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” What do I tell my adopted child … and when do I do it?”

Q: ”  I am mother to a gorgeous 4½ year-old girl who is adopted. We were privileged enough to have her from birth. It is a same race adoption and she looks remarkably like my husband and I, so right now she doesn’t know that she is not biologically our child. But I feel we are getting to the right age to start introducing the ‘adoption story’ to her so that it becomes an accepted part of who she is. I never want the fact that she is adopted to be a big deal. I always want to be as open and honest as I can with her about her adoption. And one day I hope she will choose to meet her ‘tummy-mummy’… but back to the present… Recently she made a comment regarding a pregnant woman, so the time is probably right to introduce her to adoption. But I have no idea where to start and I want to do it correctly and age appropriately. Are there any other mums (or dads) out there who have adopted children and have navigated this journey successfully (or unsuccessfully – I can learn from other’s mistakes) that wouldn’t mind talking to me? Can you recommend any books my daughter can read that explain adoption in a story for kids?”


A: ” I haven’t adopted a child, but I am an adopted child 🙂 I just wanted to say that I have always known that I am adopted and don’t even remember being told. It was never a big deal. I think this is the perfect time for you to tell her and think you know her best, so you must trust your gut instinct and know she will understand.”

” I was adopted as a baby and my parents told me how exciting it was, when they went to fetch me from a Catholic Home. My mum described how exciting it was, when the nun came down the stairs carrying me wrapped in a big blanket and how they unwrapped the blanket to see me and how tiny I was. I thought that was how parents got their babies and it was only a few years later that it dawned on me that I was adopted. I felt very special and I think it was the way my parents told me and I could see the happiness and excitement on their faces!”

” A simplified version would just be to explain that all families are different. Some families have a mom and a dad, some have two moms or two dads, some only one parent, some people make a baby together (become pregnant) and some families are blessed with their babies in other ways and raise the children of others.”

I’m a birth mother. I have been blessed with the connection to both my son and his parents. They informed both their children (our son and a beautiful daughter,) from a very early age using the adoptive parent books to explain. What transpired is a beautiful story of a son who has his parents, but also the capacity to include his birth mum in his life too. All of it was given with love from his adoptive parents. I am blessed and very appreciative of the grounding they gave our son. Your daughter will be forever grateful. What you’ve done is so special. And I thank you on behalf of all birth mums.”

” I gave my son up for adoption, when he was 4/5 months old. The adoptive parents and I decided to tell him from the time he could understand (about 6/7) the basics. This book helped: The Tummy Mummy…/dp/0974744301. For your daughter sake, be as honest and transparent as you possibly can, their identities are being formed at this stage. My child knows that I am his Mother, and that the lady that adopted him is his Mommy. (Same with father and Daddy) And told him that I, as the Mother carried him in her tummy, and cared enough to bring him into the world, I knew that, at that time that I couldn’t give him the life he deserved. I loved him so much, that it was more important to
make sure he was ok, no matter how it hurt, how sad it was for me – that it was more important to give him a mommy and a daddy that would love him as much as I loved him. And, in fact, he was so lucky, because he had double the amount of love than the other kids. Finding out so young is a blessing. Luckily, ours’ was an open adoption. My son is now 28 – he has two half brothers, his adoptive family’s brothers – and a big village. They all know each other and are friends. I have always been able to see him and we have a special relationship. If it’s a closed adoption, as she gets older, always be open to the fact, that should she want to track them down -‘that’s also ok, and that no matter what – As her Mommy, you always behind her 100 %. I hope this helps in some small way. Good luck with your journey.”

” Jean Luyt and the FB group Passionate about Adoption offer a broad spectrum of advice. Our adopted daughter is turning 4 in a few weeks. Since she is a different race, she started noticing she was different and we have been telling her story in an age- appropriate way since she was about 2. Don’t stress if she muddles it up. Ours talks about being in my tummy, in her brother’s tummy, her brother in her’s etc. We just gently tell her the simple truth and then remind her why she has a perfect place in our family, even though it is sad that she can’t live with her bio family. There are some lovely books to read to her.”

” My husband adopted my biological son. We had to see a child psychologist as part of the process. My son was 4 when I was told to explain it to him. I felt it was too young, but in hindsight, it was the right time. I would suggest a therapist to help with the process.”

” Our daughter is adopted and from a very young age, we told her story as her night time story. She has grown up with this knowledge and has absolutely no issues about being adopted. We started the story as her own special magical story and it evolved from there, and as she got older the story became more factual and she started to ask questions which we answered for her.”

” From someone that is is adopted and told from a very young age. Don’t hold back. Kids understand more than we realise. Growing up was very normal for me be adopted. I went around telling people I’m an adopted daughter even though I, too, looked similar to my adoptive parents. My daughter in fact has exactly the same colour hair as my mother.”

