Q: I’ve explained to my three-year-old daughter that I’m a single mom and that she was adopted. Recently, though, she’s incorporated her “daddy” and “brother” into fantasy play, giving them names and “another house” where they live. Does this have to do with her birth family? Should I be concerned about her fantasy father?
A: Older kids may grasp the difference between a birth father and a “daddy.” But when children are too young to understand biology and genetics, family is about roles: mother, father, child. Right now, your child is using fantasy play to work out why her family doesn’t have anyone in the role of father.
Explain to your daughter that all families are different — some have just mommies, some have just daddies, some have both. Your family has a mommy and a child. Show her examples of families that are different from yours, and give her plenty of opportunities to ask questions.
When your daughter is older and begins to understand the role that biology plays in families, make sure your language doesn’t lead her to confuse her birth father with the unfilled father role in your family.
For now, fantasy play is a healthy way for her to work things out. As long as she’s clear that these are pretend people, there’s nothing to be concerned about.