As your child grows, there are hundreds of important conversations you’ll have about identity, and for most of these conversations, the fact that they’ll come up unexpectedly will be totally normal. However, when it comes to questions about your child’s adoption, it can be helpful for you and your partner to be on the same page about what to share with your little one at which stages of life.
Experts suggest talking to children about their adoptions from the time when they’re young, so that it’s information that they grow up knowing and feeling comfortable with. However, very young children have a more basic understanding of the world, so it’s generally most useful for families to share the more basic information of a child’s birth and adoption story when your child is young, and to expand on that basic information as children get older. In a two-parent household, the question of the appropriate for learning certain information is one that parents should discuss ahead of time.
What to say about your child’s birth parents
Some elements of children’s backgrounds can be more difficult or traumatic to discuss than others. While it’s vital to stay true to a child’s trust by only sharing true information, there are some parts of a child’s origins that they might not be equipped to understand until they’re a little older. Talking to your partner about what, exactly, “a little older” will mean to your family can help to make sure your child doesn’t get mixed signals.
It’s also helpful to remember what you might have told friends or family members about your child’s adoption or birth family during the adoption process. Your child’s story ultimately belongs to your child, and for your little one to mistakenly hear some of it for the first time from someone other than you could cause hurt or betrayed feelings.
What to say about your family’s reproductive history
Many families adopt children after a series of difficulties surrounding their reproductive health. This may be a small part of the story your family tells your little one about your child’s own origins, but at a certain point, your little one may want to ask questions about their adoption story – including anything you’ve said about your or your partner’s reproductive history or health. There are a few different things to be careful of in this kind of conversation – your feelings, and your child’s.
When it comes to your child’s feelings in discussing your reproductive history, it’s important to be thoughtful about how you’re framing this part of your narrative – focusing heavily on expectations your family might have had about what starting a family might look like, and the specific health concerns that might have gotten in the way, may make your child feel like they were a second choice. On the other hand, sharing the truth with your child is an important part of maintaining a strong and trusting relationship.
As for your own feelings, and your partner’s, it’s always your right to decide which parts of your personal medical information you do or don’t share. Information about your child’s adoption, and their birth parents, is information that ultimately belongs to your child alone – you’re just safeguarding it for your little one as they grow. Information about your own physical health is another matter. It’s always important to have a truthful relationship with your child – but it’s okay if sometimes the truth is that something is private, or something you’ll talk to your child about in more detail throughout the childhood and teen years.
In the end, the only right way to talk about your child’s adoption is truthfully, age-appropriately, and in the way that is right for your family.