Each year, American families adopt an estimated 100,000 children. This number is only expected to grow in coming years as media awareness and various financial helps ease any barriers to adoption.
While the adoption may initially be a very happy event for both the adopted child and their adoptive family, later challenges can arise through feedback from other kids. As well, as gay marriage becomes mainstream, uncomfortable questions can arise for the adopted kids of families with two moms or two dads. Whether you are an adoptive parent yourself and you want to find effective ways to explain adoption to your other children, or you are not planning to adopt but want to prepare your children for encountering adoption in other families, this article gives you helpful strategies that really work.
Tip #1: Explaining the terms.
Depending on the age of your children, you will first want to define what adoption is as well as what it isn't. For very young children and preschoolers, using words like "belly mommy" and "forever mommy" can distinguish between the birth mother and the adoptive mother.
What is most important is that the term "adoption" is presented in a very positive light - it is a good event, an exciting event, an event that offers the best of the best for all concerned.
Tip #2: Watching movies/cartoons involving adoption.
Watching a movie, cartoon or television series about adopted children or teen parents giving up a child for adoption can be an excellent way to explain to your childrenwhat adoption is. Perhaps the best thing about using this tip is that you can select a show or movie that is appropriate to the age of your children.
- Some shows and movies to consider: Barney; Disney's Jessie; Hotel for Dogs; Angels in the Outfield; The Blindside; Yours, Mine & Ours; Meet the Robinsons; Dinosaurs Under the Sea.
NOTE: If your children have seen plays or movies like Broadway's Annie, you may also need to correct some misconceptions about what adoption and orphanages are like.
Tip #3: Reading children’s books involving adoptive families.
As with shows and movies, you have a great selection of children's books you can choose from to explain adoption to kids of any age.
- Some books to consider: You're Not My REAL Mother, God Found Us You, How I Was Adopted, Sam's Sister, Tell Me Again About the Night I Was Born, Brown Like Me.
Tip #4: Roleplaying an adoption.
Roleplaying can be a powerful tool for help children to feel for themselves what it might be like to be an adopted child. You can roleplay from a number of angles depending on what your family's specific situation may be. For example, if you are adopting a child born to teen parents, you can role-play with your spouse what it might be like to be teenagers who know they can't give their child the kind of support he or she will need.
If your family has not experienced adoption issues personally, you can role-play what it might be like to adopt a new child into your family. Another option might be to role-play meeting an adopted child who looks different from the rest of the family.
Tip #5: Introducing the topic and answering your children’s questions.
Sometimes your children may surprise you by bringing up the topic of adoption themselves. Or you may introduce the topic only to discover they are already familiar with the term, even if they don't have a full or accurate picture of what it means.
Tip #6: Drawing an explanation.
Finally, if your children are more visually-oriented, you can draw a pictograph of the process of being adopted (or of adopting a child). You can draw this in a "before," "during" and "after" trip-tic so kids get a complete visual picture of the process.