adopted

The sooner adoptive parents can help children understand and acknowledge their adoption the better. Here are some tips that may be helpful in your quest to help your child feel loved and wanted.

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  • We have five adopted children, so we’ve had a little experience with this. We’ve also learned that, even though every adoption has its own story, the basic needs of the child are the same. The bottom line is, they need to know you love them with all your heart. That may sound simple because of how deep and real your love. However, it can get a bit complicated as the child grows and may have feelings of confusion of which you may not be aware. If you lay a foundation by doing the following things with a heart full of love you have a better chance of helping your adopted children through their tough times.

  • Tell your child he or she is adopted from the very beginning

  • If your child is an infant, periodically, as you rock and caress your baby, you can tenderly say, “I love you so much. Mommy and Daddy are really lucky we adopted you so we could be your parents.” Of course, they don’t understand much at that young age, but they will feel the love and become accustomed to the word “adopted.” When they grow up hearing this it sounds natural to them. Being adopted won’t be startling news, like it would be if it was sprung on them at an older age.

  • Explain what being adopted means

  • As the child grows and can begin to understand, explain that being adopted means “another lady had you growing in her tummy, like all babies grow, but she couldn’t keep you and loved you so much she found someone who would be able to care for you and love you always. She is your birth mother, and I am your real mother.”

  • Explain what a real mother is

  • You could say, “A real mother is someone who loves you no matter what and will always take care of you. She’s someone who wants you with all her heart; someone who God guided to find you, just like Daddy and I were guided to you. That’s what makes us your real parents.”

  • Answer all their questions, but don’t give too much information at once

  • Some parents, in an effort to inform their child, tell more than the child is ready to hear. Keep it simple. They can learn line upon line as they grow and become comfortable asking more questions appropriate for their age.

  • Be patient

  • Just because you know this adoption was meant to be doesn’t mean your child will feel the same. It takes time, in some cases, for the child to feel like this was the best possible outcome for him or her — part of a grand design.

  • Respect their right to know who their birth parents are

  • Even though our adoptions were all closed without any contact with birth parents, the day came when the children wanted to know more about their birth parents. As an adult, one of our daughters expressed a desire to search for her birth mother. We gave her all the papers so she could do it. A few weeks later, she returned the papers to us and said, “I really don’t want to do this. You’re my parents and that’s all I need to know.” Others may feel differently. They have the right to search for them if they choose.

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  • Adoption works

  • Now that our children are adults we feel their love as they honor us as their parents. We’re enjoying a closeness and friendship with them and their spouses. The best thing any child can ever do to say "thank you" to their parents is to reward them with grandchildren. Ours have done this by giving us 20 wonderful grandchildren that we adore. It was all worth it!

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Gary Lundberg is a licensed marriage and family therapist. Joy is a writer. Together they author books on relationships.

Website: http://garyjoylundberg.com

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