I mentioned in my last post that I’ve had several conversations recently where families were really struggling with the question of how to talk about adoption with their adopted child.
I’ll admit that, at first I was really taken aback that children were reaching age 7 and up without it being discussed. But then I thought about how relatively easy our situation is. And how easy it made the discussion for us.
Why it was easy for us to talk about adoption
Our two are the youngest of a large sibling group, with the rest of the siblings being adopted by other families. The kids closest-in-age sisters live about 5 miles or so from us. From the first time we met them, we tore up the court mandated recommendation of twice yearly visits, and they, and their parents, became family.
So from the moment they came home, adoption and the conversations about it have been a way of life. Not least because visiting children always ask questions like “why don’t your sisters live with you?”. And “why do your sisters have a different mummy and daddy?”.
There was no hiding from it, even if we wanted to. Which we didn’t. But it was easy. I get that.
So I thought I’d share my top tips for how to talk about adoption with your kids, in case it can help you out.
This is, in my opinion, and that of the adoption community in general, the most important. Start early. Talk about adoption as part of every day conversation. Make it normal. Make it open for questioning and discussion. Help your child realise that its safe for them to talk about it.
Taking the emotion out of the discussion enables further discussion.
And your child needs to know this stuff. It’s part of who they are.
Answer the question they ask!
Oh, the questions they ask!
“Do you wish you’d had tummy babies instead of us, Mummy?”
“Is my tummy mummy dead?”
“Why can’t tummy mummy come and live with us, so we can all be together?”
Tough questions for us. Even tougher for them to ask.
And they come from nowhere! These, and many more, have been asked of me, usually in the car, often at bedtime, just as I’m turning out the light! Always, out of left field and taking me by surprise.
But my second golden rule is, answer the question you’ve been asked. Only that question. As a social worked friend of mine says…don’t use a paragraph when a sentence will do!
Tell the truth
It’s really, really hard to talk about adoption. I know this. I really do.
But they need to know. And you need to be honest.
However, I’m putting a caveat in there. They don’t need to know EVERYTHING! They don’t need to know that tummy mummy was out every night drinking and leaving them at home. Or whatever horror they were rescued from.
They need to know that birth parents couldn’t give them the care a child needs and thats why the nice judge helped you to become a forever family.
Keep it simple. Tell the truth. Be age appropriate. And don’t badmouth the birth parents.
It’s a fine line, but you can do it!
So, be prepared
It’s really easy to pretend that you’re never going to have the little voice piping up from the back seat. Asking a question you really don’t want to answer. But which you know you must.
These questions will come, sooner or later!
However, if you’ve got a running list of the sort of questions they might ask, you can also prepare a list of answers you can give. This takes the pressure off you and makes your answer seem spontaneous. And therefore all the more reassuring!
A cracking example is the “do you wish you’d had tummy babies” question.
If you’d asked me before I started our adoption story, the answer would have been a resounding yes. And I also wish they’d come home earlier, because I missed having them as tiny babies.
Fast forward to today, and I have absolutely no regrets. In fact, knowing what I know now, and despite the multitudes of heartaches and challenges we have faced, I would still choose these babies over any others.
So, when that question was lobbed into the front seat like an unpinned hand grenade, it was really easy to answer. And to be sincere. Thus reassuring the wee ones that they are my world.
You’ve got this
So, making adoption an everyday thing, a little preparation, some age appropriate honesty, and a simple answer to the question asked. It really is all we’ve done with our two and they’re holding up just fine.
They also know they can ask me anything, and that I’ll give them a truthful answer. That honesty is a core value for our family. I’m hoping that’s going to stand us in good stead as we hurtle towards the teenage years.
I’m sure we’ve many more adoption discussions to come, and I know we’ll continue in the same vein. But if we can do this, so can you.
You really do have this! You’ll be ok!