” There’s a lovely book called ‘A Blessing From Above.’ It illustrates the idea beautifully for the child. Tell her that other babies grew in their mommies tummies, but she is so special because she grew in your heart.”

” We love the book “Hattie Peck” by Emma Levey. It has an adoption theme, so might be one to add to the shelf.”

” I cannot remember when my parents told me. All I know is that I’ve always known that I was adopted, so they must have told me from the start. I have also explained to my children that I am adopted and they have taken it extremely well.”

” The Passionate About Adoption FB Page is very helpful when navigating all things adoption. There are many of us who can share our stories and struggles there, as well as hearing perspectives from adoptive parents, birth parents, and adoptees.
My son has been with me since he was 4 months, his ‘story’ has been part of our narrative from the start. Share information with your daughter at an age-appropriate level and allow the story to develop with her, be as honest as you can when answering her questions, letting her know the joys and the struggles of your journey and how precious she is to all involved. I have found it incredibly helpful that our friendship circle happens to have a number of families made through adoption, this seems to have made our ‘different-ness’ seem normal and natural. Perhaps consider joining an adoption group that does social activities, offers support, and ‘normalises’ adoption.”

” I’m adopted and I’ve always “known”. My mom used to read a book called Mr Fairweather And His Family, to me and my sister. (She is also adopted but not my biological sibling). My mom changed the names in the book to our names and our pets etc. It was never a big reveal or now it’s time to tell the child. All my memories about being told were never a conversation. It was just part of who I was. I was teased in Sub A when I was in hostel when to some of the kids found out but my mom put a stop to it really quickly. I found my biological mom when I was pregnant with my first child. My biological Dad passed away so I never found out much about him. Being adopted has never been an issue for me. Only sometimes medical questions are difficult to answer but you work around it.”

” I can not recommend the Passionate about Adoption page, enough. Although most of the stories are cross race adoptions, just hearing how people tell their children their own stories is illuminating. There is also a lot of discussion around language and terminology to use which is very important. My children are adopted and we were advised to tell them from the very beginning – to practice using the language and telling them their story when they were babies. I began with my babies belly button and told her how it connected her to her birth mum and how her heart was connected to mine. That was my way in. I use to tell them the story of the day they arrived a lot. They still, as teenagers, find their beginning story deeply interesting and as they are older I add more complex thoughts and emotions. But adopted was a word they knew before they fully understood what it meant. PS – it is essential for her to know she is adopted ASAP if people on her world already know she is. She has to hear it from you first.”

” The right age is as soon as possible. Tell her right now. Tell her she was chosen, she was longed for. That she grew not under your heart, but in it. As she grows, your words will adapt to suit her age. But do not hesitate to continue telling her the story of you and her. It is her narrative. I am adopted: My narrative started with the words my parents spoke to me about my journey to them. I was tiny when I first heard. They never stopped telling the story, and I never stopped wanting to hear it again. It was our family Iliad. It made me feel special rather than different. It made me feel wanted and important. There were no corners we did not excavate together. No secrets. No lies. In fact, a more honest and open family than most. Don’t wait. Don’t hide the truth.”

” My sister told my nephew that he grew in a young ladies tummy but was also growing in her heart and the young girl couldn’t take care of him but knew that my sister could because her heart was so full of love for him so she shared him with my sister to take care of and love and treasure as her own.”

I’m adopted and I don’t ever remember being told I was I just always knew. From very young around 3 I would go around telling people that I was special because my mom and dad had specially chosen me and I knew I hadn’t been in my moms tummy but someone else’s. My parents never made a big deal of it and luckily it has never been an issue for me. It’s so nice to know from a young age before it becomes an issue.”

” I’m adopted and I don’t ever remember being told I was I just always knew. From very young around 3 I would go around telling people that I was special because my mom and dad had specially chosen me and I knew I hadn’t been in my mom’s tummy but someone else’s. My parents never made a big deal of it and luckily it has never been an issue for me. It’s so nice to know from a young age before it becomes an issue.”

” I think I was around 5 years-old when my parents told me. They let me know that I was hand-picked, especially for them, and that I had made their life complete. Something like that … it was a long time ago. I have always been very proud of the fact that I was adopted and couldn’t have been given better parents. Be open, its the best way.”

” This also lies ahead for us (3 and almost 2) and I have now made notes of books, pages etc. Best advice from our very wise adoption worker, was to not get too complicated too soon. Don’t make a big “sit down” of it. Have your story and answer ready for the first time she asks if she was in your tummy – then do the tummy mummy / heart mummy story. Have her story of how glad you were to get her ready when she asks. Read books with these storylines. Let her hear the word “adoption” so it becomes an ordinary word. Be honest but don’t make things too complicated /detailed or feel like you have to give all background details right now. My son and my daughter’s stories differ like night and day and we’ll have to be very careful in what we tell one because then the other will also want to know. We have a childrens’ psychologist in our area which we have decided to walk this road with – so if our kids stump us with a question – we’ll be honest in not being sure how to answer but will get back to them with an answer after chatting to her.”

