Talking About Adoption

Adoption STAR Associate Director Michael Hill shares some personal stories regarding his young son and talking about adoption.

elijahI remember being a prospective adoptive parent and wanting to pay careful attention to any/all suggestions made for how to talk to your child about adoption. Given that fact that my husband and I ultimately became quite keen on the idea of open adoption, it seemed reasonable to predict that frank, honest dialogue about adoption was going to be the norm for our family. However, I was deeply concerned about doing so in a way that was age appropriate and “tried and true” based on what we know about child/adolescent development for adoptees.

One of the things I heard repeatedly was to talk about adoption on a regular basis and to do so from the very beginning. Perhaps not every day (or even every week), but to get the word “adoption” (and other adoption-related jargon) out there so that your child becomes familiar with hearing the word and can ask more questions about it as he/she grows and develops. As crazy as it may sound to some, I can recall many times when I had my son on the changing table attending to a dirty diaper and using it as an opportunity to say something like, “your daddies feel so lucky to have adopted you.” This happened well in advance of my child developing verbal language, but I took the philosophy of talking about adoption from the very beginning quite seriously.

I also made sure that our library at home included a host of children’s books that have adoption-related themes, and incorporated these into the regular rotation of books we’d read to our son. Again, this was done primarily in the hope that us talking about adoption would equate to our son feeling both comfortable and familiar with the word, and that he’d be able to utilize it himself (and later on ask questions about it as needed).

Fast forward 5 years, and we’ve got a Kindergartener that openly talks about being adopted (and that his Daddy works at Adoption STAR). By no means does our son have the ability to understand all that adoption is and means, but he realizes that adoption is a part of his story and he doesn’t shy away from talking about it. He also doesn’t shy away from talking about his family, and in doing so talking about ALL of his family – both birth family members and adoptive family members.

One of my favorite stories comes from when my son was four years old. We were driving down a main thoroughfare here in Western New York, and we happened to be driving by our attorney’s office (who was, of course, instrumental in finalizing our adoptions). Without any prompting from me, my son said, “Hey Daddy! There’s Rebecca’s office!” Surprised by the fact that he remembered the location of her office, I said, “You’re right! You have such a good memory. Do you remember how Rebecca helped our family?” Without missing a beat, he responded with, “Yes Daddy…she helped us with my adoption!” From the mouths of babes, indeed.