Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Explaining Adoption to Children.

One of my blogger friends had a great question for me.
When I was first entered the adoption world I had this same question and other people helped me get ideas.
I hope my thoughts can help someone like I was helped 11 years ago.

Becca's question is:
" How do you explain 'adoption' to young children with the simplicity for them to understand?"
This question came about for her while trying to explain adoption to primary children.

I am sure everyone approaches this differently....this is how the small adventure family does it.

Many people state that the reason a child was adopted was because their Birth Mother couldn't take care of them. I really really hate this explanation because it simply isn't true in most cases. It also paints the Birth Mother as "less than" or "weak". We like to explain it in a positive way that shows the Birth Family in the correct light and helps plant seeds of testimony of adoption as another way the Lord creates families. So when talking to a child (that is not one of my own children) we say..
"Heavenly Father creates families in special ways. Some mommies can't grow babies in their tummy because their baby factory doesn't work...it is broken. So Heavenly Father found a special woman to help get that baby to the right family." I then proceed to discuss it further if they have questions. But I keep it as simple as possible. Of course if the conversation is about a specific child who was adopted into a family then I use names rather than "child", "baby" or "woman". I hope this makes sense.

With our own children we start with this basic idea of my "baby factory" being broken because that is truly what it is....broken. We talk about how their Birth Mother was blessed with special feelings about what to do to help find the family Heavenly Father wanted them to be in. We refer to their Birth Mother as being Heavenly Father's "helper". Then as they grow we talk in less "child like" terms and have long talks about why and how they came to our family the way they did. We teach them how much we embrace how they came to our family and how the Lord guided their Birth Mothers and Birth Fathers. Brenley is now old enough to grasp much of the information and can see herself how special her story is.

I think it is so important to teach children the concept of adoption when they ask...if we don't teach them then they come up with their own ideas...some of them are pretty funny I must admit but it is still important to take opportunities to teach. Not too long ago I talked a little about this on my other blog. Feel free to take a peek.

This isn't a complete explanation of how we tell our children their story while they are still young.....but I hope it gives you some ideas.
Above all we want our children to understand & gain a testimony of the eternal nature of adoption.
I would love to hear how you tell children about adoption. :)

Oct. 7th
clarification: I am speaking about infant adoption here. Older child adoption would be told differently and children with abuse or neglect would also have a different story.
sorry for the confusion. :)


Anonymous said...

I'm not sure the stories behind the rest of your children, but were all of them adopted as infants?

Although I keep it very positive and tell other kids something similar to what you say to other kids, I feel like the story has to be drastically different when I talk directly to N'iel. Its not a positive story. He was adopted at nearly 4 yrs old. We were the last of many couples his birthparents tried to place with (they were hoping to place him with a gay couple so that he'd grow up gay...yeah...). The state was on the verge of taking him to foster care. so, on their part, I'm glad they did make the fantastic decision to place instead of put him in the system. They went through the effort of finding a family instead of fighting for a right they knew they wouldn't be able to keep.

Part of his story is that he was neglected to the point of abuse--WE were the ones who had to teach him just about every skill beyond what an 18 month old has (mind you, he was nearly 4!), potty train him, fix rotting teeth, etc--and although they love him, his birthparents were selfish and valued their time playing video games and smoking pot more than time spent with him.

N'iel, and possibly all older adopted children, only have memories of his birthparents through rose-colored glasses. We feel like if he grows up with just blissful memories of his previous life he'll wonder what in the world happened. We owe him the truth: His birth parents love him. They made a good choice to relinquish rights instead of put him through foster care--that shows their love!--but, they were very, very selfish people who couldn't handle the demands of raising a child. They were neglectful and didn't properly care for him. They did a lot of drugs and weren't thinking right most of the time. So they chose us and we adopted him so that he could have a brother and a sister to play with and so that we could love him to itty bitty little pieces and teach him everything he needs to know as he grows up.

How would YOU talk to an older child about past neglect/abuse? It has to be talked about, but I really don't want to vilify his birthparents, because I know he loves them, and I totally support that love. Maybe there's no easy way to walk around the topic of "sometimes people you love very much do bad things and it's not your fault."

SmallAdventures said...

It always breaks my heart to hear about neglect and abuse. I am so sorry for the terrible things you little one had to endure. What a blessing you are in his life!

I agree that the story has to be different when we are talking older child adoption or when children were abused. The truth has to be told....it is so important for the kdis to hear their whole story. I know in all of the classes I have taken as a foster parent they talk about how children need to know their whole story...even the yucky stuff by age 8. Other instructors have said age 12. We have made sure by age 8 our kids know the whole story. We don't have abuse in their history but we do have birth father issues in one adoption and other things.

I think it is a balancing act with how your present their adotpion story to them. You want them to know reality but you also don't want them to think they are bad because they came from people who made bad choices. I have never had to explain abuse to my children so I am not sure how I would do it for sure. I think I would tell them the whole of it but also try to point out the good in the Birth Parents and help them see that bad choices, addiction etc got in the way of their love.

I would love to hear what others with experience in this topic have to say.

Thank you for bringing this topic up!:) You are a wonderful Mom!!!!

Lisa said...

My children were both adopted as infants, but they still have very different stories. Brenda, I think Dallin's story would be more similar to the way you explain it to your children. But with both children, I do try to explain it in part how I think their birth parents would explain it. I try to balance our perspective with theirs. So in that sense, I do tell my kids that their birthparents weren't ready/able to be a mom or a dad at that point in their lives, that they found out they were going to have a baby and had to make some choices on what to do that would be best for that baby.

Of course from our point of view, these kids were meant to be in our family all along and God sent them to us through their birthparents. But I'm not sure their birthparents would see it that way. Dallin's bmom maybe would, but not Sariah's. I want to be careful to tell the story incorporating both points of view. When telling Dallin's story, I focus alot on how his birthmom prayed and sought help from God, and how she obeyed the promptings of the Spirit telling her he was to be in our family. With Sariah's, I focus on how she wasn't able to take care of a baby at that time and how I believe God led her to the adoption agency, which helped her choose a family for her baby.