When is a good time to tell a child they are adopted?

[deleted account] ( 54 moms have responded )

My hubby and I adopted his great neice when she was 8 months old, she went into foster care immediately at birth. She is turning 3 in December. Her mom and dad live in another state and city, mom has not seen her in one and a half years and it's been about a year since her dad seen her. Birth mom has no contact with her and dad makes an occasional phone call so she has no idea of who they are. She calls us mom and dad of course, my hubby and I are in our 50s. I believe that we should be honest and disclose as soon as she can understand, but others differ on that opinion. Are there adoptive parents or others who can share their experience?

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Ange - posted on 04/22/2012

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I was adopted as an infant, back in the day when the birth mother/parents gave up all rights and contact with the baby. But I grew up always knowing I was adopted. I don't even remember a time when they told me, somehow it was always something I knew. But whenever it did get mentioned, my parents always phrased it, "We adopted you because we wanted you." I grew up with confidence that I was wanted. I never felt that I was an outsider, even tho I had three siblings who were natural children of my parents.



Be prepared, there will be curiousity about it. Why did my mom give me up? (My parents always answered that with "she loved you so much but she knew she couldn't take care of you the way she wanted, so she gave you to us so we could." I grew up supposing I was an out-of-wedlock baby of a single mom in a time when that was shameful, and that was all. My parents, if they knew, never said.) Don't my parents care/love me? (answer: they loved you so much that they were willing to give you up because they couldn't take care of you and they wanted you to have a good life.) What is my nationality background? (discussions in school brought that up and I always wondered.) There will be others. Have patience, always repeat the theme of wanting the child, loving the child, and that the parents wanted the child to have a better life and that they gave the child up because the child's happiness was their main concern.



As for how to bring it in, start now with simple phrases such as "I'm so glad we were able to adopt you, we wanted you so much and we love you." Even that might be a bit much for an almost 3 year old, but that's the idea...

[deleted account]

From birth (or now since you didn't start at birth). Just make it a casual, normal part of life.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/04/2011

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I'm adopted, I believe my parents told me when I was 4. I don't believe they had much of a choice though because they were in the process of adopting my brother who is 3 years younger than me. We're from different families and I've had my parents since I was 3 days old.

There are books you can find that will help you explain to your daughter (you consider her your daughter now I assume) at her age level. My parents had a book called 'Why Was I Adopted' which was very helpful for me. It explains things on a child's level. We still have that book at my parents' house.

I would tell a child as soon as they're able to understand what adoption means. I believe that it's harmful to wait too long.

Traci - posted on 09/20/2011

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At the age of three she can still understand. Explain that instead of the love you have for her started in your heart some babies grow in their mommies bellies an some babies grow in mommies heart.

Jane - posted on 09/20/2011

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Our kids are both adopted. We told them as early as they could understand that they were adopted. However, we stressed that no one rejected them. Instead we explained that moms and dads have two jobs, making babies and helping babies grow up. Most moms and dads can do both, but when a particular mom and dad can only do one of the jobs they form a team with a mom and dad that can do the other, so all babies that are made have moms and dads that help them grow up, and all the moms and dads love the babies.



In fact, we recently got back in touch with my son's birth father. He is better able to deal with our son now than when our son was a baby, so we have been happy to welcome him into our family.



My brother has been raising his granddaughter, She knows him and his wife as Yayo and Yaya. She knows who her parents are and calls them Mommy and Daddy. She knows that she is loved by all of these adults and knows that her Mommy and Daddy can't take care of her the way she needs, but Yayo and Yaya can. Thus, she considers herself to have four parents.



I find that not telling the truth can be a bomb waiting to go off. It is sometimes a good idea to tell only parts of the truth when a child is little, adding more details over time. But overall, lies and omissions are a bad idea.

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7rin - posted on 04/16/2012

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She should already know she's adopted - you should be weaving it into her story.



Whereas many kids get told their birth stories, adoptees tend to get told of the journey our a'rents had to battle through to be able to adopt - please don't do this to her. Instead, be honest with her and tell her that her parents weren't up to parenting, and so you're raising her because they can't.

Holly - posted on 11/14/2011

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honesty is always best... the questions may be the same , but the basis for the truth telling will be set. Not telling the truth implies that something needed to be hidden and therefore wrong .. thats WRONG ..... adoption isn't wrong...

