By Christie Lader
First, all children are entitled to know their story and deserve to know information about their birth family. All the detailed pieces of a puzzle that had to take place before the child was placed in the home are things to be celebrated, not kept secret or hidden. A child’s history is a gift from God and that story needs to be shared.
We find that some adoptive parents do not want to tell their child he was adopted because they are not sure what to say. During our adoptive family training sessions, I tell prospective adoptive families that children who were adopted as infants should not remember the day he was told he was adopted. Rather, it should be something he has grown up knowing. We encourage parents to start talking about adoption with their child on placement day, even if the child is an infant! One practical benefit of this approach is that this allows the parents to become comfortable with how they will talk about these things with their child even before their child can understand.
Tell your child how God knit the pieces together as you became a family! For example, show him a copy of the profile book that the his birthmother was looking at when she selected your family. Or, take the child to the courthouse where the finalization occurred. Recently a family stopped by the Covenant Care office in Macon on their way to Florida with their son, who was eight-years-old. His parents wanted to show him the room where they met him for the first time. These parents were comfortable with their son asking them questions about his adoption and their son felt safe asking his parents whatever came to his mind. There was nothing awkward about visiting an adoption agency on their way to the beach.
A second basic reason parents should tell their children that they were adopted is that, sooner or later, someone will tell them. Some adoptive parents never tell their child he was adopted only to have their child find out from a friend or family member, either in childhood or as an adult. Learning about their adoption from someone else is not the best way for a person to learn this information, as it conveys the message that adoption is a negative thing or something the family is ashamed of. Adopted children should be led to feel positive about their adoption and reassured that they are loved unconditionally and accepted by their parents.
Ultimately, it is the parents’ responsibility to help the child make sense of the fact that he was adopted. Adoptive parents have tremendous influence over how their child feels about their identity, either positively or negatively. Keeping adoption a secret has the potential to threaten a child’s security and may result in feelings of betrayal. None of us want our children to feel embarrassed or ashamed of how they came to be a part of our family!
For more information on parenting and adoption, we recommend Focus on the Family and Empowered to Connect. If you need support or guidance in talking with your child about adoption, please contact us and one of our Adoptive Family Caseworkers will be glad to speak with you.
Christie oversees our adoptive family caseworkers. She began working with CCS in 2008 after 16 years with DFCS. She is married and has three children. Her family attends Northway Church in Macon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.