How to Talk to Your Child about Adoption as a Birth Mother
The love you have for your child knows no bounds. You have selflessly entered the adoption journey, and are making all the painstaking decisions to give him or her their best chance at life. So far, you’ve chosen what type of adoption you want and your child’s adoptive parents. Yet, in the back of your mind, there’s a nagging question: What will my child think of me? How will I ever tell them why I had to place them for adoption? Will I be able to?
This stressor and fear is natural. After all, you want what’s best for your child and are doing everything you can to make that happen. At the same time, though, you know there will come a day when your son or daughter wants to know about you and where they came from. Do you leave this up to their adoptive parents? Perhaps. But what if your child wants to hear their adoption story from you directly?
The Inner Struggle
Both birth mothers and adoptees struggle with insecurities, whether they realize this or not. Each of them wonder what the other is like, and want to know more. For birth mothers, this desire centers around knowing that your child is happy, healthy and safe in their adoptive family. You may also fear that your child will be less loved, supported or cared for because he or she is not genetically related. Or, that your child will grow up resentful and not want to know you. For adoptees, this curiosity leans more towards knowing where they came from and why he or she was placed for adoption.
All of these thoughts and feelings are valid. Yet, through the miracle that is adoption and having the opportunity to talk with your child about their adoption story, many, if not all, of these fears can be debunked and put to rest.
When to Talk about Adoption
We understand that talking about adoption with your son or daughter may feel intimidating. Immediate concerns of when is the right time can arise, coupled with how much detail to include. Worries surrounding how they will react and how you should appropriately handle this intermingle as well. But know that you are not alone and everything is going to be okay. Adoption Choices of Missouri is ready and willing to support you in any way we can.
Let’s tackle the “when” together. Research recommends that starting early is optimal. It establishes a familiarity around the topic, and opens the lines of communication between you and your son or daughter. Before the age of five, especially, your child needs to know that they are adopted and are living with their forever families. When curiosity heightens after that, further detail can be added. Talking to your child in age-appropriate stages helps you both bond and develop a strong, lifelong and healthy relationship.
What to Say
Depending on their age, your son or daughter may ask anywhere from, “Mommy, did I grow in your tummy?” to “Why was I given up? Was I not wanted?” Be sure to keep your explanations simple, direct and honest. If there is sensitive information regarding their background, save that for when they’re older and have the ability to understand it. Explain that you chose to place him or her for adoption because you love them deeply. That there is nothing wrong with them and that adoption is a positive thing. That your choice doesn’t mean you didn’t love them or didn’t want them, but that it meant the opposite.
Encourage your child to share their thoughts and feelings and to ask any additional questions. Remember that they may ask you some pretty tough and uncomfortable questions, and that they may need time to process the information before responding. They may need to grieve, just as you did after they were born.
If you’re struggling with how to approach the conversation, be sure to consult with your adoption caseworker or adoption counselor for guidance.
How to Talk about Adoption with Your Child
If you have an open adoption agreement with your child’s adoptive parents, you may have the opportunity to talk about adoption with your child directly at some point. We know that this can feel overwhelming, and that it could be a very vulnerable conversation for you to have with him or her, but it could also be very beneficial. It could bring about deep healing and establish a stronger bound between you both.