Bringing a child into your family is undoubtedly the most beautiful moment in your life. However, doubt may creep in: when should we tell them they are adopted? Should we even say anything? What if we say something wrong and the child will be scarred for life or resent us?
In the following sections, we will think of whether you should tell your child they are adopted and consider the best ways to do it.
Should You Tell Your Child?
The first question is whether or not you should tell your child that they are adopted. Understandably, some parents may never want to tell their child that they were adopted, especially if this happened when they were a baby, so they have no memories of that time.
If your child is already grown up, you may wonder: should you tell an older child they are adopted?
However, most if not all specialists highlight the fact that it’s not a question of “whether” but “when.” In other words, children must know that they are adopted, and this information should come from you.
The truth is that your child will find out, anyway. You don’t want them to find out they are adopted accidentally from a relative, neighbor, someone at school, or simply by finding adoption documents when cleaning up the house. Not telling a child they are adopted may lead to difficult family relationships, and the child may struggle with problems that can lead to development issues, depression, and trust and identity issues.
Imagine how you would feel if you found out that you were adopted — no matter the child’s age, learning about their origin, which is not what they thought it was, is a very stressful experience.
For your child, knowing that they are adopted means that they have another origin. It is part of their identity as individuals. In addition to this, it may actually save your child’s life at some point. Even if you don’t know the biological family, your child may opt for a genetic test to see if they are at risk of any serious conditions and prevent them.
You should know that this discussion may lead to difficult family relationships. It’s important to be ready for it and learn how to manage family conflicts before this happens. Some kids may understand that their biological parents couldn’t afford to raise a child, but others may not.
Another important question is whether you should tell them if their background story is not a very simple one. For instance, if they were born after sexual assault, incest, or their birth parent was addicted to drugs or imprisoned, should you still tell them?
Although these are very complicated situations, your child should still know the truth. Otherwise, they may start dreaming of their biological parents coming to pick them up someday, especially when they are angry with you. Telling them as soon as possible will spare them the pain of the truth later in life when they will be extremely vulnerable because of a difficult situation.
If you are unsure how to do this, opting for video chat therapy will help you and your child deal with the situation in the best possible way.
When to Tell a Child They Are Adopted?
Next, let’s see when you should tell your child that they are adopted — should you wait for them to grow up and have a better understanding of adoption or tell them as soon as possible?
Some parents may think that waiting for the child to grow up will make for an easier conversation, since they will have a better understanding of how reproduction works. In fact, telling your teenage child that they are adopted when they struggle with all the hurdles of their age may come as nearly impossible to handle.
Specialists recommend telling your child they are adopted at a young age, even before the age of 3. If your child is older, it’s important to have this discussion as soon as possible to avoid finding out from some other sources, make sure you remain in control of this situation, and smoothen the impact.
How to Tell a Child They Are Adopted?
Now that we clarified that the right time to tell this to your child is as early as possible, it’s also important to know how to reveal this. This moment may be extremely difficult for you, but you must remain calm and try not to show any negative feelings. You need to talk about adoption in a positive, optimistic tone. After all, the adoption was the most beautiful moment of your life, and this is what your kid needs to feel too.
First, you need to help your child understand why they were adopted. At the same time, you may want to avoid hurtful details, such as parents that neglected them or didn’t want them, or family violence and abuse. Most likely, you will talk about this more than once, so you’ll have time to go deeper into the details as they grow up.
Therefore, be patient and give them as much information as you can. Make sure that you are prepared to answer their questions in a calm manner, without getting upset.
If your child is very young and they don’t know how reproduction works, you can explain the situation in a way they can understand. For instance, you can tell them that they have “two mommies,” and keep the background story very simple. Be positive and tell them they are loved as much as any child living with their birth family.
Stay calm even if your child becomes upset, angry, or keeps asking questions. In some cases, children might be calm when finding out, only to return to you later extremely angry. When discussing adoption, always give them full attention, away from your phone or TV.
When telling your child they are adopted:
- Think of some questions they may ask and be ready to answer them;
- Keep it simple and positive;
- Be ready to come back to the topic of adoption as many times as necessary;
- Don’t be angry or upset when they ask a lot of questions;
- Tell your child they are special and how much they are loved;
- Try to help your child understand their own situation;
- Be kind, understanding, and supportive, even if they want to know more about their biological family;
- Ask for professional help if you feel unprepared or don’t know how to help your child understand the situation while navigating their negative emotions.
Adopted children may feel very confused in the beginning. They find out they may not be who they thought they were, especially if their birth family comes from a different culture or different environment. Some kids may want to find them and meet them, while others may not want to meet their biological parents.
It’s important to tell your child about adoption as soon as possible. If you are worried about helping your child deal with this sensitive issue, therapy can help your family manage these difficult times. While in-person therapy might be too time-consuming for busy parents, online therapy platforms like Calmerry allow you to receive emotional support remotely. Learn more about therapy to prepare for your first session.