Legal Adoption: Helping Children Learn Their Story

Anyone who’s ever been through the adoption process knows it can be a very delicate balance when it comes to helping your child understand their unique story. Kelli DiDomenico of The Children’s Workshop offered the following suggestions to successfully navigating through that journey.

As children grow up they learn through the answers to their abundant curiosities and questions. When they attend school these moments increase as they discover more differences in their peers, their families and in themselves.

Families exist in all shapes and sizes. It is important to think ahead, however, when explaining the answers to your child’s questions. Sometimes the best approach is to state things simply and explain more as their brains develop.

When it comes to adopted children, the story becomes much more complex – but the approach does not need to be more complicated. If it has been determined that children will learn about their birth parents and the process of being adopted there are a few key elements to keep in mind as the child learns to understand over time:

  • It is very important to always speak positively about your child’s story. The initial understanding of a concept happens with the element of emotion. The child’s reaction to what you say will mold the rest of the learning process.
  • Speak calmly and as simply as possible to convey the meaning of being adopted.
  • As a child gets older, parts of the equation become less about how and more about why. This is where the balance comes in. It is important to explain the reason behind the adoption but again, without speaking negatively of the situation surrounding it, if that is the case.
  • If the adoption has negotiations of visitation or involvement of the birth parents this would be an important time to explain the significance of the arrangement and how it may differ from peers.
  • If children begin to fantasize about their birth parents, be sure to correct them appropriately. If a child embellishes the stories you have expressed, make sure they are aware how important their story is when it is told truthfully. As children age, details of process of their unique adoption can be added based on their maturity.
  • Always remember that children need to understand that their differences are just as special as their similarities. If they question why they are different than you explain that every child is different in some way, just like they are certainly like you in some way. It is important that children understand how special they are.

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