By DR. FRED HALL, LPC
QUESTION: We adopted a child the same race as we are, and we don’t want her to feel different than her siblings, but we want to be truthful. When should we tell her she’s adopted?
Thanks for your question, reader, and let me applaud your courage and ability to trust God and commit to adoption. Adoption is a theological and biblical principle, dating back to Old and New Testament times, where God adopts and justifies the believer into the family of God. This is a legal act that provides not only the relationship but all the rights, privileges and responsibilities of a natural born or “begotten” son.
Even so, telling a child about their adoptive story requires wisdom and courage. Sometimes the story is a beautiful one of care and appropriate placement of the child into a loving family, and then other stories include hard realities, incarcerated parents, and child removal into foster care. Regardless of the story, the truth is always better, and the child needs to start as early as possible learning why you chose him or her for your family.
Wisdom dictates you start as early as possible and keep it matter of fact and honest. Tell the child and show them that they are loved and cared for. Remember that talking to your child about adoption is not a one-time event but a process. There should be many conversations, as the child gets older, about their adoption story and how you reaffirm the decision to love them.
Keep your conversation age appropriate. Although truthful, you don’t want to scare or confuse your child with detailed stories they may not comprehend. Select words and parts of the story that you feel the child can connect to and accept. Remember the adoption story is an ongoing one, not a single event. Make sure you have told the child before adolescence if possible. Children will think they have been lied to or deceived if you choose not to say anything about their adoption for years. This tends to backfire on parents and causes fear, doubt and resentment from the child toward both their natural and adoptive families.
You know your child and how much they can handle. Share the story with them and other siblings to take the mystery out of it. Celebrate the beautiful life God has placed in your care, and treat them like any other sibling would be treated. Adoption is a beautiful story of love and choice. Communicate that love toward your child.