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Adoption Blog: Melting Pot Family

Would You Tell Another Adoptive Parent She Should Start Talking with Her Child About Adoption?



I met a young woman recently. She works in the service industry and we got to chatting while she applied her craft. My adopted seven-year-old was nearby, and the woman shared that she adopted her now five-year-old son when she was 17. I asked how that came to be, as that is not a common path. She explained a bit of the background, which includes many complicating factors that are her story to share.

I asked if her son knew he was adopted. She said, “No. He only knows I am his mom and he is happy.”

My daughter has known she was adopted and has another set of parents since she was a baby. I knew I was pushing this conversation beyond normal boundaries. But I thought this was too important to not say anything.

I took a deep breath, then gently shared my thoughts about why I believe each adopted child should know his or her story from the beginning. I heard all the fear and doubt that come with embracing this type of vulnerability in her questions back to me.

“How do I tell him? He won’t understand; won’t it just be too confusing for him?”

I told her there are books she could use to start the conversation and explain this different way of building a family, or that she could talk to any folks she knows who were adopted. I told her she could practice by herself first and that children are pretty forgiving if you don’t find just the right words. "Kids generally take cues from your tone and reaction," I said, "So, if you present it as something you are comfortable talking about, he will likely follow your lead."

“What if he doesn’t want to call me Mom anymore? I love him so much; that would break my heart. I have sacrificed so much for him—he is my world.”

My heart ached for her as I listened. But I replied, “Clearly, you love your son and he loves you. Telling him his story won’t change that. If he hears about his truth from someone else, though, that will likely cause more of a break in trust.”

I also shared that my daughter is comfortable with having two moms, her Ethiopian mom and me, whom she calls Mama. And how much she appreciates that we can talk about her story.

“What if he wants to see his Mom? She is not in a good place and isn’t likely to be a good influence.”

I told her what I fully believe, “You are his mom and need to figure what is right for him at each age. You can and likely should get help from professionals. You don’t have to open that door immediately just because you told him about her.”

She hugged me tightly as I left and thanked me profusely. “I didn’t even know how to start to think about something so huge,” she said, “And I have been struggling with what was the right thing to do.”

I directed her to this community and all it has to offer for these types of complex decisions. I hope she and her son find the answers and support they both deserve.


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10 Comments

I’ve been in a similar situation with a Caucasian adoptive mom and an obviously bi-racial daughter.  The girl was 5 years-old and the mom was sure her daughter was oblivious of her adoption. 
I always tried to talk about our adoption and how open we were and hoped that it would “click” with her. 
I saw her a few years later and she still hadn’t had “the talk.”  It broke my heart.  So I think it’s great that you were so bold and direct.  You’ve done as much as you can.

By Danielle Pennel on Monday, November 16, 2015 at 1:41 pm.

Yes, you should go for it. You should always try to guide other Adoptive Parents to tell their child about adoption before they hear about it from other sources. The way a parent can make the child understand about adoption, no one else can do that in a better way.  Sometimes, parents don’t understand how to talk about adoption. Here are some beneficial tips for adoptive parents:

http://www.provplace.org/tips-parents-talk-child-adoption/

By Judith Bell on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 at 5:14 am.

I had a similar situation with someone at work.  He had shared many stories about his young kids.  One day shared that his oldest was actually his stepdaughter.  He was in the process of legally adopting her, but his wife did not want to tell the daughter, who had never met bio-dad.  My advice was to be open and truthful with their daughter, especially in a situation where so many other family members knew the truth already.  Sooner or later, this child was going to find out, better she find out sooner from her parents than later from someone else.

By jszmom on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 5:56 am.

Annab,
There are several possible explanations; a-mom might have been an emancipated minor, it might have been a kinship situation where she became de facto mom, who knows?  As the OP says, that is someone else’s story to tell.  What bothers me is that your response is dismissive and negative.

The post is about whether. as an adoptive parent, it is okay to give unsolicited advice to another adoptive family on this issue, and if so, how do you broach the subject?

By jszmom on Wednesday, November 18, 2015 at 8:54 am.

Wow. There are so many emotions and thoughts that get caught up in issue. Why?! It’s a heavy and important decision, right?

I think, “Bravo,” for having the discussion. We have been fortunate that due to their age our older children have always known they were adopted. Our youngest has naturally known because the other children talk about it.

In our situation I can definitely say that I’m glad our children have always understood that they were adopted. It affords them and us the platform for working through their thoughts and emotions. Children adopted from foster care are usually coping with other traumatic issues - I can only imagine how much more things would be compounded if I told my teen that he was adopted for the first time.

Again, we all know that parenting is hard. There is no manual or brochure. I have to celebrate the DISCUSSION in this situation. It’s the nonjudgmental BUT honest discussions that help us figure out if we are on the right path to helping our kiddos.

By darren_fink on Tuesday, December 01, 2015 at 10:40 pm.

Yes, we agree that we should do it. We should encourage adoptive parents to tell their child that he/she is adopted. It’s better to tell the child yourself that he/she was adopted rather than they come to know about it from others. Adoptive parents should begin explaining about adoption when the child is still young. It would help them to grasp their adoption story well and understand it better once they will mature.

By Adopthelp on Friday, December 04, 2015 at 6:01 am.

Talking with the child about adoption is quite risky; as they need enough time for mentally strong for dealing with such issues. As a parent, I understand the importance of emotion of my child and therefore, I would like to spend enough time with them to skip separation anxiety. At a certain age, we should start this kind of conversation with our kids and try to make them convince about the reality. Child Care

By kevinoliver on Tuesday, December 27, 2016 at 6:24 am.

My daughter knows that she is adopted. But is asking more question and i have no idea how to answer tjem.

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Meet the Author

Ellenore Angelidis

Ellenore Angelidis



I have recently adopted or am adopting from...
Ethiopia

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