Kathleen - posted on 10/09/2011

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I think it's much easier on the child if they grow up just always knowing. God gives us our babies in different ways..some grow in our bellies and others grow in our hearts. I'm a birth mom and my daughter grew up always knowing. I was also adopted by my father..wasn't told until I was 13 or so. I felt extremely betrayed (ok Mom...what else are you hiding?) I personally know other adoptees who have grown up..always knowing and they have faired much better in their mental health when it wasn't a big deal..just a matter of fact. Best of luck!

Michelle - posted on 10/07/2011

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Personally I think around age 4. It is not and issue in our family at the moment. My husband adopted a child when she was 2 years of age( which has caused us Major probelems), But we are now in the process of adopting a 2/12 year old biracial girl, which we have had since 3 weeks. I wil tell her when she decides to ask why Mommy and Daddy are white and she is black. I dont think it should be and issue when both parents love a child and

Leeann - posted on 10/07/2011

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I am glad he can know where he came from, it means more than people think it does.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/07/2011

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That sucks Leeanne. My brother knows more because his adoption was very drawn out. He even knows where his birth dad is and what his last name was before he was adopted.

Leeann - posted on 10/07/2011

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meggy, I count you both as lucky. my adopted mom and BM know more than I do and their not sharing. I wish I knew more, in fact I just asked my BM who my BF was, like a few minutes ago and now I feel like I'm going to be sick.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 10/07/2011

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Leeanne, my parents only know scant information about my birth family. I'm a little jealous of my brother becuase his older half brother found him on facebook back in August.

Elise - posted on 10/07/2011

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My parents adopted both me and my brother right after we were born- we are three yrs apart and not biologically related- I have always known I was adopted and had a lot of questions as to why my parents always told me that we will tell you when you are older when I turned 18 I was given all the info that they had which wasn't much my brother on the other hand just accepted it and never asked questions but anyway I think telling them while they are young is best don't make a huge deal out of it. If my parents would have told me later in life or I if I would have found out I would have been very angry and I probably would have lost some trust in them... I hope this helps and goodluck

Leeann - posted on 10/07/2011

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I was fifteen when I found out and not because my parents told me, because of that I am pretty screwed up, they also refuse to tell me who my BF. To this day I do not know who he is and I'm 28. But you sound like a good mom (not saying mine isnt) and you just want to do right by her. tell her when you can, make it age apporate (sp?) and always make sure you tell her that you did it out of love. but you need to tell her trust me I'm what happens when parents decided to lie.

Lacye - posted on 10/04/2011

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I say be honest about it. Let her know that you chose to bring her into your family and that you love her deeply.

Merry - posted on 10/03/2011

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Just say she was misinformed that it was worse to tell younger but now she knows it's not good to keep it a secret. Idk, make u something but kids deserve to know who their biological parents are/were!

Jane - posted on 10/03/2011

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I am NOT a social worker of any kind, but I would tell your friend that she should have told both girls years ago, If she waits until they are 18 it will be like slapping them in the face, so she needs to tell 'em now, and she needs to come up with a reasonable explanation of why she didn't tell them earlier.

Merry - posted on 10/03/2011

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Sharon, tell her that the longer wpshe waits the more it will hurt her daughter. And if she waits til she is 18 then who knows? The daughter could just leave home and say screw you, you lied to me now I don't want anything to do with you!
At 8 she can't drive, she can't really run away from home, it's the last few years that I think it's still safe to tell.
12 is too late.
Obviously from birth is best but before age 10 is essential!

My nephew isn't biologically related to his dad. His mom was barely preggo when they married and so my brother signed birth certificate and everything. No one told the boy and now he's 12. I swear is going to ruin his world when he finds out especially now that his mom left them and doesn't even try to see him. His dad is his whole world and he doesnt even know he's not related.
But his little sister is. It's so sad! They should have told him long ago.

