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When to Tell Your Child About Adoption

As many of you know from reading Allie’s adoption story, I adopted Allie from my sister and had her from day one.  Adoption brings with it a series of emotions that are truly hard to put into words.  My sister asked me to adopt Allie when she was almost five months pregnant.  Without hesitation I said yes.  I just knew this was God’s plan and we had no idea the blessings Allie would bring to our family and everyone she meets.  She really is a remarkable child.  My mom always tells her she was a rosebud in heaven just waiting to be bloomed and a very special rosebud she was. 

If you’ve not had the pleasure of meeting Allie, you’re missing out.  Her spirit is unlike any I have met in a child.  Sure, I may be biased, but I have met few like her. 

After the incredible and emotional adoption took place, July 15, 2011 (there is a six-month guardianship process in the state of Missouri) we were living and loving life.  Allie was the easiest baby and she had a disposition that would make people stop in their tracks and come love on her.  Even her pediatrician said her disposition was rare.  I think back to when she was a newborn to her early toddler years and they were truly magical.  We lived in Peachtree City, Georgia when she was a baby and her favorite thing to do was get in the golf cart and go for a drive.  She would smile and lay quite the whole time, just soaking up the warm southern air. 

During this time, there was one thing that constantly entered my mind…how will I tell Allie she is adopted.  Our situation is more unique because my sister is her birth mother.  That adds an added layer of complexity.  I have spoken to so many families over the years who have adopted, and everyone has their own thoughts and feelings on this topic.  Adoptive parents must determine what and when they will tell their children about their adoption, but I have very strong convictions and have learned from experience (both from my own as well as others) that it is so important to begin this conversation as early as possible so that it becomes a comfortable part of a child’s vocabulary and identity. 

The research that I did and the conversations I had with our pediatrician, social worker and attorney all said that starting this conversation early (even when you don’t think they understand) will make it just a normal part of who they are.  Doing this lays a solid foundation so when you finally sit them down at an age to tell them their full adoption story, they feel established enough in their family not to feel threatened by learning about their adoption (doctors suggest between ages of 6 and 8 years old). 

The foundation we laid with Allie up to the most recent conversation looked like this:

We started early and kept it simple.  Started talking about adoption and what adoption means. 

3 to 5-years-old
We discussed how every child grow’s in a mother’s tummy, but she can’t always keep her baby for different reasons and that she loves him/her so much that she wanted to make sure her baby would be safe and in a loving home with parents who would take care of them.  We also explained that God arranges some kids to be raised by parents whose tummy they didn’t grow in.  We talked about why some kids are adopted (our example was some birth moms are sick and can’t take care of their baby) 

We continued having conversations with Allie about adoption and slowly introduced that she didn’t grow in my tummy, but God chose her daddy and I to be her parents.  We read books and poems about adoption to Allie and we talked about how special adoption is.
We spoke about adoption about every month.  Just bringing it up in special ways.  As Allie got a little older, she began telling people she didn’t grow in my tummy, but God chose us to be her parents.  She began asking questions, so we started telling her, the whole story, starting with a simple version about how she grew in Aunt Pam’s tummy, but Aunt Pam was sick and couldn’t take care of her, even though she wanted to and loves Allie very much.  We told Allie how blessed and lucky we are that Aunt Pam chose us to be her parents and that it was all planned out beautifully by God. 

Just recently, she and I were laying in bed one Saturday morning and she began asking more questions.  So, I began telling her about the day she was born.  I told her how we were all at the hospital and we were so excited to meet her and even though Aunt Pam couldn’t take care of her, she knew that she would be safe and live a happy life with us, so we got to take her home with us and she became our baby.  We often speak about how God chose Allie for us.  Allie asks us often to tell stories about her when she was “little.”  She thinks this is so amazing to hear stories about herself and, so we often throw in her adoption story and she just smiles. 

I recently posted a quote on Instagram, by Brooke Hampton that reads, “speak to your children as if they are the wisest, kindest, most beautiful and magical humans on earth, for what they believe is what they will become.”  We take this same approach with our discussions about adoption.  We speak of adoption as it is the most magical and incredible experience and how it is so special for children who are adopted as well as the parents who adopted them. 

Every story is unique, and every situation is so different.  We can never predict how our children are going to respond to their own unique adoption story, but starting when they are young certainly helps build a foundation to make them feel so loved and special.


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Allie’s Adoption Story

“I didn’t give you the gift of life, but in my heart I know.  The love I feel is deep and real, as if it had been so.  For us to have each other is like a dream come true.  No, I didn’t give you the gift of life; life gave me the gift of you.”

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