I read a lot about adoption. Blog posts, articles, books . . . if it’s about adoption, I read it. And I’ve noticed a theme when it comes to what adoptive parents wish other people knew about adoption. Again and again, I read things like “please tell your kids about adoption so I don’t have to do it.” Well, I will agree to disagree with those authors. As an adoptive mom, I am perfectly happy to teach your kids about adoption. There’s a lot a wish your child knew. I’ve watched my preteen daughter do this several times lately (both with peers and with younger children—when their parents were out of earshot). And, I have to say, she does it with more grace and honesty than I’ve seen many adults use in potentially tricky conversations.
I try to tread lightly in giving advice to other parents, because I know that we are all doing the best that we can with the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If you know that my family has been built through adoption, and you are asking what your child should know about it, the battle is already half won. You are aware and sensitive to the feelings of others. Here are the top three things that I think your child needs to know about adoption:
1. Honest questions are OK.
I am not scared of questions. My daughter is not scared of questions. We actually prefer honest questions to quizzical stares and hushed conversations that don’t include us. If you want to know, ask us. If we don’t want to tell you, we’ll let you know. But we’re not offended by genuine interest. Especially from kids.
2. Kindness matters.
Just be nice. Really. Don’t be scared of saying something wrong. Don’t make your kid nervous about saying something wrong. Kids who were adopted are kids first. They like to play, to be silly. Just like all kids. And they appreciate kindness when they see it. Go out of your way to be kind. Teach your child to be kind. Kindness goes a long way toward building a positive relationships and smoothing over any comments that might sound offensive in a different tone of voice.
3. We are more alike than different.
Please validate your child’s observations that people are different. Kids notice gender, body shape, skin color. They notice when people “match” and when they don’t. And that’s OK. Don’t dismiss their observations. Do let them know that even when someone seems different, they can still be friends. Encourage them to talk to and play with children who they think are “like” them—and those that they think are “different.” And model doing this in your own relationships. Then, have the conversation that even though someone seems different from you at first, there are lots of ways that you are the same.
How do you talk to your children about adoption? Do you prepare them for playdates with children who were adopted? What would you add?