” We adopted our son and we were very open about it as soon as he could understand. However, when he started the teenage years he had huge issues with his what he felt was abandonment by his biological mother. it has been a difficult journey but he has come to an acceptance after much counseling, which is important. Don’t disregard the fact that no matter how much you love and nurture them at some stage they will want to know why their biological parents did what they did. Be prepared for it and no matter how awful teenagers can be just love them, according to the psychologist we saw if you don’t tell them and they find out it’s disastrous.”

I suggest writing her story in a photo book. Let’s other family members have a copy too and write it in simple language with appropriate photos. This way she will hear a consistent story. Include photos of her biological parents if you have any. Talk to her teacher about sharing it at school so there are no secrets. I also suggest doing so as soon as possible.”

I gave my baby girl away 32 years ago…… It makes my heart very glad to hear how many happy parents there are out there, because of a precious gift they received from someone, whose life and heart was in a million pieces at the time.”

” My adopted son’s mother has been in his life on and off, whenever she was able to and clean from drugs. Not always easy, but he has always known the difference between adopted and biological. Never an issue. I think the sooner you tell her the easier it is. Keep it simple to start off with.”

I’m adopted, have always known and was made to feel very special about that. Don’t underestimate the love she has for you – her mummy – and the bonds you have already made. You and your home is where she belongs and feels safe, so don’t make a big deal of it, you have plenty of time. At her age now she won’t yearn or be curious about someone she doesn’t know and maybe never will, because no, not everyone wants to know or meet their biological parents – it’s completely individual.”

” We have 2 adopted children . The only advice I can give u is never never lie. If you start of with a lie, it will only grow harder to tell her the truth. Start off simple …. I am sure you have your story but we used mommy and daddy bear were walking in the woods one day and come across baby squirrel…. and so it goes . So many families today are made up of single parents , 2 moms or 2 dads so adoption is not a swear word, or a sickness . Embrace your story and make it hers. We have so many friends with adopted children and I am sure u will find this will happen as she grows up.”

” Adopted my girl from birth. We started telling her from before she could understand a word of what we were saying, so it has always just been normal. I have some awesome books I can recommend to share with her, to start introducing her to the idea that she has a tummy mummy and birth dad. Make it a natural thing and what a blessing for all of you. Adopted kids are no different to biological ones – no one knows how their kids are going to turn out – we all just do our best and honesty always is the best policy. I would be very willingly and happy to chat to you should you wish to to give you some insight into some of the questions she may have and how to answer them. Most important is to ensure they grow up having self worth, knowing their value and that they are so deeply loved.”

” We were blessed to adopt 2 beautiful boys. Both from birth. Also of same race. From the age of about 2 years old we started mentioning the word “adopted” so it wouldn’t be foreign to them. They used to go around saying they were “doctors”
We read them a wonderful book by Jamie Lee Curtis – Tell me again about the night I was born. This was their special book- their special story. We told them that they were born from our hearts and not my tummy. Their biological mother carried them in her tummy. As they got older we would mention the fact that they were adopted and then wait for any questions from them. Answered directly and factually to what they asked- nothing more, nothing less and often they didn’t have any questions. They seem very content with the fact that they are adopted. It’s not a big deal to them as we have always been very open about it and they have known from such a young age.”




1 Comment

  • Juliet Lubbe says:

    We were blessed to have our adopted daughter from birth. Even as a baby I told her the story of her adoption, so as she grew up – it was the norm! She has never not known. I read all the adoption books to her and created her own story too. She knows I am her heart Mummy and her daddy is her heart daddy (albeit that we are no longer together) and that she had a birth mummy and a birth daddy too. She has seen pictures of her both her birth mother and father and I have been 100% open with her with any questions she has had. There is a book called “20 Things an adopted child wished their adopted parents knew”
    Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with everything – it did give me insight into some things that I took and used to communicate as I thought was appropriate. One key thing was “Yes – its sad that you were given up for adoption” (even though in my case it was an awesome adoption process and the birth mother did it to give my daughter a better chance in life), and yes – Its sad that I was unable to have my own child – BUT what a blessing for us both as we were chosen for each other!
    I will support her 100% if, when she is older, she wants to try and meet either of her birth parents, but she knows they may not be open to meeting her. Adopted children want the truth – that is the best thing you can do for them. I have seen how some adopted children were not told until they were older and it completely shattered their entire existence as all of a sudden – they don’t feel that they belong anymore. I cant recommend highly enough how important it is to let them know from a very young age – even before they can possibly understand what adoption means. This way – it becomes normalised! Often, we forget my daughter is adopted and have a little giggle when we realise what we have done!! Good luck! 🙂

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