Adopted Children

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Parent Library

Most parents find responding to young children's questions about where they came from a bit tricky. It is not surprising that adoptive parents have particular worries about how best to answer them, but the sooner the children are told, the better. It would be less than helpful for a child to learn of his or her adoptive status from other children.

Questions and Answers

The meanings young children give to the facts of adoption may be a bit confused in the beginning. It is all right to indicate that it will get clearer later on. Threes and fours are unlikely to be concerned about the reasons their biological parents did not keep them and are not as likely as older children to ask for information about them. But questions will come up in the light of new experiences and increasing understanding. Like many other subjects, adoption is not one about which your child will gain a complete understanding in one brief chat; the topic will surely come up frequently throughout your youngster's years of growth and development.

Most specialists agree that straightforward, simple, and honest answers in response to the child's direct questions are the most appropriate. As with many of the other facts of life young children learn, it is best to deal with questions as they arise, to answer only what had been asked, and to try not to explain everything all at once. Otherwise you'll succeed only in confusing the child.

The "Chosen Child" Approach

Some parents have reacted to children's questions about adoption by emphasizing that they have been specially "chosen" by their adoptive parents. There are at least two problems with this chosen-child approach. One is that if the matter of choice and selection is emphasized too strongly, it may cause an overreaction by implying deep down that there is something tragic about the condition of being an adoptee and that being with one's natural parent is really best. There is no reason either to suggest or to accept these implications.

The other problem is what this approach says about children in the adoptee's family who were born into it. Are their parents supposed to feel "stuck" with what they got? All children, those adopted and those who can naturally, need to be reassured that they are wanted children. And that is where the emphasis should be -- on being wanted rather than specially selected or chosen.

Discussing the Natural Mother

If a child asks why she is not living with her natural mother, it is a good idea to give a simple and frank answer without casting any undesirable shadows on her natural mother's character or motives. The fact is most children stay with their biological mothers, but others are adopted, raised, and loved by other women. If you don't know why the mother did not keep the child, you can speculate on what some of the possible reasons might be, but be sure to reflect a sympathetic view of the possibilities. Refer to the child's biological mother as precisely that, or alternatively as her natural mother, without hesitation.

Coping with Teasing by Other Children

Sometimes adopted children are teased by others who may know little about the kind of care and affection adoptive parents provide. It may help them to know that many other kinds of children are called names for many reasons. It is important to help adopted children to know how to respond to such teasing and to learn to indicate that they are just as much wanted by their adoptive parents as the teasers are wanted by their natural ones.

Parent-Child Conflicts-Common to All Families

Sometimes parents feel especially insecure when their adopted children get angry with them. But they are not alone! All children get angry and even hate their parents sometimes, and it is well known that many children periodically wish they had other parents or would be adopted by the parents of a friend, who seem-at least from a distance-to be better parents than their own.

Credits: Lilian G. Katz

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