Talking with Toddlers About Their Adoption
How to start a conversation that’ll continue throughout their years
What to Do
Once you begin having these very cursory talks about your child’s adoption, just keep having them! As your toddler ages, the conversations will eventually develop into the finer points of him or her becoming your child, and those discussions will have a different set of expectations and parameters.
Until that time, just continue to envelop your toddler in affection, and do all you can to reinforce that he can count on his needs always being met. Additionally, consider these tips:
- Have books for young children about adoption in your home library to read together. Even if your child isn’t old enough to comprehend the idea of adoption now, these books can introduce the concept in a natural way. As your toddler gets older, you can discuss what it means to be adopted using the books as springboards.
- Create a “lifebook” or adoption scrapbook. This can be added to—in pages or volumes—throughout your child’s life. For now, perhaps use it as a baby book and journal to record memories and milestones of your first days, months, and years together; when your child is old enough, she can add to it, too. Consider including pictures from the day your child was adopted, mementos from your first weeks together, and, if your child was adopted internationally, pictures of her birth country. If available, keep pictures of your child’s birth parents and include them in the book. Try to collect information when it is available so that you have it as she gets older.
- Get connected to a community of adoptive families. It will be important for your child throughout her development to know that adoption is a normal part of many families and for her to know other adopted children. By being in touch with other adoptive families, your child will regularly hear words such as “adoption” and “birth parents” as a normal part of conversation.
- Consider celebrating your child’s adoption anniversary as a family. This can be a ritual that you continue as he grows up. Parties, special trips to a favorite park, or, later, going out to dinner can all be important ways to acknowledge and celebrate the day your child joined your family.
Parents might consider checking out the following:
- Tips on talking about adoption from the Child Welfare Information Gateway
- When and how to start discussing adoption, from Adoptive Families Magazine
- Twenty Things Adopted Kids Wish Their Adoptive Parents Knew, a book for families
- What to consider when telling your child his birth story (right here on BabyZone)
- The BabyZone Adoption Guide
These children’s books are great home library additions:
- We Belong Together: A Book About Adoption and Families
- Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born
- On the Night You Were Born
- The Family Book
This information is intended to be a conversation starting point and not to replace consultation with a mental health professional. Knowing your child the way you do, adjust or edit this script and these recommendations to meet his or her needs and comprehension. If you have concerns about your toddler, contact your pediatrician and request a referral for a mental health professional who specializes in work with young children. Click here to find help for working with your child through this and other touchy topics.
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