[deleted account]

I want to thank all of you who took time to respond. Some of you "assumed" that I wouldn't tell my daughter/neice about her adoption. Rest assured, I believe in full disclosure and I do believe that children who are told the truth about their history are better off. My great neice is my 2nd adoption, however our first was 10 years old when we got her and she was non related. That being said, why did I pose the question? because I have a best friend who has adopted 2 girls, one is her cousin and the other is non related. She received(at different times) her cousin at 18 months and the other one at birth. Her cousin is 12 now and was never told she was adopted until 2 years ago a family member told her - to be more exact it was her bio mom who ran into her at a school. This rocked her world to say the least and she is going through some rough times emotionally and behaviorally. I always told my friend "you tell her, because if you don't someone in the family will". They did. I am trying to convince my friend to tell her other daughter who is about 8 years old now, but she is reluctant stating you see what happened when the other daughter was told.She believes that she should wait until she is 18 then tell her and she can go find her parents if she want, we all heard that before and know better. She agreed that I could share this information and she would take comments into consideration - she feels I am too biased. I am a former social worker and retired Adoptions Supervisor from a public agency in our county. She adopted her 2 children and I adopted my first daughter from this agency. I had an open adoption with my 10 year old and with my neice as well. So BF feels that I'm only saying what we were trained to tell parents about telling the truth. I really believe it and I am glad that from the responses that belief has been shared throughout the world. Adoption has come a LONG way. So hopefully my friend will read and see that others really believe as I believe that our kids have a right to know the truth.

Mary - posted on 10/02/2011

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rita that poem is excellent and sharon it's one of many great ways to introduce to your great-neice/daughter about being adopted. also there are many well known people who have adopted their own kids, jamie lee curtis is an author childrens book called who am i ? it helps an adopted child understand being adopted and being special. barbra walters is a mother of an adopted child. she has a daughter whom she told she was adopted and born in her heart not biologically or natrual. one most important statement that my self and many post reminded me is that we are special and chosen children. let her know that she had been given to you b/c she chose you and your husband. the added part for all of you is she's adopted into a biological family which can be easier as she gets older in time and can know who her parents are and she will also understand why she was given up. most of us weren't adopted by our biological family therefore we didn't know the reasons we existed until later. this can be worked throughout her life with everyone who is willing to talk over why she'd been given up and into her biological family. she is given a chance to know all of them from the beginning to the end and not find you later in life. that can be a positive for her and you.
good luck..

Ange - posted on 10/02/2011

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I was adopted. My parents have always told me, from the earliest I can remember. And they always added that my mom knew she couldn't take care of me and give me the kind of life she wanted me to have, and that she loved me and that's why she gave me up for adoption. And that my parents love me and wanted me and are always so glad they got me. I grew up secure and loved and never doubted it, and also believed most of my life that this was the only reason my birth mom gave me up. Wasn't til I was adult that I knew more about the pressures of real life that can lead to such things, and by then I could handle that part of things. I just always believed I was adopted because my real mom cared and wanted the best for me.

Sue - posted on 09/25/2011

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Just tell her her life story . Do not make any judgement, just matter offact.

Merry - posted on 09/21/2011

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My brother is adopted, we had a picture of his birth mom and we always told him from a baby on that he was adopted and this was his birth mom, and mom is your adopted mom that God chose for you. We told him this from before he could understand so by the time he comprehended it it felt like normal to him.
He is half black so we knew there was no use lying and we wanted him to be confident that we never lied.
He's 12 now and there's been no problems so far!

Laura - posted on 09/21/2011

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I am neither but I believe keeping the truth from your daughter is not for her sake it would be for yours. She deserves to know the truth of her identity even if it hurts you. The one thing about children they are forgiving and loving creatures. You will always be number one in her book but she is going to want the truth.

Rita - posted on 09/21/2011

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I raised my husbands son. He was old enough to know. I always shared this poem with him. Now that he is an adult this poem hold a special place for him! Not flesh of my flesh or bone of my bone, but still miraculously my own! Never forget for a single minute, you didn't grow under my heart but in it! Good luck!

Angie - posted on 09/21/2011

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I have two adopted ds. They have both always known. One was adopted at birth on at age two. The older is starting to get very sensitive about others knowing. He doesn't want ANYONE to know. He is eleven. I think it is.best to be open and honest. We explained that we chose them. That their mother could not care for them. That my oldest's dad (my brother) was very young when he was born. But that they both are loved very much by everyone. Just do ypur best to be honest.

