“Where did I come from?” you hear your little one ask out of the blue one day. 

Your mind starts racing. You’re thinking, “He’s only four. Does he even really know what he’s asking? And is he asking where babies come from or where he came from?” 

He plays in the sandbox. Not understanding the complexity in his question. 

Is it time you talk to your child about their biological parents? You don’t want to give too much info, but you also don’t want to assume you know exactly what he’s asking. 

Your mind’s racing on how to answer his question. 

To give yourself time to organize an answer you try distracting him. “Hey, look at those ducks in the pond!” The stream of dialogue in your mind hasn’t stopped. It’s interrupted when you hear his innocent voice once again. 

“Hey, mom. Where did I come from?” 

He didn’t take the bait and change topics as you’d hoped. He’s determined to get you to answer him and it becomes clear–you can’t blow past this question. 

How to talk have this conversation 

When and how to tell your child about their biological parents isn’t a one-size-fits all sort of answer. After all, every adoption’s unique so every conversation’s unique. 

Telling your adopted child about their birth parents will come up. 

Feeling unsure about this conversation with your child? Reach out to City Ministries Child Placement Agency.  We’re a foster agency in the greater Seattle area. Our  resources and specialists can walk you through this delicate, but important conversation. 

No matter the circumstances, experts agree that honesty is the best policy. And the sooner you talk to your child about their birth story and biological parents the better. 

When to tell your child they’re adopted 

What age is sooner, exactly? 

If you adopted your child at a young age, be open and honest about it from the start. You want your child to know adoption isn’t bad. It’s a positive and special event in both you and your child’s life. 

Be open and honest about the fact you aren’t their birth parents. This makes having an in depth conversation when they’re older a little easier. It also minimizes confusion. 

While honesty is always the best policy, it doesn’t mean this conversation’s going to be easy. In fact, in some ways being honest with your child about not being their birth parent has many complex layers to it. 

But don’t let fear stop you.  

Why it’s important to talk about birth parents 

We all want to know where we came from and how we came to be. Adopted kids aren’t any different. Understanding their biological parents and background helps them develop a sense of identity2. 

Your goal is to create a strong sense of self. Not talking about their adoption and birth family can interfere with this as they grow up. 

It’s important to talk to your child about their adoption for the following reasons: 

  • Tells them you are trustworthy 
  • They have a right to know about their birth story 
  • Creates healthy attachment bonds3 between you and your child 
  • Helps them better understand themselves 
  • Gives them the opportunity to process their emotions and feelings 
  • Opens the door for them to form relationships with their biological family members 

There are a few things you’ll want to keep in mind when telling your child about their birth parents. 

Tips for talking about biological parents 

Be age-appropriate in what you share 

Each adoption story is different. What you choose to share and not share is up to you as their parent.  A young child doesn’t have the capacity to understand trauma and abuse. But you can still talk with them about their birth parents. 

As they grow and mature you share a little deeper each time. Some kids might not have any interest in the details about their biological family. Others want to know as many details as possible. It’s best to prepare yourself in advance so you’re able to answer questions about their birth parents. 

Common questions your child might have include: 

  • Where are their birth parents today 
  • What are the reasons behind their mother’s decision 
  • Do they have any siblings 
  • Can they meet their biological parents and extended family members 

If possible, talk to your child’s birth parents and get some of this information before it’s even asked. Have pictures or even letters from your child’s biological parents. 

Know it’ll be difficult and painful 

Not every adoption story is positive. There are many children adopted into loving, caring, and nurturing families. But they came from abuse, trauma, and neglect. Your child has a right and deserves to know where they came from, but be sensitive about how much you share with them. 

Avoid talking about the negative and traumatic events when talking to your child. You also don’t want to create a false image for your child about their birth parents. When your child asks questions, answer with honesty while still using your discernment. 

Ways you can support your child while they process this information include: 

  • Reminding your child they’re loved, valued, and wanted 
  • Not talking negatively about their biological parents 
  • Assuring your child they did nothing wrong when placed for adoption 
  • Confirming their importance in your family 

Remember you’re their parent regardless of who gave birth to them. It’s important they learn about their biological parents from you. They need to know you’re trustworthy and being honest with them no matter how difficult it may be. 

Reassure them and confirm how they feel 

You won’t know how your child will respond and react about their biological parents until you have this conversation. Some kids don’t know how to act and remain silent and unsure of what to say or even think. Others can feel angry, abandoned, and anxious. 

However your child responds is ok and what they need from you is validation. Give your child space to sort through his emotions and offer plenty of support, empathy, and love. Your goal is letting your child know whatever they’re feeling or not feeling is right and ok. 

Confirm their feelings with statements such as: 

  • “I know this must be hard for you” 
  • “I’m here for you always” 
  • “It’s okay to take time to process your feelings” 
  • Avoid statements dismissing your child’s emotions and feelings 

Keep the door open between you and your child by being an active listener. It’s their story and their journey. Not yours. Listen often so they know you’re a safe place to come with their conflicting emotions. 

Ways to keep birth parents involved 

Use these ideas only when appropriate. You can also adapt them to fit your child’s situation: 

  • Have your child’s biological parents write letters you can give when appropriate 
  • Create a life story book with as many pictures, documents, and small details as possible 
  • Allow contact with the birth parents if appropriate 
  • Use social media to stay connected while still keeping boundaries 

Why your child needs your support with biological parents 

It’s okay if you feel some pain and insecurity. You don’t know your role when your child seeks out relationships with their birth parents . Yes, it’s going to be hard. Your child benefits from having and maintaining relationships with their biological family members. 

Most adopted children experience some sort of separation anxiety4. Feelings of loss or grief can come up when sorting through their past. These emotions can fluctuate during different stages of development. 

Advantages in keeping healthy relationships with biological parents and family members include: 

  • Minimizing the potential of your child idealizing or diminishing their birth parents 
  • Gaining a better understanding of themselves 
  • Learning about family health history and genetics 
  • Connecting to their ethnic and cultural background 
  • Understanding the reasons behind their adoption 
  • Having more people in the world who love and care for them 

Adopting your child was one of the greatest days of your life and should be celebrated. It’s important you’re open and honest with your child about where they came from and how they came into your home. 

 Talking to your adopted child about their biological parents increases their self-worth. 

 Not sure how to talk to your adopted child about their biological parents? Do you feel like you need extra counsel, support, and resources? Contact City Ministries Child Placement Agency today. 

 We can point you in the right direction. As well as provide your child with the support they need when building healthy relationships with their biological parents. 

 Connect with us today. 

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