Edward Kolb, M.D.
Children are curious. When they learn that not everyone has the same family structure as they do, naturally they will have many questions.
Adoption is a difficult term for many young, non-adopted children to understand. Your child may have questions like “Why didn’t Emma’s parents want her?” or “Is Grant’s mom his real mom?”
Adoptive families are another variation of a family structure. Parents can discuss other family structures such as single parents, foster families, step families, relatives raising children, large families, only-child families and adoption. Have your child talk about other friends who have these different family structures. This is also a good time to talk about International Adoption and Interracial Adoption and that parents and children may not look alike, but they are very much a family.
There is a difference between parents and birthparents. Birthparents refers to the child’s biological parents and the terms parents, mother and father are reserved for the adoptive parents. Parents can discuss the different reasons for adoption—some parents who give birth are not ready to be a parent or may not have the money to raise a baby. Adoption is never the result of the child’s behavior. It is the result of the birthparent looking out for the best interest for his/her child.
It’s okay to ask your friends SOME questions about their adoption. Asking simple questions such as “where were you adopted?” or “do you celebrate your adoption day?” are okay to ask. It may make the adopted child feel good that people want to know about his adoption and family. Be sure your child understands not to ask specific questions about birthparents and to not push the child to answer uncomfortable questions.
Reassure your child that he will not be adopted. Many children get sad or upset when they hear that not all birthparents are able to raise their children. After explaining adoption to your child, reassure your child that he will not be adopted and that you will be his parents forever and families that adopt children are families for life.