Lisa - posted on 09/21/2011

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I am adopted. I also went to foster care after I was born. My adoption was finalized when I was about a month old. Anyway, my parents told me when I was around 5-6 years old that I was adopted. I would tell LO when she is able to understand fully. ;-)

Amanda - posted on 09/21/2011

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Hi. I was adopted by my 1/2 brother's grandparents when I was 18 months old. I was in foster care for a few months then went to live with them and it took a while for them to get the adoption finalized. I have known for as long as I can remember. They had 6 children of their own and their youngest graduated the year I was born. I think the best way is for them to have that knowledge and grow to understand instead of hiding it from them. They would most likely feel very hurt that you would hide something so big from them, or feel like they've been lied to and no longer know who they are. I deal with issues of who I am and where I came from as well and i think it would have been a lot harder had I not always known.

Catherine - posted on 09/21/2011

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do you have any pictures of her birth mum ? i foster and move kids on to adoption and i make a book for each child a life story book with pictures of birth family ,the child as a baby ,pictures of the time they lived with me and space for future pics . i write down things i remember about when they came to live with me and anything we did together so its a story book about the child that i share with them at bedtime . the kids always love the books about themselves .

Judy - posted on 09/20/2011

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IMHO it is best to always let the child know...use the language that they are capable of understanding and only tell them what they need to know that is age appropriate. My hubby and I adopted our granddaughter (hubby's daughter's child). We have had her since she was 15 months old. She does know who her "birth" mother and father are but she calls me and my hubby mommy and daddy. She is now 6. She asks all kinds of questions of how she came to be with us instead of her mother..why her daddy never comes to see her, ect, as is normal she is full of questions and we answer them all as honestly as we can and at her level of understanding. She will eventually know the whole story but it is something that we openly discuss on a regular basis. I believe it helps the child to know who they are and gives them a sense of stability and security or at least it seems to be that way for us. She only sees her mom about once every 4 months and has not seen or had contact with her dad in over 3 years (this is by their own choosing). Children are very intelligent and can understand things a whole lot better than we give them credit for...so just let it be a natural part of your life, be open and ready to answer questions altho there are some questions that we will not ever be able to answer and she will have to ask her mother those questions when the time comes....she will want to know why her mother made the choices she made that resulted in our custody and eventually full adoption of her...I can give her our answers but she will have to get some answers from her mother one day...or it may not ever be anything she decides to pursue...if she feels complete and loved and secure.

Medic - posted on 09/20/2011

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I am adopted and my son is half adopted. I have always known, I have also always had my bio mom in my life. My son was already 4 by the time my husband was allowed to adopt him but has been the only father in his life since he was 7 months old. We talk about how daddy chose him all the time. I was always told that my parents CHOSE me. My bio mom didn't give me up for lack of love, she did it because she loved me so much. My ex-husband didn't sign his rights over to my son for lack of love either. He did it out of amazing love and enough sense to realize that he couldn't be the father my son needed or deserved and that there was someone there who was. My son still talks to him whenever he wants and sees his family all the time. This is normal to my son. Just as having 2 moms was normal to me.

Eva - posted on 09/20/2011

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Create a photo book that has as many pictures of her young life as possible. Let her pick it up and ask questions. My three year old is also adopted and she has started asking about it. Taking pride in her birth story puts her more in control of it all and lets her pick her own timing in regards to asking big questions about 'who's belly she came from' Telling her about when she was a baby and how much we waited and loved her really helps her. Now she knows we created a 'home' for her in our hearts and we're her mom and dad forever. Hope that is helpful. Good luck.

Hayley - posted on 09/20/2011

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I am adopted and have known from Day one, i do not remember it off course but I have always known I was special and did not come out of my mum but we have a great relationship and everyone says we look very much the same. All the best with her understanding it

Debra - posted on 09/20/2011

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I started talking about it to my daughter when I adopted her at 11 months. By the time she could talk, she could tell you her story. I myself, knew before I started school that I was adopted.

Fit2BMe - posted on 09/20/2011

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Adoptions are represented in 50% of our family, in both my immediate and extended families. In our case, all of those who were adopted were raised knowing that they were adopted from day one. While adopted members have never been treated differently, nor their adopted status made public to anyone outside the family except by them, it was a "matter of fact" conversation within the family.
We used the terms "chosen child" and gave examples of families who are not related by blood (such as husband and wife) but rather by relationship.

I, personally, have strong feelings on adoption. I think it's a beautiful thing that you've done, and you have an opportunity to really raise your child knowing that you've never kept anything from them and that you loved them so much, sight unseen, that you chose them to be a part of your family.

