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Adoption Blog: Talk to AF

Expert Q&A Webinar: Talking with Children About Adoption

transracial adoption skin and hair care expert Brooke JacksonFrom getting comfortable with adoption language even before your child can understand, to first talks with curious preschoolers, to the probing questions of middle childhood, to honest, in-depth conversations with your preteen or teenager, adoption therapist Joni Mantell, LCSW, offers an overview of children's developmental understanding of adoption and answers parents' questions about talking about adoption with their kids.

Listen now to the Adoptive FamiliesExpert Q&A Webcast: Talking with Children Adoption held on October 17, 2013. See questions submitted in advance below.

Joni S. Mantell, MSW, is the Founder and Director of the Infertility and Adoption Counseling Center (IAC Center) and a psychotherapist. She has specialized in infertility and adoption since 1993. In her extensive clinical work with all adoption triad members she is particularly known for developing a clear process for helping people "Cross the Bridge" from infertility to adoption or 3rd party reproductive options; for her capacity to integrate and to differentiate adoption, child development, and other psychological issues in her understanding of each individual and family situation.

Listen now.

See the full lineup of upcoming Adoptive Families webinars and listen to recordings of past sessions.

Related Posts on AdoptiveFamiliesCircle


Thanks for this content. I would like to ask that whether adoptive parents should tell their children about their adoption or not. Will this harm their relation.

By Judith Bell on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 9:17 am.

Some background..We adopted my neices baby at 18 months.  HE is now 5yrs old.  WE are Mom and Dad. We have used language and read books, but have nevered discussed his being adopted. IT is an open adoption, she visits with him at least once a month. A young girl visiting asked who his Dad was, cause “he did not look like us”(he is 1/2 black american) and wanted to know is he adopted?  All this was said in front of him. I replied that was his Dad with us. but it was still awkward. My son looked uncomfortable/confused, I tried to steer the conversation away from the question with some success. I asked him later if he enjoyed himself and did he have any questions about the day, and he did not.  Was there something else i could have said or done?  I know this will happen again since we live in a small community.

By magpie211 on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 1:42 pm.

Once a child is developmentally able to comprehend that being adopted also means having been relinquished, it seems there is nothing one can really say to make this ok. Sadness/grief is inevitable and perhaps even the kind of grief for which there is no closure.
One can say your birth mom cared/loved you enough to make a plan for you so you would have a family that was able to care for/love you, etc but that still seems inadequate ie your birth mom cared/loved you so much she gave you up. As much as we can provide a kind and thoughtful explanation about the whys of having been given up, no words really seem adequate to me. Perhaps I am still grieving on behalf of my (adopted) daughter. She seems ok with my explanations thus far, just wish there was something more I could say (and I suspect as she gets older, the why will continue to surface more intensely or at least be pondered quietly). Any thoughts about this in terms of language for ongoing discussions?

Second daughter is an official tween now! Hence, she has started to mention wanting to find/see her birth mother some time soon before she (birthmom) dies hence the opportunity will be lost forever. First off, I dont even know that we can find the birthmother in the other country (but I had told her we wld try when she was old enough if that is something she wants to do) . Second, I dont think 9 yrs old is old enough to process all the complex feelings that will surely arise if we find (or even search for) her birthmother. Birthmother is young so I doubt she will be dying any time soon (but of course cannot guarantee this to my daughter). I have explained this concept to my daughter ie I would like for her to be old enough to emotionally handle all that may come with this process. But this seems to fall on deaf ears. Likely because she has no idea what those emotions are/will be since currently it is just the (9 yr old’s)  idealized vision/version/wish that she keeps in her head. From the little I do know, the outcome is likely to be very disappointing for my daughter if we do in fact find her birthmother. At the same time, I will feel very badly/guilty if we wait until she is a young adult and then learn the birthmother in fact has died/moved/vanished or whatever. And wonder if my daughter will harbor lots of resentment towards me about this. So complicated. Sigh.
Could you offer some age apporpriate talking points I might use with my daughter to explain why we need to wait until she is older to try to find the birthmother? Also, is there a particular age that is recommended for a developmentally normal child/young adult to engage in this process? Lately I have heard that there are kids finding their birthparents via the internet without their adoptive parents knowledge. EEK! I dont want my daughter to have to go underground with this, dealing with it alone via secret internet search. Would you please advise?
Thx so much!

By mp on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 1:46 pm.

Racism and Adoption
Hi, I’m an adoptive parent and I have a question about speaking to my child about his birthparents. Both the birthmother and birthfather come from a challenging history - the bm was raised in the foster care system, the bf’s parents were crack addicts. They have difficult lives and as a product of that, their/my son was put up for adoption. They live in another city, and we do not have direct contact albeit I keep contact with a family member.

Although I am raising my child to be racial aware and will have to explain as he gets older that I as a white person, have privileges, while he as a Black person, is/will be a target of institutionalized racism, how do I developmentally teach him that his bparents’ situation was a direct result of racism and their lack of options as well as one part their poor choices, while at the same time raising him not to be a victim in his own story and that he has choices? And at the same time helping him have empathy for these two young people who created him?

By Rachel Dangermond on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 2:06 pm.

Webcast Question: How do you discuss adoption with your child when you don’t have all the pieces to puzzle? 

We don’t have any information on our child’s birthparents. And, we have very little information from the time she was placed in an orphanage as an infant.

We have been very open with our 6-year-old daughter about how we became a family through adoption. However, I’m uncertain how to handle probing questions as she gets older.

By STLNC on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 2:10 pm.

What are some books and other resources for adopted preschoolers?

By carolinet on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 3:14 pm.

I’d like some advice on how to tell an internationally adopted 10 year old that her birth family said quite adamantly that they will not recognize her and do not want any contact with her because of a culturally unacceptable pregnancy (the birthmother was not married at the time.)

By LDL on Monday, October 07, 2013 at 3:25 pm.

Carolinet: Check out “ABC, Adoption & Me—a multicultural Picture Book for Adoptive Families”

By Gayle.Swift on Friday, October 11, 2013 at 5:09 pm.

Would love if you could chat a bit about explaining to children of varying ages what it means to be in a family with same sex parents. We do not have any children yet, however, I believe our time is coming close and the age of the children could range from an infant to 10 years old. I do not worry about chatting with the infant as they will grow up with us, but they will have questions about how or why we are different (2 moms) than a mom and a dad and they will need ways to explain this to their friends at school, any family members they may still be in contact with as well as accept it themselves. I am wondering if you are familiar with some common questions or concerns of children who are adopted to same sex families and if you could expand on some varying approaches.

By cind_w on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 2:03 pm.

It’s really important to both my husband & I to be honest with our son about his adoption. When do you recommend those conversations start? Also, he has 2 biological brothers that his bio mom does not have custody of. At what age do we let him know about them? Our adoption is semi open where we send pictures & information via the Internet but that’s it. I’m not comfortable with him meeting or speaking to them until he’s older due their lifestyle choices.
We plan to adopt again in a couple of years so he would see us go through the process with his younger sibling. Would that be a good time to wait & address it then? He’d be 3 or so if timing works out like we hope.

By bc133 on Wednesday, October 16, 2013 at 2:25 pm.
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