Talking with Kids About Adoption

This week’s Adoption Magazine Blog Hop topic is talking with kids about adoption.

Obviously, I have talked to my kids about adoption. Yes, even Cassie. She knows she has two mommies and daddies who love her very much. Well, at least, I tell her that. For her second birthday, I’ll make her a storybook just like I did for Jackson. I’m actually pretty good when it comes to talking to my own kids about adoption.

It’s other people’s kids that flummox me.

On a trip to Marine World*, my friend Christy’s older daughter, then about 7 or 8, came up to me, and haltingly asked, “Um… you and his dad are both… white, and he’s… brown.”

Me: Oh that’s because he’s adopted.

Caitlyn: Oh. What does that mean?

Me: Um… well… it means that he has a birthmother, who couldn’t take care of him, and she chose us to be his parents.

That satisfied her  until we were in the parking lot, leaving.

Caitlyn: Why couldn’t she take care of him?

Me: (thinking about how to explain teenage pregnancy to a girl I didn’t know all that well at the time) Uh, she was very young and uh…

Christy jumped in and said something age appropriate about teenage pregnancy and the day was saved. But I felt like a moron, because I totally wasn’t prepared for an older child, who wasn’t mine, to ask questions. Jackson was about 3 at the time, so the answers I had were all meant for 3-year olds.

Since then, I’ve had a few questions about why Jackson is brown and we’re not. Sometimes, I can just say “he’s adopted” and everything’s fine. Sometimes, the kids don’t know what adoption is. Sometimes, the kids say, “Oh…” and seem to expect me to say more. So I might fill in with “he has us and he has his birth family, who chose us to be his family.”

I gave a presentation about adoption as Jackson’s preschool when he was 4 or 5. The oldest kid asked why Jackson had a brother and sister. Fortunately, I had been prepared for that. I said something about his birthmother being able to take care of one child (Iggy, 18-months old when Jackson was born), but not two, and that she had Princess A a few years later (implying that she was ready to take care of another child then). The boy seemed satisfied.

But yeah, other people’s kids asking… I never know what the kids already know. I mean, my neighbor’s kids thought that cats had to get married to have kittens. My cousin Jessica, at about age 4, said that her baby-sitter’s teenage sister was pregnant because she was “bad.” My then-teenage sister and I were floored.** We said that she wasn’t bad, and my aunt got pissed at us. I really don’t need to make the other parents at school hate me.

I also don’t want to share details. I’m even vague about certain things on this blog because some stories are for my kids and my kids only. I want to be able to communicate with the kids, making sure that they know adoption isn’t a secret, something to be ashamed or embarrassed about, while still preserving my children’s privacy. And that’s really hard to do when you’re chasing down your toddler at soccer practice.

I wish that more adoption books for kids were mainstream, and that there were more adoptive families on TV, so that there would at least be a jumping off point. We can’t assume that every kid watches and understands Jessie.


* It’ll be a cold day in hell when I call it Six Flags.

** As you’ll learn in a future post, we had plenty of experience with teenage baby-sitters, and one baby-sitter’s sister, being pregnant.

5 thoughts on “Talking with Kids About Adoption

    • Thanks! 🙂 There’s a lot out there on how to talk to your own kids about adoption, but I don’t think there’s anything out there for bio parents to talk to their bio kids.

  1. I agree that it is a lot easier to talk to our own kids about adoption than it is to educate someone else’s kids, especially ones who have had no introduction to the concept. It’s awesome that you make storybooks for your kids. I totally forgot to talk about lifebooks in my post so I’m glad that people can find the information here!

    Thanks for linking to Adoption Blog Hop!

  2. There seem to be several groups of children here, one set knows zero about adoption, another group who knows a lot. I love it when kids educate other kids. I often pass the buck to my kids (if they can) to answer the questions…obviously they know how to be age-appropriate and we’ve talked about how they don’t have to share if they don’t want. This way they get practice and I can step in. They are the ones who will be explaining it more than me since they’re in school.

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