How to Support Adopted Children
The leading American pediatric group reacts to growing number of adopted children in the US—with great advice for us all
Approximately 2 percent of all children in the US are adopted. But that number is on the rise, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), thanks in part to more single parents, older parents, and gay parents adopting. So, in response, the AAP created a new set of guidelines for doctors to help support adopted children and their families—and we couldn’t help but notice that some of these tips for pediatricians seem like pretty good advice for all new parents.
Here are some of the highlights:
- When to Talk About Adoption: The AAP holds that it’s important and good for children to understand how they joined their families. “It is generally agreed that the child should be told of the adoption,” note researchers involved with the report—though no exact age is offered for when it’s best to share this information. Researchers emphasize that children generally do not understand the difference between their family and other children’s biological families before the age of 3.
- Recognizing Common Emotional Issues: By age 3, however, it’s normal for adopted children to be truly curious about what adoption means. For some children, this may lead to separation issues or worry that their adoptive parents may leave or abandon them, say researchers, who urge parents to view these types of concerns as normal, but still turn to their pediatricians for guidance.
- Using Model Language: Adoptive parents should strive to use “positive adoption language” when talking to their children and others about adoption. Parents of an adopted child are “real parents” and siblings in the family are “real siblings.” Instead of describing biological parents as “giving up their child” for adoption, it’s more empowering for children to hear that biological parents made “an adoption plan” for the child.
- International Adoption: When a child of a different race or culture is welcomed into a family through adoption, the AAP reaffirms the importance of openly acknowledging “the racial differences that exist between their child and themselves,” and to give the child “the opportunity to learn more about the heritage of the country of his or her birth or of his or her ethnic group.”
The AAP guidelines also include more doctor-specific advice on routine physical and emotional checkups and obtaining complete health histories for adopted children—both great things to bring up with your doctor at your child’s next visit.
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