Chances are great, your little one will just accept this matter of factly and have just a few simple questions. As a former social worker in child protection, who dealt with adoptions a lot, my experience tells me that the longer one waits, the more complicated things can become.

Having said that, the decision is yours. No one knows your family and your child as well as you do, so go confidently in the direction of your choosing and know you'll do a great job because your heart for this child will show through whatever you do.

Gretchen - posted on 09/20/2011

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From the very beginning. You shouldn't ever have to tell them. Just make it a matter-of-fact part of the conversation from an early age so they always know it. I'm the mother of two children in an open adoption, so we are still in contact with their biological family. We ahve been "practicing" the relationship since they were newborns so that now they are getting old enough to understand, it feels normal and comfortable to all of us.

Candace - posted on 09/20/2011

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I was adopted and just always knew I came from different parents... it was just apart of life for me. My husband was also adopted and his parents thought they were doing the right thing and waited until he was a teenager to tell him. He is now 26 years old and still has a hard time accepting it.

Catherine - posted on 09/20/2011

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My adopted daughter hears the story of how we became a family in terms she can understand at her age. She is 4. We believe that children should always have known without knowing when it exactly was told to them. If you wait until she's older, she may think you've lied to her all her life and be resentful.

Tracy - posted on 09/20/2011

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I respect honesty in parenting. I am not adopted neither have I adopted. But as a parent, I have the responsibility of being completely honest with or children. I came from parents with an attitude of"it's none of your business" and"you're not old enough to understand". From that experience I decided never to keep information from my children. I don't want them to grow up feeling ignorant or worse to believe what you don't know can't hurt you. Kids love being trusted with healthy family facts! Good luck.

Dawnyka - posted on 09/20/2011

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I am adopted. And I've always known. Keep an open dialog about it. I remember asking my mom what it felt like to have a baby when I was around 5, and we talked openly about it. I never doubted how much my parents loved me. In fact, I think they loved me more, cuz they couldn't have kids of their own, and had to wait for years to adopt. :)

Melodie - posted on 09/20/2011

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I was adopted at 18 months of age, but had lived with my family from the time i was 6 months old. My family just always talked about it from the time I was little. I always knew I was adopted and as I grew older, I'd ask more questions. I think this was a good way to do it. I never felt like anything was being kept from me. I had an open and trusting relationship with my mom and we talked things out.

Sarah - posted on 09/19/2011

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Also my husband adopted my daughter from a previous marriage when she was 4. She has known that he isn't her biological father since the adoption but he is her Daddy. He is the one that has been raising her since she was three. She still has some contact with her biological dad's family but has gotten to where she really doesn't want much to do with them because they don't acknowledge my husband as her dad. She is 9 now almost 10. She refers to her birth father by his name but because of things that happened when she was little hasn't seen him since she was two. I have always been honest with her without going into the abuse that happened to her and told her that if she ever wants to see him or talk to him she can . She has refused to have anything to do with him and refuses to go to any function that he may be at. We live in seperate states but his brother recently got married and invited her to the wedding which she declined, also his parents invited her to visit when we were in town for Christmas and she declined because she thought he would be there. Your daughter will make her decisicions about her biological parents as she gets older but will make those decisions on her own experiences. She will respect and love you all the more for caring enough about her to adopt her, be honest with her, and still allow whatever relationship there is to develop with her biological parents.

Sarah - posted on 09/19/2011

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I was adopted by an aunt and so was my half brother. My aunt and uncle that adopted me raised me and were my parents. My biological mother was my aunt growing up and we were close. I had no idea I was adopted until I was 13. I found my adoption papers while looking for some papers in a drawer that my dad told me to look in. I guess I should mention that my adoptive mom died when I was ten and my dad did not realize that the papers were in that drawer. I felt very hurt and mad at both of them. While I had been an easygoing child and didn't give a lot of problems I did develop an attitude with my dad and aunt(biological mom). They had no idea why my demenor had changed until about a year later when my dad accused me of lying to him about something and I blew up. I told him I wasn't the liar he was. I feel like I had been lied to my whole life. I think you should be honest with the child from the begining. Even at 3 tell the child the truth. Put it in words she can understand.et her know that you choose to give her a better life and how special she is to you. I feel I had a much better life being raised by my parents and am very grateful for them adopting me. However I was hurt by the lies. Don't try to keep her biological parents from her if she ever asks but let her know they were not able to take care of her because of ______ but that they gave her to you because they loved her enough to want a better life for her than they could provide. Honesty is always the best policy.

