Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child: Making Sense of the Past by Betsy Keefer SmalleyTelling a child he or she is adopted can be a trying task, but this is only the first step. After becoming aware that he or she is adopted, the child will question the details of the adoption. The truth may reveal details that are painful and sometimes traumatic: a parent is in prison, a drug addict, or even a rapist. In Telling the Truth to Your Adopted or Foster Child, Keefer and Schooler demonstrate that in even the most difficult situations, foster and adoptive parents must not withhold or distort information about the past. Though sometimes including difficult truths, communication between a caregiver or parent and foster or adopted child can help a child grow up into an emotionally and psychologically healthy adult.
Providing help for parents or caregivers wishing to productively communicate with their child, Keefer and Schooler answer such questions as: How do I share difficult information about my childs adoption in a sensitive manner? When is the right time to tell my child the whole truth? How do I find further information on my childs history? Age appropriate guidelines will make an arduous task organized and easier. Detailed descriptions of actual cases help the parent or caregiver find ways to discover the truth (particularly in closed and international adoption cases), organize the truth, and explain the truth gently to a toddler, child, or young adult that may be horrified by it. Parents, teachers, counselors, and other caregivers will come away from this reading with a sharper knowledge of how to make sense of the past for foster and adopted children of all ages.
How to Tell Your Child They Are Adopted
What Happens When Parents Wait to Tell a Child He’s Adopted
The director of an adoption agency in New York City was leading a workshop with adoptive parents and kids. The parents and kids were in separate rooms. He asked the adoptive parents to raise their hands if their kids ever mention their adoption. No one raised their hand. When the director asked the kids if they thought about their birth parents, every child raised their hand. Do talk about adoption regularly—and well before your child understands it.
Find the right time to discuss this sensitive subject. Adoptive parents must determine what and when they will tell their children about their adoption. Many adoption workers advise parents to introduce the word "adoption" as early as possible so that it becomes a comfortable part of a child's vocabulary and to tell a child, between the ages of 2 and 4 that he is adopted. However, some child welfare experts believe that when children are placed for adoption before the age of 2 and are of the same race as the parents, there probably is little to be gained by telling them about their adoption until they are at least 4 or 5 years old. Before that time, they will hear the words but will not understand the concept. Steven Nickman suggests that the ideal time for telling children about their adoption appears to be between the ages of 6 and 8.
The enduring popularity of that third question surprises me. The two other questions are aimed at understanding the circumstances under which I joined my family; the third question, an arguably more invasive one, probes into how my family dealt with the aftermath. It is, essentially, asking whether my parents lied to me. My answer is always that my parents made sure I grew up knowing from the start that I was adopted, and that I have memories both foggy and vivid of my family reading to me throughout my childhood from a storybook they made, which contained Scotch-taped photographs and the story of the day my parents picked me up from an adoption agency in Tennessee. The question of when adopted people learn about their adoptee status, fascinating as it may be to the general population, has generated only a meager amount of scientific inquiry. But Amanda Baden, a professor in the graduate counseling program at Montclair State University who has been studying adoption-adjacent issues for 25 years, was surprised to find little research on how the age at which people discover they are adopted affects their later outcomes in life.
At the start of every adoption journey, prospective adoptive parents must consider how and when they will share their adoption story with their child. We will admit, this can feel a bit nerve-racking at first.
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Tips on telling you child
For some parents, telling their child that he is adopted is a formidable, anxiety-provoking task, and thus they put it off or avoid it. However, at some point adopted youngsters need to be told about their origins, ideally even before middle childhood. For example, he might want to know "What happened to my first mommy and daddy?
Adoptive parents often worry about how to tell their child they are adopted. At some point all children will question their parents about where they come from to try to understand who they are. Telling your child they are adopted can cause anxiety and be a stressful time. Remember that this is an important moment in your child's life and you don't want to get it wrong. There isn't a right time to tell your child that they are adopted but its best to tell them as early as possible. This is to avoid them learning about their adoption from anyone else, or feeling that their adoption is a bad thing. Adopted children should be made to feel very positive about their adoption and reassured that they are accepted and loved by their parents and family.