Talking to Your Child About Adoption: Infancy to Age Six

By Joni S. Mantell, LCSW

5 Key Steps for Parents – Prepare yourself to talk with your child about adoption

  1. Claim your child and feel entitled to parent your child
  2.  Emotionally accept that your child has an interest in his birth history.
  3. Learn about the ages and stages in children’s understanding of adoption
  4. Get comfortable talking about adoption with your child
  5. Always remember that your child is curious about himself, not looking for other parents.

5 Key Tools for Parents – To talk to your child about adoption and other complex personal or social topics

  1. Go slowly, share bits & pieces of information as your child develops.
  2. Clarify children’s questions before you answer them.
  3. Sometimes parents need to initiate adoption topics once they understand:
    • Normative adoption issues that occur at the different ages and stages of  cognitive and emotional development.
    • Which issues are harder for children to articulate
  4. Work on your own issues first because your child will pick up your tone, what topics you focus on and which topics you avoid. Emotional validation and your tone are more important to your child than facts.

Make the family the safe place to talk. If you can create a safe, open, empathic family
atmosphere in which adoption issues can be discussed, your child will feel its OK to talk to
you about adoption (and lots of other issues) throughout his or her life.

Laying an early foundation with language, emotional comfort and communication will serve
you and your child when and if you have more difficult information to share; or your child
experiences some difficult emotions.

Talking about adoption boosts self-confidence and is a wonderful way to teach your child
about intimacy, good relationships and the joy of being curious in life.

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Based in Pennington, NJ