How to Talk to Kids about Adoption

Answering your child's questions
Be prepared to respond to your child's curiosity. She may ask what her friend did to make his birthparents not want to keep him. Explain that adoption is never a child's fault. It is a decision made by grownups when they don't feel able or ready to be parents. If he asks whether his friend will ever meet his birthmother, be honest and say that you don't know. Sometimes adopted children meet their birthparents and sometimes they don't.

Talking about adoption might make your child question her own circumstances. If she asks whether she is going to be adopted, make it clear that you were ready to be a parent when you had her. You will be her parent forever.

You might need to clear up some confusion your child has, or some assumptions he makes. Reassure him that adoptive parents love their children just as much as parents in families formed through biology. If he wonders about birthparents showing up to "reclaim" their child, explain that once an adoption is finalized, it is permanent, and the adoptive parents are legally recognized as the child's parents. Most importantly, emphasize that adoption may sometimes be a second choice, but it is never second-best. It's important not to cast adopted children as "special" or "different." Adoption is simply one of many ways to create a family.

Keep it positive
As you discuss adoption with your child, make an effort to use positive terms. Use "birthparent" or "biological parent" rather than "real parent," and use "parent" rather than "adoptive parent." Avoid derogatory phrases such as "give up a child" or "put up for adoption." Instead, say, "make an adoption plan." Explain that someone "was adopted," not "is adopted" — adoption is an event, not a state of being.

Exploring Further
Many great books about adoption are out there, including some meant for young children. Promote understanding and diversity by reading about adoption with your child. Kids under eight will enjoy

The Day We Met You by Phoeber Kohler, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born by Jamie Lee Curtis, How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole and We Wanted You by Liz Rosenberg. For curious preteens, try Lucy's Family Tree by Karen Halvorsen Schreck or If the World Were a Village by David J. Smith.

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