While your adoption professional will have likely prepared you for talking to your child about their adoption, sometimes your child may ask you questions that you’re unprepared for. Young children who are curious about where they came from may not have a full grasp of what their adoption means, and when they start recognizing that their birth story is different from their friends’, they’ll start asking why.
Some of these questions can be difficult to answer, but it’s important to remember that it’s natural for your child to be curious. So, how do you answer some of the more difficult questions they have?
It’s a good idea to speak with your adoption specialist for individualized advice, but here are some common questions you may get from your adopted child as they grow up:
1. Did I grow in your tummy?
Young children will likely see pregnant women or hear about family and friend’s pregnancies and wonder whether they became a part of your family the same way. This is usually one of the first questions that children have about their birth story and a great opportunity to explain how adoption works.
Tell them that they grew in their birth mom’s tummy: “She loved you very much, but when she found out she was expecting you, she knew she couldn’t take care of you on her own. So, she found us, and we became your parents through adoption.”
2. Why did my parents give me up?
Once they understand adoption, this is usually the next question that an adoptee asks. It can be difficult to see your child feel neglected and unwanted when they ask this question, so make sure you emphasize that their birth parents loved them very much and that they did not “give up” on your child by choosing adoption.
“Even though they wanted you very much, your birth parents knew they couldn’t take care of you. Babies need a lot of care, like food, clothes and a place to live, and your birth parents weren’t able to give you all of that. So, they chose to place you with parents who could — us.”
As your child grows up, the information you give them about their birth parent situation may become more detailed, based on what you think is age-appropriate for them to know.
3. Who do I look like? Why don’t I look like everyone else in my family?
Adoptees who have younger biological relatives will hear people commenting often on the way that children look like their parents, and they may not get those comments about themselves and their parents. This can be hard for them, as it highlights their differences in a time when they want to fit in.
Remind them that they have the same beautiful looks as their birth parents. “We got our looks from Grandma and Grandpa, just like you got yours from your birth parents. But just because we don’t look the same doesn’t mean we aren’t a family. We love the way you look, especially your curly hair/blue eyes/etc.”
4. Will I go back to my birth family one day?
When adoptees understand that their birth parents placed them with another family, they may worry that you will do the same at some point. Remind them that adoption is a decision that lasts forever, and you will always be their parents, to love and take care of them.
5. Do my birth parents remember me?
It’s important to emphasize that your child’s birth parents loved them very much when they placed them for adoption, so of course they remember. This may be a good opportunity to show them any letters or communication you share with their birth parents.
“Your birth parents will always love you, and they love seeing you grow up through the pictures and letters we send them. They will always remember who you are and be proud of you.”
6. Will I ever get to see my birth parents?
Obviously, the answer to this will depend upon your individual open adoption situation. If you have photos and letters from your child’s birth parent, you may want to show them. Tell them it may be difficult to see their birth parent if they live far away, but emphasize that you will always support them if they want to meet their birth parents one day.
7. Is it okay to think about my birth parents?
It’s natural for children to be curious about where they came from, but they may feel like they’re betraying you if they ask questions or think about their birth parents. Make sure they know it’s okay to ask you any questions they have, and you understand what they’re feeling. Remind them that you also think about their birth parents, too.
“We think about your birth parents probably as often as you, especially on your birthday. We are so happy that they gave us the gift of being parents to you, and we will always love and respect them for the choice they made — and you can, too. We’ll always answer as many of your questions as we can.”
While these are just a few of the questions your child may have, they can give you a good idea of how to talk about their adoption in a positive and healthy way. Remember to always reach out to your adoption specialist if you need more advice on how to talk to your child about their adoption.