Jackson, On Telling Children They Were Adopted

Today, I ran across a post on an adoption forum that always irks me. A mom was asking how to tell her 6-year old that she was adopted. Fortunately, most people know that children should never “find out” that they are adopted – adoption should always be a part of a child’s life. Most of the responders politely told the mom this, and gave her tips for telling her daughter the truth. One of the responders said that telling a child too much younger than 6 about adoption didn’t make sense because she wouldn’t understand. I know what I think, but I decided to ask an expert.

I asked Jackson for his opinion.

Me: Jackson, what does adoption mean?

Jackson: To have another person for your mom, even though you didn’t come out of their tummy. They weren’t pregnant with you.

Me: Do you remember how old you were when we told you you were adopted?

Jackson: Um, ZERO! (said in the tone of “Duh!”)

Me: What would you think if someone didn’t tell their child he was adopted until he was older, like 5 or 6?

Jackson: I think that’s bad, because it would hurt the person’s feelings. It’s rude.

Me: Who’s feelings? The kid’s?

Jackson: Yeah.

Me: Why would it hurt their feelings?

Jackson: Because you didn’t tell them something that was related to them. That’s mean.

10 thoughts on “Jackson, On Telling Children They Were Adopted

  1. I love this post! IMO adoption agencies need to do a MUCH better job at educating their prospective adoptive parents. :\

    • Absolutely! Of course, anywhere you look now, adoption experts and adult adoptees are practically shouting “Kids should always know they were adopted!” It always bothers me when people haven’t told their kids, but it bothers me even more when other people say it’s OK to wait.

    • I agree with that completely. There needs to be adoptive parents (meaning they’ve already adopted) who have made it their practice to tell their kids early and often about as much of their stories as age-appropriate telling hopeful adoptive parents that “this is how you do it.” If someone tells you that you should do something but doesn’t give you any inkling HOW, you’re going to have a rough time with the concept.

      BTW, Jackson is a genius. I hope my daughter comes close to that genius when she has a conversation like that with her [adoptive] mom and/or dad.

      • That’s a really interesting point. There are agencies and other adoption professionals who simply pay lip service to openness. Based on my research, there are very few agencies that really support openness throughout the child’s lifetime. Adoptive parents need to learn from other adoptive parents, as well as from birth parents and adoptees, not just from their adoption professionals.

        Jackson is very happy that he’s a genius. 🙂

  2. Good man, Jackson. He said it just like it was. Being adopted is a huge part of one’s identity. Parents should not lie to their children, either on purpose or by omission.

    Jackson and Cassie are lucky to be adopted at birth: when they ask that inevitable “Why”, you can tell them that their first Mom made a loving and caring choice for them. She thought for a very long time about what would be best for her baby, and chose the very best Mommy and Daddy for their whole life.

    And yet, it is rarely straight-forward in cases when the child is not voluntarily given into adoption. A child in my daughter’s Grade 4 class JUST found out from her parents that she and her Grade 2 brother were adopted. The mother told me that it was very traumatic, but they hesitated to tell them until recently only to protect the children who were removed by Social Services due to neglect and abuse. Fortunately, the adoptive parents are distantly related to the children, and because of physical similarity that discussion did not have to be imminent.

    Children who are adopted away from abusive families don’t have anything as comforting as being with the same family from day ZERO. They have no consolation of thinking that the woman who gave them life cherished them to make a difficult choice of placing her children where they would thrive. They would need to have some maturity and understanding of the world to get over the fact that their mom could not take care of them because she could not make good choices for her family. And the hardest part to internalize is that it is not the child’s fault. And for children who are old enough to remember their first Mom AND their life with her, the time in foster care, it may take years of love, nurture, and therapy to accept it. If we are all lucky.

  3. That is great you tell your son! My adoptive parents always told me and I never knew not knowing…. it sickens me to still hear this from AP’s. they are either disregarding the training they receive or not receiving it. Either way is a gross case of neglect.

  4. Pingback: My Best Adoption-Related Blog Post of 2012 « The Chittister Family

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