"When and how do you tell your child that s/he is adopted?" This is one of the most common questions that people ask us about adoption. Most of these apply to fostering as well.
1. Start Today
One of our children came to live with us as an infant. From the first day, we talked about the birth parents regularly...as in most every day. If you haven't talked about it yet, now is the right time to begin. There is no shame in the miraculous story that God has written for their life!
2. Speak Honorably
This can be tough at times, but it is so important! Speak honestly, but respectfully about their birth family. Your child has two sets of parents. When you speak honorably of their birth parents, you speak honorably of your child.
3. Acknowledge Characteristics
"Your feet sure are growing, I'll bet you're going to be tall- your birth dad was even taller than me." "I think maybe you get your excellent artistic ability from your birth family!" These are all things we have said to our children, which makes talking about their birth family flow naturally in conversation.
4. Show Pictures
Each of our children has a photo album with pictures of their birth family in them. These were especially treasured by our kids when they first came to live with us. They keep them in their room and can get them out anytime they choose.
5. Pray With Them
We often pray specifically for their birth parents with our kids during bedtime routine. Sometimes they wish to pray for them, other times they may ask us to pray for their birth family. Don't miss this special opportunity!
6. Keep Memories
All of our kids receive a "Special Box" when they join our family. This is where we keep items that are important from their birth family as well as important milestones along the way. We even have the tiny blood pressure cuff from #LegendaryE that was on his little arm the day we met him in the PICU. It's stashed away for him in his box.
The "Gotcha Day" and "Adoption Day" are both celebrated annually with the #CooperCrew. We celebrate the day we "gotcha"- the day the child came to live with us, as well as the day we finalized the adoption. Plus it's a good excuse to eat cake.
Each of our children carry two middle names- the middle name that was given to them by their birth parents, and one that we add from someone else in our family. Our #Kiddo chose to add Zach's mom's middle name of Lea. You know, "Something old, something new..."
9. Throw A Party
When the adoption is finalized, throw a party! Invite your friends, family, social workers, counselors, CASA/GAL, and your best friend's mother's neighbor's grandmother to celebrate with you! Your child will appreciate knowing the vast number of people who were so excited for their adoption. And there's an opportunity to eat cake!
10. Allow Them to Grieve
Grief is a weird, mysterious, and strange thing. It looks different for different people at different times. It's kind of like an imposter- sometimes it shows up looking like unexplained silliness, sometimes it looks like anger. Sometimes it looks like a complete meltdown because "he stole the air that I was going to breathe and now he won't give it back!" Like the ocean, it ebbs and flows...and how you approach it will determine whether your experience is positive or negative. Cake may help.
11. Prepare for the Future
SPOILER ALERT: little questions grow into big questions. We share age-appropriate details regarding their adoption with each of our kids. This is an ongoing dialogue, not just a briefing. When your child reaches adulthood, they may want to find their birth parent(s). Settle in your heart right now that this has NOTHING to do with you. Determine here and now that you will be the same love and support to them then as you are today. Our children have two sets of parents, and we're raising them to have enough love in their hearts for all of us! Also, cake.