1. Show them where they’re from.
If your child was adopted from out of state, take a vacation to visit where they’re from! Go on a road trip and point out landmarks (i.e. “That’s where we met your birth family for the first time,” or, “That’s the hospital you were born in!”) If it was an international adoption, teach your child about their heritage. Take a cooking class or learn a new language. Plan a trip to go visit their country of origin. It will mean a lot to have a parent that is proactive about investing in and learning about their roots.
2. Share pictures and artifacts, if you have them.
There is nothing as unforgettable for an adoptee as seeing someone that looks like them. If you have a picture of your child’s biological family, don’t keep it to yourself! Share those special memories with your child, as it’s appropriate. Give them a face to put with their birth parents’ identities.
Do you have a teddy bear from your child’s birth mom, or a hand-written letter? Perhaps you were given a family heirloom to pass along at the right time. These items are called artifacts. They are pieces of your child’s history that they can have and hold.
3. Share why you love your roots.
Seeing you love where you’re from will rub off on your kids, even if your biological roots aren’t the same. Lead by example. My dad is from Batesville, Arkansas. Every time we went to visit his home town, we heard story after story about his childhood there, what the football team was like, where he got his first ticket, which house his best friend lived in. My mom, on the other hand, was a military kid and moved around a lot. Her favorite place was Anchorage, Alaska. I still want to go there and see where my mom saw her first wild moose! My parents’ roots were important to me because they were my parents, biological or not. It taught me to love where I am from, regardless of if I found my blood relatives or not.
4. Don’t make judgments on their biological families for them.
Inform your child of the facts as they ask for them and as it’s appropriate for their age, but do your best to keep your judgments to yourself. Your child might want to meet their biological family someday, and first impressions mean a lot. Let your child make their first character judgment for himself, without being biased from stories of old.
5. Answer the question: Was I loved?
The answer to this question is always yes. Your adopted child is loved and will always be loved. Many adoptees have attachment problems because of the feeling of abandonment that comes with adoption. Reaffirm your love for them and reaffirm their birth parents’ love for them. Use phrases like: “Your mom and dad loved you so much that they chose a better life for you than what they could offer at the time,” or “Your mom and dad were in a bad place back then, but they loved you fiercely and chose a better future for you.” Love is the most important ingredient in adoption, and it’s the most important ingredient in helping children form an identity.