Parents who adopt generally spend a lot of time and energy trying to understand and anticipate the questions and concerns about adoption that their children might have in the future. This is important work that helps to build healthy lines of communication within families. And yet, this doesn’t mean that parents are ever able to educate themselves well enough to to be absolutely everything for their children – and that’s true of so many things. It’s why parents take their children to school, to the doctor, and even to soccer practice or music lessons. Children need to grow up in communities where people who have knowledge and experiences that are different from their parents can be there for them – to help with struggles, concerns, or interests. The same is true for adoption.
Adoptive parents who weren’t, themselves, adopted (though there are, of course, adoptive parents who were) can be educated on adoption issues, can be sympathetic and good listeners, and can know their children as well as it’s possible to know another person. But parents can’t necessarily know how their children will feel about their adoptions or how these feelings may change as their children get older. This is why some families find it can be helpful to have an ‘adoption mentor’ for their child – a grown adoptee who can be a friendly figure in a child’s life and be available for them to talk to as they get older.
Other families choose to connect with groups for adoptive parents with children around the same age, and, instead of finding an older adoptee to connect their child with, try to help their children connect with other adopted children in their same age range who might share similar thoughts or feelings.
Where can I find an adoption mentor for my child?
Depending on where you live, you may be able to find a region-specific organization that pairs adoption mentors with mentees and helps them find fun and meaningful activities to do together. Adoption agencies may very well be able to point your family in the direction of resources that can help. And if there isn’t a specific mentorship program in your area, other adoption-related groups may be able to put you in touch with adoptees who are willing to speak to you or your child, either once or on a more regular basis. In some cases, though, if such options don’t exist, you may need to do some old-fashioned networking through your family’s community center, library, church, or just by asking around.
When is the best time to make this connection?
Of course, if your child is still a toddler, they probably isn’t up for a long, involved discussion of their feelings about their adoption, and the people they probably most want to hang out with are you and your partner. This is just fine, and as time goes on they may be more comfortable talking more about these feelings.
Mentorship groups generally have age-guidelines for mentees, but if this isn’t a factor, slowly introducing a mentor who isn’t already a part of your family’s circle of friends can start at any time. And it can good to keep in mind that surrounding yourself with a vibrant community of adoptees and families formed through adoption can be a valuable addition to your family’s social life from the time Baby is still young.