How to Talk About Birth Fathers with Young Children

Adoptees naturally focus on birth mothers. Parents need to make sure to bring birth fathers into the conversation at an early age.

Talking advice for adoptive parents - how to bring birth fathers into the conversation

“A child’s story begins with her birth — and even before,” says Ronny Diamond, the former 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 birth mothers, you need to make a special effort to include their birth fathers in the adoption conversation. Diamond suggests these talk techniques:

Include the birth father from the beginning. The concept of a birth father 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 birth parents and some don’t. Your birth parents 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 birth father, he can have a significant presence in your story. If you know very little about either birth parent, you may want to speculate based on what you do know about the situation of your child’s birth. You might say: “Your birth parents 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 birth parent in a judgmental way. You might say: “Your birth mother and birth father 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 birth parents didn’t know each other very well. When your birth mom gave birth to you, she felt that neither of them were grown up enough to take care of a child.”

Remember that birth fathers care, too. If you don’t know a lot about your child’s birth father, don’t assume that he didn’t care. Birth fathers are often just as interested in their kids as birth mothers. Your child should know that.


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