There may come a day when adoption is a rare occurrence but that day isn’t here yet. What is happening is that adoption is experiencing a more honest, truthful and open approach to the reality where adoption has already occurred. And there is at least one group (I know because I belong to it) where the members seek to convince mothers-to-be who may be considering a surrender of their baby for adoption to at least try parenting first. That is one of the ways that adoption may become rare someday.
One question may be – how young is too young to tell a child they are adopted ? Some advice is – not to ever wait. Putting off talking with your adopted child about how they came to live with you often becomes a never good time to tell. I know of one case where that situation has become very very complicated and the truth is still not shared with young adult adoptees. It has become difficult in an unusual way, so understanding this, I am not judging it, but it is an example of what can happen when telling is put off until the child is “older”.
One adoptee shares – I had an adoption story that was bare bones to start with, as I got older, more information and whys were added, discussions evolved from that retelling. So, create a short TRUE story of how you came to adopt your child – 4 or 5 sentences long at a very young age. Practice telling the story to a friend, in the mirror so YOU are comfortable telling it. Then ask your child if they want to hear about when you adopted them….and tell your child that story.
Waiting until the child is older means they’ve lived that many years without you being truthful with them about who the child is. Just don’t wait. You want your child to trust you and they will if you are always telling them the truth. Set a date on the calendar to do it soon, a very short story of how you came to adopt them…
Another issue that often comes up with transracial adoptions is about teaching these children about their culture of origin. It’s never too early to start introducing things from the child’s heritage.
For example, a Puerto Rican child adopted by a white family. Some suggestions – Introduce Spanish as a normal part of your household, even if that means everyone learning it. Watch as much cultural content about Puerto Rico and its history as possible, and try to find opportunities to connect the child with their culture. Connect with the child’s biological family’s religious traditions – if that is a possibility – so it isn’t foreign to them. Always speak positively about their family, heritage, and culture. Plan a family trip to Puerto Rico when the child is of elementary school age, and then return as frequently as your finances allow. Bonus – learn about your child’s roots and connect to them in tangible ways. Try making some local friends who are Puerto Rican and see them regularly. If this all feels like too much, just recognize that your child is currently surrounded by American culture 24/7.
It goes without saying that this advice applies to all other ethnic groups and countries from which Americans adopted children on an international scale.
Even in those situations where the biological parents are addicted and may even be violent, or maybe the mother never wanted to keep her child, leaving the hospital as soon as she gave birth . . .
There is likely to be some extended family somewhere who would be open to some form of contact. Every child should have those biological ties as much as it is safe and of course, desired by the child themselves. And don’t forget – people DO often change over time. How they were at one point in their lives evolves and they become more conventional in their lifestyle and behavior.
Finally, it’s okay if a young child doesn’t understand what being adopted actually means. An adoptive parent should openly talk about it anyway. The child will always remember being told their story, about their birth or whatever is known and can be shared in a positive manner. Adopted children will talk about being adopted, if they have always heard that, even before the child fully understands what it means. Truly, it IS simply a part of who the child is.