Talking with Kids About Adoption

Toddlers and Preschoolers (1- to 4-year-olds)

Preschoolers are beginner thinkers, and their thinking is very literal. They do not have the mental capacity for logical reasoning. Egocentric, they truly believe the world revolves around them and their needs. This is the time to start the adoption story. Kids usually love their adoption story, as they are the center of attention, and it tells how they came into your family. The meaning of adoption does not really sink in at this age.

The basic adoption story should tell your child the following:

  • He was born the same way as everybody else in the world.
  • He grew inside another woman, but that woman wasn't ready or able to be a mother to any baby at that time.
  • You wanted to be a parent very much.
  • You adopted him and he will be your child forever.

Don't forget to include that the moment of his birth, just as the moment of his adoption, was an awesome event. In that, he will hear your joy and excitement over welcoming him into the world and your family.

The core task in the life of the adoptive family is the telling and retelling of the adoption story. Kids need repetition to understand new and complicated concepts. Studies show that parents overestimate their children's understanding of what they've been told about adoption and underestimate the need for ongoing dialogue. Don't expect your child to "get it" after one or two discussions. Talking about adoption is a lifelong process.

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