Parents Share: Creating Our Child's Adoption Story

Seasoned parents suggest talking about your child's adoption story very early on, to build trust and give her confidence in her history.

Father and child talking about the adoption story

My advice for new adoptive parents is to start talking about the adoption story right away. Incorporate it into your everyday conversation. This does a couple of things. Even if the child is too young to understand, it gets you comfortable with the words and ways of talking about it, so that, when he or she is ready to understand, it is easy to do. Also, it gives the child the idea that there is nothing secret or wrong with this way of forming a family, and that this is something they can talk to you about. Be calm and matter-of-fact. Children pick up tone of voice and feelings, as well as words. —Donna Marie

You must tell your child he or she was adopted, or risk a terrible breach of trust. I’ve seen men in their fifties destroyed when, at a parent’s funeral, some relative spilled the beans. Talking about adoption will defuse negative effects. Your child will ask more than once, reflecting different needs at different ages. So get information, meet his or her birth parents. Be honest but not critical. Remember, your child will incorporate your interpretation of his or her birth parents into his or her self-identity. –Abigail

I started when we first went for walks in the stroller, and my daughter pointed to an airplane. I told her that she had been on four airplanes,  that is how she got home with mommy, daddy, and her sister from her birth country. Repeating this over and over, she finally learned the answers, even if she didn’t understand them. Now she asks why was she in that country, and I tell her that is where her birth parents lived, but they couldn’t take care of her, so they let us adopt her. She asked me today if they were dead. I told her I didn’t know and we may never know, but that there are lots of reasons why parents may not be able to take care of their children by themselves. –Donna Marie

We met my son, Carlos, when he was two years old, in Colombia. His adoption story was always a part of his life, but, at age seven or so, he began to want more information than we have available. He and I are both dissatisfied with the scant information we were given, and we’re told by the Colombian government that this is all that is available. We have only his biological mother’s name and her age. If I could do anything differently, I would have insisted on obtaining more information, and conducting a search, before I left Colombia. I would suggest to internationally adopting parents, get as much information as you can in the country. —Ilana

People have asked me, in front of my daughter, how much her adoption cost! I usually deflect the comments, but I have also answered it truthfully at times. One day my daughter said to my aunt, “You know why you never see China boys? They don’t sell boys in China!” Needless to say, we sat down and talked about the fact that I didn’t “buy” her, that I just paid people to help me adopt her.  I am an adoption worker, so I told her how people pay me to work and help them adopt children, too. We also talked a little bit more about the one child policy and the fact that there are some “China boys” that were adopted.  Many of her children’s books cover the topic, but apparently she wasn’t getting it! —Jo

My young teenager asked about the cost after one of her peers said that adoption is baby-buying. I explained that, when women who bear children have health insurance coverage, pre-birth and post-natal  costs are covered to a greater or less extent based on that coverage. Parents who adopt their children cannot recoup pre-adoption and post-adoption costs from an insurance provider. —Eileen

My son has commented that I “bought” him. I say, “No, Ethiopia would not allow that. I had to have lots of papers to say I would be a good Mommy, and only then would they let me have you for my son.” —Jessica

My daughter’s life book has been our best tool for telling her adoption story. Her life book was started before her adoption, and has always been kept with her other books. Each year we add pages, and now that she’s older, she adds her own. She chooses whom to share it with, and sometimes takes out pages that are confidential before she shows her life book to a friend or teacher. —Karin

I made a little story book for my daughter. The book begins: “Hi, I was adopted when I was seven days old, by my Mommy and Daddy. This is my very own adoption story, and I’m sticking to it.” I wrote about how I searched for her high and low and prayed and prayed to God for a miracle baby, and about her birth mother. She was also looking for the perfect parents, and couldn’t find them for the longest time. We talked to each other and just knew we were the answers to each other’s prayers. She loves for us to read her book to her. –Las

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