Talking to Our Kid(s) About Adoption – Part 1

Open adoption, as you read in our previous post, is about establishing and maintaining an open relationship between the adopted child, the birth parent(s), and the adoptive parent(s).  Because we understand the benefits of such a relationship, we’re obviously committing to more than just raising a child as our own.  As part of that relationship, we want to begin honest, open, and ongoing conversations with our child(ren) about adoption (and about difference and diversity) so that they know the truth about how they joined our family from a very early age.  We want them to be comfortable asking questions and talking to us about their birth parent(s). We want them to know that we will support them in having a relationship with their birth parent(s).

Weighty topics for a preschooler, eh?

cam and lily

We’re big fans of the show Modern Family.  On the show, there’s a couple who adopted their daughter from Vietnam.  When she’s still very small, a year or so old, her dad, Cam, decides that every time the word adoption is mentioned, he will clap his hands and say “Adoption! Yay!” to create positive association with the word.  By the end of the show, little Lily claps her hands and smiles when she hears the word.  Well, naturally, we’ve begun working regular “Adoption! Yay!” moments into our conversations (with each other, anyway) just for practice.

Other than positive associations with the word itself, we’ve been hoping to find kids’ books that will introduce the topic in a variety of ways.  We’ve found some good ones, and some, eh, not so good ones.  What I’d really like to do is just write one myself.  Until then, here’s one of the good ones…

How I was Adopted

How I was Adopted: Samantha’s Story

Written by Joanna Cole, Illustrated by Maxie Chambliss

Published in 1995 by Morrow Junior Books, NY

Before the story begins, there is a helpful “Note to Families” written by the author explaining that this is not a “problem” book, but it is intended to tell “the youngest children what adoption is and how it happens and explain honestly that adopted children are not the biological offspring of the people they know as parents.  It shows that being a family is about love and spirit, not about blood ties.” This 5-page section emphasizes the importance of talking to children about adoption and creating an open and continuing dialogue about adoption.

How I was Adopted is written from little girl Samantha’s point of view.  The book is adoptive-family centered, and in simplistic terms explains how babies are born and how after their birth, “…many children stay with the woman who gave birth to them. Some children do not. Some children need to be adopted, the way Mommy and Daddy adopted me.”  There is brief discussion of the adoption process, the home study, the waiting, and then an adoption counselor “put a baby in Mommy’s arms.” Following are a few pages of how the first few years went, marked by photographs (illustrations) of various milestones.  On the last page, Samantha notes, “I love to hear Mommy and Daddy tell about how I was adopted.  It’s my very own story.  Every girl who was adopted has her own story.  Every boy who was adopted has his own story. Do you know the story of how you were adopted?”

Pros:

  • Good adoption-conversation starter for kids as young as two or three.
  • Simple, without complications that can be discussed when the kid is older.
  • The author’s note is good without being preachy – it helps explain the author’s goal for the book, which she does accomplish.
  • The author points out that not all adoptions are accomplished the same way, but parents can use Samantha’s story to talk about how their experience was different.
  • Good illustrations, with some amount of diversity depicted.

Cons:

  • I didn’t really find any.  The book accomplishes its intended purpose and would be a good way to continue discussions about a child’s adoption story.

Personal Library-builder?

  • Yes. Books about adoption that are geared toward kids are few and far between.  This is one of the best I’ve seen that would be useful for talking to very young kids about adoption.
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6 thoughts on “Talking to Our Kid(s) About Adoption – Part 1

  1. It’s interesting that I’ve never *not* known I was adopted. Sort of how I’ve never *not* known that my name is Sunny. I think reading books like this and talking about it openly from the time they come into your home is the way to go. It becomes as natural as their hair color.

    Also interestingly, the little boy I babysat for years is adopted from Vietnam. He overheard his mom say something about me being adopted when he was REALLY young, and he immediately associated the two of us together. It meant a lot to everybody, really. 🙂

  2. That kind of natural-ness (?) is what we’re hoping for. Hopefully we won’t overdo it to the point that the kid says, “does EVERYTHING have to be about adoption?! I get it, already!” 🙂

  3. I love the “yay, adoption!” thing. I watch Modern Family, but only sporadically.
    Sean’s parents told him he was adopted since the day he was born, so it was kind of like how Sunny said she’s never not known she was adopted.
    Let me know when you write that book. 🙂

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