Did I Come From Your Tummy?
Preschoolers ask the darnedest questions, but don't be afraid to answer them.by JoAnne Solchany, R.N., Ph.D.
Three- to 5-year-olds are making sense of a large, complicated world, in which they command center stage and their imagination runs free. They have an incessant desire to understand how things work now. But their questions can come up at any time, often taking us by surprise.
What It All MeansDevelopmentally, the questions preschoolers ask are right on target. Their minds are expanding as they begin to connect ideas and apply these concepts to themselves. Even if you've shared your child's adoption story a hundred times, new questions will still arise: "How come I have a birthmother?" "How come I was born in China?" Cognitively, the preschooler's capacity to understand things in different ways is rapidly growing, which leads to a desire to have new questions answered. Some preschoolers begin to grasp the concept of adoption and what it means: "How come my birthmommy didn't keep me? Will she take me back?" Others begin to consider their birthparents in new ways: "Did my birthmommy die?" "Does she miss me?" Expect such questions, and be prepared to respond in age-appropriate ways. Here's how.
Do answer your child's questions, but try to use a few short, simple words. Your child will ask another question if he needs more information.
Don't tell her about traumatic circumstances related to her adoption. Kids this age cannot make sense of things like poverty or government rules.
Do have fun with the moments your preschooler presents to you. Expand on them, and explore them with enthusiasm.
Don't worry about why your child is asking about pregnancy and adoption. Preschoolers are naturally beginning to wonder about how they came to be.
Do expect issues to be brought up again and again. As your child gains a larger vocabulary and furthers his understanding of relationships, he will think of more questions.
Don't be afraid to choose a better time to discuss issues and to give your child your full attention. For example, say, "This is important to talk about. Let's wait until we get out of the bank and in the car."
Do continue to provide the nurturing environment you've already established. Your child would not be asking these questions if she didn't trust and feel safe with you.
Don't worry about the words you choose to talk about reproductive issues ("tummy" vs. "uterus," for example). Use the words most comfortable to you and your family.
JoAnne Solchany, R.N., Ph.D., is a child therapist and assistant professor of nursing at the University of Washington, in Seattle, and an adoptive mother of two.
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