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Sharing difficult details

Hi all - it’s been quite a few years since I’ve posted. Late last week, I received an email from Adoptive Families entitled “The Whole Truth: Sharing Difficult Details with your Child”, and the timing was perfect for me. However, I’m looking for some more detailed advice, and would love to connect with any AP’s in a similar situation.

We have a pretty great open adoption with our almost 7 yo daughter’s birth family (including her older siblings), though it’s long distance, and primarily through her grandmother, with whom they all live. She’s starting to ask some pointed questions about why she was adopted, and she’s so smart I’m having a harder and harder time answering them. I’m a firm believer of telling the “whole truth”, but struggling with the level of detail .. if any ...  I should give to a child of almost 7. Her story includes substance abuse, jail, and other challenges. Maybe I don’t tell her any of this, and let her read the letters from her birth parents? (Which are awesome and sweet, but will probably lead to more questions, especially due to changes in her birth family’s situation, and I don’t want to put her birth father and grandmother in an uncomfortable position and have to answer difficult questions at this time.)

Anyone else in a similar situation?


Personally - I feel that 7 is too young to give her this much detail.  Some questions to ask yourself if you would provide the details: 

What would she do with this information?
Would she know what all of this means?
Would she treat or think different of her birth parents and how would that change her?

Kids at the age of 7 will more than likely not know how to process it, could potentially share sensitive information with a classmate who may/may not keep it private, and may not understand all of those details. 

Definitely keep the information simple that you tell your daughter for now.  Remind her how much she is loved by everyone (you and the birth parents.

Posted by kgast on Feb 26, 2018 at 8:43pm

Currently we have been telling our 7 year that the reason he was placed was because his birth mother was/is sick.  Addiction is definitely an illness. As we have visits with his birth father, I haven’t answered many questions about that side of things as I feel it is his job to say.

I was VERY surprised last week when we were talking about his birth family and he said that his birth mom was in jail.  My response was that to the best of my knowledge she currently wasn’t in jail, but I didn’t know for sure.  I am sure that he got that information from his brother as my husband and I are very careful what we say about this birth family around him.  So that goes to show that information may be obtained in other ways.

I always feel is better to honestly answer questions in the most age appropriate way.  It is possible to talk about these things without it being adult and heavy.  Bounce ideas off of others and see how it sounds.

Posted by justaminion on Feb 26, 2018 at 8:46pm

there is a book that might help. Telling the truth to your adopted or foster child

She may be wondering why birth family kept sibs but mot her. I don’t know the answer but grandparents may not have had resources or been older whatever. You could help her with that.

You could say something like your birth mother couldn’t take care of any of her children. Some went to your birth grandparents but they couldn’t take you because (fill in). Your birth mom was unable to do what she needed to do in order to be a parent. She chose (if she did) us because she (fill in blanks). I hope and pray (if your family prays) she gets better one day but you are adopted and staying with us.

Your birth parents do love you (if they do) but couldn’t take care of you at your siblings.

Posted by Regina on Feb 26, 2018 at 11:45pm

I highly recommend the book"Telling the Truth” which Regina mentioned.  One thing that was helpful was the examples of conversations that begin with the young child and then age-appropriate details are “grafted on” as the child grows. 

We use the phrase “grown-up problems”.  I have told my kids that whenever a child does not live with birth parents it is always because of grown-up problems, and that grown up problems are more complicated than they seem.  I have used the example of a few of their friends with divorced parents; they live with mom full-time, although dad is around.  I think it was helpful for my oldest, because it is not just about adoption. 

We also talk about poor choices.  Yes, addiction is a disease, but it is a disease that people have to choose to address, or they die from it; the same way a diabetic has to choose to modify his/her diet, take insulin and change his/her lifestyle in other ways.  The disease model can be confusing to kids, because kids think “why can’t the doctor fix it?”  We all know the reality is more complex, but kids are concrete thinkers.  More importantly, your kids may start to think, “my birth parents had this problem and couldn’t get better, the same thing is going to happen to me.” 

We recently had to have a difficult conversation with our oldest, age 8, and he asked a lot of tough questions.  I answered what I could, told him I didn’t know when I didn’t have an answer, and asked him what he thought.  I will say that it is important to be as truthful as possible, because in the absence of truth your kids will make something up.  At one point our oldest was convinced birth mom was dead (she isn’t, we just have a semi-open adoption).

Posted by jszmom on Mar 01, 2018 at 4:20pm

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