How To Explain Adoption to Your Adopted Child

There is an art to telling adopted children their story.

It is a certain way that snuffs out toxic shame and helps us adoptees go on after a trauma or multiple traumas.

It truly is an art.

Without the right artful approach, your child may silently reaffirm the lie that “my life is a mistake.”

Some parents are scared to death to tell their kids about their adoption. Where do I start? I know my child is already hurting and I don’t want to blow it by what I say and hurt them further. I love this kiddo more than life itself and I want to get this right. But, how can I talk about something that is so complex to my child? What are the right words? Will she understand?

But, don’t be afraid, parents. There is an artful way.

The lie–“your life is a mistake”–came into clear view for me after my birth mother rejected me after our tumultuous reunion. By God’s grace, I have worked through this issue and would like to share it with you. Perhaps, it will help someone parenting an adopted or foster child. I hope so.

What we’re talking about here is really foundational to your child’s healthy identity. Important stuff here.

What Not to Say

Here are some common ways of sharing adoption with your child:

  • Your birth mother loved you so much that she gave you to us. (If that’s what love is, I don’t want anything to do with it.)
  • We couldn’t have kids of our own so we adapted you. (Ouch!)
  • We had only daughters and wanted a son, so we adopted you. (Gee thanks.)
  • Your mother was not able to take care of you. (What was wrong with me?)
  • Adoption is so wonderful. Remember…you are a chosen child, special as can be. (So, it isn’t okay to just be myself?)

How does all that register with an adopted child?

It’s crazy making.

Suggestions for An Artful Approach

I had to go back to the beginning. The very beginning. To God.

I realize now that my life began in eternity past, in the heart of God my Heavenly Father. He was the first to think of me and love me. Then, I was born on planet earth. And there were some bumps along the way. But those bumps never changed God’s love for me. My life will never end. My last breath on earth will be my first in Heaven.

Here are some points from my perspective on an artful approach with your children:

  1. Tell her she is God’s idea.
  2. Show her where her life began (Father’s heart).

  3. Explain bumps in the road after she entered planet earth. (Bumps are the really, really hard things…like adoption, like losing your birth family, like not knowing us when we. were placed in our home, like feeling something inside isn’t right.)

  4. Help her make a timeline of her life. Feel free to use the timeline I’ve created. You may make copies of it.

I wish you all the best, parents.

You can do it!


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