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A child’s story begins with her birth—and even before,” says Ronny Diamond, adoption resource director for Spence-Chapin in Manhattan. “Children need to hear that all children are born to two people, and that they are no different.” Since young children tend to focus on their birthmothers, you need to make a special effort to include their birthfathers. Diamond suggests these talk techniques:

Include the birthfather from the beginning. The concept of a birthfather is easier to grasp when kids are three or four, before you need to explain reproduction.

You might say: “It takes a man and a woman to make a baby. The baby grows inside the woman, who then gives birth to the baby. You were born the same way everyone else was. But some babies stay with their birthparents and some don’t. Your birthparents couldn’t raise any baby at the time you were born. So they made sure to find a family that could take care of you forever. Some children are adopted, and adoption is forever.”

Say what you know. If you know a lot about your child’s birthfather, he can have a significant presence in your story. If you know very little about either birthparent, you may want to speculate based on what you do know about the situation of your child’s birth.

You might say: “Your birthparents may have decided together that they weren’t able to give a baby a good life, so they probably talked about what would be best for you. That’s why they took you to a place where people who cared about you could make sure you went to live with a family who would love you and take care of you forever.”

Add age-appropriate details. When your child is five to seven years old, you need to be more specific in your conversations. Again, it’s OK to speculate. The key is to be neutral and use language that doesn’t label either birthparent in a judgmental way.

You might say: “Your birthmother and birthfather made you. But they weren’t together as a couple when you were born, and neither one felt they could raise a baby alone.” Or, “Your birthparents didn’t know each other very well and your birthmom didn’t tell your birthfather about you. She felt that neither of them were grown up enough to take care of a child.”

Remember that birthfathers care, too. If you don’t know a lot about your child’s birthfather, don’t assume that he didn’t care. Birthfathers are often just as interested in their kids as birthmothers. Your child should know that.

Recommended Reading

When choosing a children’s book about adoption, look for one that mentions birthparents, not just birthmothers.

Here are three choices for young children: How I Was Adopted by Joanna Cole; My Special Family by Kathleen Silber and Debra Parelskin; Oliver by Lois Wickstrom.

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