September 21, 2014 – by gaystarnews.com, David Hudson
Thinking about adoption? Children will always have questions about being adopted, and knowing how to respond with honest answers is essential. We asked Beth Friedberg of New York’s Modern Family Center for advice.
Beth Friedberg is the Associate Director of Parent Preparation and Education at the Modern Family Center at Spence-Chapin. The center provides services for parents of adopted children, adoptees, families formed through adoption, and families brought together through remarriage – including same-sex couples and LGBTI parents.
Beth has been in the adoption and parenting field for over 20 years. We asked her to give the #GSNFamily section some advice on talking to young children about adoption.
Beth, do you have any general advice for speaking to children about adoption?
BF: There are some basic well-known practices that adoptive parents should know about talking with their children about how they became a family: start early, share information slowly over time in a way that meets your child’s developmental age, and talk in a balanced way about birth family being some of the most important.
But all of these sound ideas miss one critical piece that has less to do with talking and everything to do with listening.
This is a hard thing for many parents to do – we want to say the right thing and protect the ones we love from disappointment or loss. So we can often rush in with too many words to fix things before we really know what’s on our child’s mind.
Listen for what is behind your child’s questions and slow down a bit to both tune in to your child’s ‘emotional temperature’ and also consider what their questions brings up for you.
This last part is especially important so you don’t confuse what your child is asking to talk about with what you may actually want or need to talk about.
For instance, if your child asks you why their birth family couldn’t take care of them, you might respond with something simple like: ‘Why do you think some people aren’t able to take care of a baby?’ When your child gives you their own answers, you have a great place to start the conversation.
If your child is not asking any questions, lay the groundwork to give permission for the conversation. Simply saying, ‘If you ever have any questions or want to talk about your adoption that would be OK with me,’ can open a door for a child who may feel nervous bringing the topic up on their own.
What sort of questions might adopted children themselves ask about adoption – with regard to their background, history and biological family?
BF: Children are generally curious and want to know about everything that’s happening in their world. Asking questions about their beginnings and how they came to be in their family is a natural and necessary part of their development, so a goal for adoptive families is to support and encourage this wondering.
The types of questions that children ask will depend on the specific circumstances of their placement and your child’s own character and personality.
As much as each child has their own unique experience, questions do tend to fall into some general categories such as: ‘Why did I have to be adopted? Why couldn’t anyone in my family take care of me?’, ‘Will I ever meet my birth mother/siblings?’, ‘Will I ever see my friends from the orphanage again?’, ‘Is my birthmother alive?’, and, very commonly ‘I wonder who I look like’.
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