Three year olds love to arrange their stuffed animals in families.
Somewhere around age three, children become fascinated by families. They see mommy flowers and baby flowers, mommy noodles and baby noodles. A year or so later, the love affair with family deepens. By age four or five, they become enthralled by how families come to be. They are, quite specifically, interested in birth. This natural curiosity gives you the chance to talk about another way families are created-through adoption. If you're lucky, there'll be a pregnant mom in your neighborhood. Talking about her big tummy can often lead to talking about birth in general, and inevitably about your own child's birth story.
When the talk begins, an open and matter-of-fact approach is best. Books can help. Joanna Cole's How I Was Adopted, has a good adoption story and great illustrations on how babies are born.
Children respond to this information in a range of ways. Some profess indifference. Most, however, and girls in particular, become fascinated with pregnancy and devise "tummy games." They stuff pillows in their shirts or pretend to give birth to a favorite stuffed animal.
At some point, you can add more details. "But you did not grow in my tummy," you say. "You grew in your other mother's tummy." Your child may then shrug or turn silent. She may say that she wishes she had been born in your tummy, or long for the mommy who made her in her tummy. Listen and nod that you understand. Encourage your child by saying, "Tell me more," knowing that she may not be able to, just then. You do not need to "fix" this sadness, nor change the subject. You help your child most when you let these feelings surface, so they can one day be resolved.
Copyright © 2001 Adoptive Families magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
Carol Peacock is a psychologist, and author of Mommy Far, Mommy Near. She lives in Massachusetts with her two daughers.
© 2001 Copyright Adoptive Families Magazine. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.
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