What Children Understand About Adoption By Age

Children cannot understand adoption until they can understand reproduction -- usually around the age of six. Nevertheless, many experts believe children should hear about their adoption before then.

Early discussions ensure that children will hear about their adoptions from their parents in a loving, positive way, rather than as a taunt from a neighbor's child. Furthermore, children often sense that there is a secret about them and conclude it must be bad if no one will talk about it.

Parents can introduce the subject by paying attention to natural, appropriate opportunities to do so at those times when the subject of adoption is relevant. For example, introducing a child as "my adopted daughter Bianca" is no more appropriate than introducing a child as "my prematurely born daughter Bianca". However, it is appropriate for parents to say, as they tuck a child in bed at night and get a warm feeling about that child: "I am so glad we adopted you."

Find out about what to say at these times in your child's life:

Preschool
Middle Childhood
Adolescence

This article is based on material in the book Making Sense of Adoption and is reprinted with permission.

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