Until one becomes immersed in the culture of adoption, appropriate adoption language does not always come naturally. This is especially true for children, although we adults are known to make a few slips ourselves. Using the word “place” rather than “give up” is a prime example. But today we’re going to talk about “real.” Usually for adults all it takes is a moment of education to learn that all parents are real—adoptive and biological. But children might not so easily understand the concept. Following are a few analogies that might help children better understand why using the word “real” when referring to birth families might not be appropriate:
- Apples: This is especially effective if your child is used to eating just red apples. Next trip to the grocery story, pick up your normal bag of red apples, but also purchase one Granny Smith green apple. Place several apples, including the green one, in a bowl on the table. As you sit with your child at the table, show them the green apple. Talk about how it’s different from the other apples, but it’s still a real apple. As you cut into the apples, let your child taste them and point out that the green apple even tastes different, but it’s still a real apple. The analogy is clear and could be just the thing to trigger understanding in your child of what “real” means.
- Flowers: Similar to the apple analogy, buy a bouquet of red roses and then one white daisy. Put the daisy in the bouquet of flowers and invite your child to talk about the differences. Roses smell sweet; daisies don’t have much of a smell. The colors are different, as are the shapes. But the daisy is still a real flower. This analogy works really well when you substitute a cluster flower for the daisy. If it’s the right season, consider adding a stem of lilacs to the bouquet of roses.
- Potatoes: This is a fun analogy for the kids! Have a potato dinner (but add in a little salad or meat or anything else because this is potato overload). Serve those funny-shaped hash brown potatoes from a fast food place, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, French fries, potatoes au gratin and cubed, roasted potatoes. Talk with your kids about the different textures, tastes and looks of each variation. Note over and over again how each of these, though different, is a real potato.
Think about the things your child plays with and those things your child most related to. Animals, toys, and movies work as well as those items listed above. Remember to look for teaching opportunities in everyday life. You may not have to create the teaching opportunity as listed in the analogies above, but may be able to capture a moment and have the same effect. Remember, also, to reinforce what your child has learned about “real” on a regular basis after the original learning has taken place. An added benefit is that children love to share what they learn. You can be sure your child will talk with their friends about “real,” and before we know it, even those who may never be touched by adoption will understand the true meaning!