Adoption isn’t the way it used to be. Although it wasn’t fair, there was often a real social stigma attached to being adopted in the past. However, that has largely changed, although an adopted child is still likely to encounter prejudice at some point when they are growing up. Many children now know that they are adopted, thanks in large part to a growing trend of open adoption. This is when the birth mother knows the adoptive parents and has some form of access to the child – whether that is by mail, telephone or in person.
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However, for adoptive parents who opt for a closed adoption – where there is no contact with the birth mother – it’s often a real struggle to decide whether or not to tell their child that they are adopted. After all, they went for a closed adoption to create a clean break with the natural parents. Even if they do decide to tell their adopted child, they find it very hard to know when it’s the right time to break the news.
People used to believe that not telling children they were adopted was the better approach, since it meant that the child did not have to come to terms with what was then seen as a disturbing reality. However, most experts now agree that children who are told that they are adopted – rather than finding out for themselves – tend to grow up better adjusted and happier.
In fact, any shock that children do experience when they are told they are adopted is mainly due to a loss of trust in their parents. If the revelation is completely unexpected, they can feel deceived and let down – which can have serious negative consequences for their development. Because of this, parents need to start talking to their adopted children about adoption at a very young age. In fact, it’s a mistake for parents to wait until a child starts to ask questions – which they will at some point. Of course, young children may not really understand about adoption, but parents can still start to get them used to the concepts – for instance, having two mommies. This way, once the child starts to realize that they are adopted, it will seem natural and won’t come as a shock.
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It is also very important for adoptive parents to create a positive view of the child’s adoption. For example, every child wants to know the story of how they came into the world, and to be told that they were loved from the start. It isn’t enough for parents to tell their child that they are adopted – they need to tell them the story of their birth and how they came to be where they are today. This helps the child to create a positive self-image, and gives them a foundation for building their identity. It’s also important to let an adopted child know that their birth parents loved them – speaking badly of birth parents may make a child feel they are somehow responsible or are bad themselves.