Adoptive parents will inevitably find themselves in situations where they feel compelled to answer questions (or correct misinformation) about adoption. Finding the right words in these scenarios isn’t always easy. To help families deal with these instances as they arise, Deb Shrier, LICSW of Adoption Resources has answered three real life questions from adoptive parents.
Q: We have been telling our daughter her adoption story since she was an infant. As our social worker suggested, it gave us good practice for the day that she would start telling her story herself. Emma is now 4 years old and she changes the story around quite a bit. Should we correct her?
A: At this development stage, Emma is learning her own words for her story. She is also engaging in magical thinking. Consider how she is telling the story – is she calm, anxious, playful, or sad? Who is in her story? For example, if she mentions something about her birth mom, does she describe her as a princess or a neighbor down the block? You might consider making a photo book with pictures and words outlining her adoption story. Having more concrete details might help Emma tell her story with more consistency.
Q: My 8-year-old son and I just moved to another town. He is making a lot of new friends and they are all getting to know one another. Alec recently told his friend Brian that he is adopted. However, Brian did not grasp the concept and told his mother, “Alec is making things up.” Brian’s mom wasn’t sure how to respond and called me later for guidance about how to explain adoption to her son. Do you have any suggestions?
A: This is a great question; I’m impressed that the other mother thought to call you! As children become older and more independent, they will begin to share bits and pieces of their lives with other people. You might consider talking with Brian’s mom about books that have been helpful to you in explaining adoption to your son. There is a wonderful children’s book by Joanna Cole called How I Was Adopted that simplifies adoption, explaining that “some people are born into families and other people are adopted into families…”
Q: We just adopted an infant and have an open adoption with his birthmother. When I have mentioned this to friends and family, some of the responses I have received are surprising to me. Everyone seems to be so supportive of the adoption, but they think we will confuse our son by having his birth mom is in his life. How do we best explain open adoption to our friends and relatives?
A: Openness in adoption is not something that everyone understands, especially those who have not been through the adoption process. As your son’s primary caregiver, you are loving, responding, and taking care of your son’s needs day to day; he will see you as his mother. His birthmother also has a part in his life, and it is/will be different than yours. If you care to explain this to friends and family, it’s often useful to share that your son has grandmothers, aunts, and female cousins, but he won’t confuse them with your role. Your child will learn that these are all people who love him.
If you have your own questions about what it is like to be an adoptive parent, please don’t hesitate to reach out to Adoption Resources. To get in touch with one of our counselors, please call us at 800-533-4346 or fill out our contact form.