As someone with a daughter who is adopted and who has a lifelong love of adopting pets, this subject hits very close to home for me and for many families. My daughter has grown up around rescued animals and has come to understand the meaning of compassion in part because of this and by volunteering at a local shelter. She relates to them in a special way, and adopting a pet or pets can stimulate excellent discussion in your home about the process and essence of adoption as it may relate to your family.
Adopted children are quite often naturally inquisitive about what adoption actually means to them and why they were adopted. When a family decides to adopt a pet, a child may want to know why a pet needs a home in the first place. In other words, how did they come to live in a shelter? What they may really be wondering, however, is why they themselves came to need an adoptive home. As a parent, you can use the opportunity to open up a dialogue about why your child may have been placed for adoption by his or her birth parents. Be open and honest, but keep it age appropriate, especially if the circumstances of the adoption are of a sensitive nature.
Adopting a pet may also raise questions about how you choose an animal to adopt. There are as many different ways to approach this issue as there are several multi-faceted answers. It can be helpful to explain that sometimes pets choose you as a family just as much as you choose them. Letting the child know that the pet is very special can serve the dual purpose of sending the message to your son or daughter that they are very special, too.
Perhaps the most important thing for a child to understand about the adoption process as a whole is that your love and care for the pet is going to be unconditional and for life, just as being your children’s mom or dad means you will love and support them no matter what. This lets them know that all beings have intrinsic dignity and are worthy of love and respect, thereby instilling the concept and actions of compassion in him or her for a lifetime.