Mary - posted on 09/19/2011

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sharon,
congratulations and i want to also say its wonderful that your great niece on your husband side had been adopted by her biological family members. i am adoptee and i do believe being straight forward and honest throughout her life is really the best way. if you keep her adoption a secret whose to say someone else won't tell her down the road. you are better to tell her now and continuing to let her know. i was your nieces age when my parents first told me. i asked over time and by ten i knew what being adopted meant. it's comprehending that takes time for kids. but they will realize as they get older. be honest don't keep her adoption from her. i do believe you love her as if she was your own. she is! you need to also let your daughter know this every time you tell her about being adopted. jamie lee curtis the actress also an author of who i am, it's a story about being adopted. a childrens book. that is excellent to help her understand that she's loved and adopted. good luck.

[deleted account]

Good books to read: The day we met you, a mother for Choco, the mullberry bird, tell me about the night I was born, etc.

[deleted account]

My kids have known since they were tiny that they grew in another tummy and have birthparents. We also said that we were asked to be their forever parents. As they get older , they'll get more details as they understand more. It's important to be honest from the beginning and make it a normal part of her life. If you keep secrets, she'll learn the truth about the time she needs to trust you, like her teen years. Right now, just tell her the basic story, that her birthparents were unable to take care of ANY baby at the time she was born and that you were chosen to be her parents. Then prepare for the tough questions. DO NOT tell her bad things or judge her birthparents because she needs to form her own opinions and they are still a part of her. Good luck.

[deleted account]

I raised mine knowing it. It was never a surprise and she always felt chosen and special. When she came home from school in the 1st grade she had met another little girl that was adopted and she said..."Mama "BJ" is adopted and I replied so are you. She said, Yea but not like that!!"

User - posted on 09/19/2011

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Please start talking about it casually straight away! No need for a "sit down" talk just start dropping in the words birth mother and birth father and take it from there.

Jackie - posted on 09/19/2011

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I am not adopted but I used to work as a counselor with children who are adopted, many through the foster care system, and the answer always talk about adopted. your child should not remember a time when they did not know. that takes away the shame. the good thing is that your child is still young so it is not to late to have a conversation. just make sure that you talk to your child in a way that she can understand.

JuLeah - posted on 09/19/2011

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As soon as you get her .... bed time reading books about different types of families. There are families who have many kids, families with just one ... a mom and dad, tow moms, kids that live with grandma, kids who are adopted, kids in foster care ... you get the idea.

Normalized different types of familes. Kids have issues when they are raised to believe there is just one way to be in the world, then told they are not that way

Talk about her birth mom and birth dad .... she will follwo your lead as she has no opinions of her own just yet.

If you hide anything, she will come to understand there is something to hide and feel shame about

What she can understand today will be different then what she can understand at 13 or 30, but that doesn't mean you should wait - because she will understand on some level, even if you hide it from her - that is a lesson too

Sherri - posted on 09/19/2011

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This is something I completely do not understand. Why was she just not told from day 1 always just knowing it??

The answer is NOW, she should have always known but if you wait she will think her entire life is a lie and the people she thought were her safety net were the people that lied to her, her whole life and she will lose that security and trust.

My oldest son is not my husbands but he has been there since the day he was born and on his birth certificate. So we just openly spoke about it his whole life. He is now 14 and could care less because it is just how it always has been. My husband is his dad to him and that is all that matters that we are a family.

Amanda - posted on 09/19/2011

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Always be honest about an adoption! I will be always grateful to my father and mother for always telling me the truth about being adopted!

Elyria - posted on 09/19/2011

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I am not adopted, but my older brother is my half-brother. We were raised as total biological siblings because my father adopted my brother when he was 4. My older brother obviously always knew the truth, but I found out about it when I was about seven and it was pretty devastating for me. I felt like it was something that had been hidden from me and that all of my interactions with him were somehow tainted. I'm a strong advocate for telling kids before they can understand so it's simply common knowledge as they grow.
Hope this helps!
-E

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