How do you let a child know that they were adopted?

My wife and I will be soon be adopting a 1 1/2 year-old girl*. She will likely know that she is adopted and we don’t plan to keep it a secret from her. It will be hard considering that she’s Mexican, and we aren’t. We have some friends with seven year-pold daughter who they had adopted as an infant. They’ve never told her that she’s adopted. They always planned on telling her, but just haven’t gotten around to it yet. The later it gets, the harder it’s become.

When did you, or would you, tell a child that they are adopted? And more importantly, how?
*I started a thread back in December about how we were adopting this little girl. We’re still waiting for the same little girl. Fucking bureaucracy.

The way my family did it with my sister was to just keep mentioning it early on. We just always talked about ways that people could become a family, even when she was a toddler, and always had age appropriate adoption books around that we read to her, and talked about her situation while reading the books.

Part of the reason it was done this way is because we had family members that felt the need to keep mentioning it early on (ex: saying things like "this is my adopted neice). So of course it was better for her to always know than for someone to let it slip, on accident, or because they’d decided it was time she knew “the truth”.

Similar. We always say things like “we are so happy we adopted you.” Our son is Korean and we aren’t, so it isn’t easy to “pretend” he isn’t adopted - its pretty obvious. We also have the appropriate adoption and culture books and talk about other people who were adopted.

It really hasn’t been hard to work into conversation. My daughter is a bio child, so we talk about “going to the hospital so I could give birth” and compare that with the “trip to the airport to get him.”

We talk about how almost EVERYONE has more than one mother - my bio daughter has me, and two grandmothers. My son has me, two grandmothers, a foster mother and a birth mom. Some kids at school have step moms or foster moms. Mommy and Daddy have mother in laws. But your “real mom” is usually the one who raises you. This puts a “normalized” context around the idea of a birth mother.

To be more specific, I think my parents went with the “you have two moms and two dads” route, very early on. Then later a basic story of parents who loved her, but couldn’t take care of her, and how she could meet them at age 18, if she wanted to.

(Oh, we waited about four months from referral to arrival. While its happening, it takes forever and is very painful. Once she arrives, all that will seem like waiting for Christmas when you are a kid. Yeah, there will be a lot of “we missed” (we missed your first tooth, I don’t know when you started sleeping through the night, and you arrived crawling) - but that will be bittersweet pain.)

We celebrate the anniversary of their arrival as a sort of second birthday. Have a cake, show the video of them arriving, make a celebration of it. That way, they just always knew they were adopted.

But congratulations and best wishes - in advance.


My son’s adoptive parents turned it into the bedtime story, complete with princess (me), charming prince (the birthfather {charming? - snort}) and the choice we made because we loved him so much. It was his story and he knew it, and he always asked to hear it as he got older.

Of course, my being in his life makes for a slightly different situation, but still it was just something he was raised with the knowledge of. It’s the norm in his life and he can and does answer the questions his friends always have after they meet me.

He turns 15 next month… he’s a great kid and considers his adoption a cool thing.

Just make it normal, make it routine.

My wife and I went to a backyard barbecue where we met some people for the first time. One woman chose to introduce her shy 13-year old girl as her “…STEP daughter,” who cringed.

I guess she wanted us to know that a woman as young as she, couldn’t possibly have a biological daughter of that age. But who would care? The woman was as nondescript as they come.

Be cryptic. “Take care of your kidneys, son. If you screw 'em up, you’re not going to be able to use one of ours”.

Another vote for making “adopted” a word they hear frequently.

Often when I tuck my 6 year old little girl into bed I will tell her I am so glad we got to adopt each other. She will eventually begin to understand more fully what the word means and we will be able to have a conversation when the time is right.

The thought of that conversation makes me shiver…

I think that is an absolutely lovely way to go about it. Congratulations for thinking up such an idea!

I’ve heard a lot of adopting parents do that, and I think it’s a cool idea.

They’re your kid, no matter how they came to the family. In Sid’s case, since she’s so young, make it a part of her from the get-go. After all, I doubt most bio-kids remember their first birthday, but parents do a blow-out anyway.

What’s the bureacratic hold-up?

I was adopted as an infant (as were two of my siblings), and it’s fairly obvious that I’m not my parents’ (or at least my father’s) biological child (short, wiry, swarthy people do not, in general, produce tall, burly, fair-skinned children).

Growing up, it was treated absolutely matter-of-factly, and I cannot remember a time when I did not know I was adopted. My parents simply explained that most mothers give birth to children, but she adopted me, because the girl who gave birth to me was too young to take care of me. The differences in physical appearance were explained by the fact that my father’s family came from Italy, while my birth parents’ families came from Scotland, Ireland, and Spain… There was never any great drama or emotion attached to it; it was just an ordinary fact of everyday life, and in my everyday life I don’t carry around an identity of “adopted”; in fact, it normally doesn’t even occur to me, even when speaking about my family, unless something specifically reminds me of it.

That’s the way I’d go about it; don’t make a big deal of it, just tell her she’s adopted and give as much information as she’s able to comprehend at her age, and answer her questions, and when she’s older encourage her to explore her Mexican heritage.

Kudos to your adoptive parents, yBeayf! Did they adopt the two sublings you mentioned. Are there more siblings? How are you all doing — kids and sibs? You seemed to have fared wonderfully.

I meant parents and sibs. Damn!!!

Do it from the get-go.

And the “second birthday” thing is good.

A stepdaughter is not the same as an adopted daughter so she might have been making that distinction. I used to introduce my stepdaughter that way, too, but only if people asked, otherwise I just gave her name. I think it would have bothered her–it would have looked like I was stepping in to take some kind of credit that wasn’t due.

I now wish I was not an only child, if only so I could refer to my brothers or sisters as “sublings.”

Ack, I worded that poorly. When I mention “parent” or “sibling” without any further qualification, I’m referring to the people who raised me and who I grew up with, not who I’m biologically related to.

I’m not biologically related to any of my siblings. My parents adopted me, my sister a few years later, and brother #1 a few years after that, then went on to have two more (biological) children (brothers #2 and #3). We’re all doing fine, I guess, last time I checked. Adoption vs. non-adoption was never an issue in our family.

And regarding the “second birthday” / “adoption day” thing, maybe it’s just due to coming from a rather unsentimental family, but the idea strikes me as being overly cutesy. But then again, I come from a long line of grouches, so maybe it’s just me.

it could be cool. a kind of this is the day you were born… this is the day we became a family. def. worth celebrating.