How To Explain To Your Child That They Were Adopted

Dear Dr. Bill,

Three years ago my husband and I adopted a beautiful baby girl from our niece who lives in another state.  We are considering moving to that part of the country where this niece lives and we are going to have more contact with her and other family members who know about the adoption.  How should we begin to talk to our daughter about this?


Dear Susan,

It’s a good idea to begin telling your daughter that she was adopted from a young age.  Some parents avoid discussing the issue with their kids because it makes them uncomfortable.  Years go by and then they are faced with telling an older child something they have kept secret.  This can undermine the child’s sense of security, and may result in feelings of rejection and betrayal.

Since she’s only 3, tell your daughter about her adoption using age-appropriate language, and make sure you frame it in positive way.

You can begin by reaffirming how special she is, both to God and to mommy and daddy.  Let her know that she is so special that mommy and daddy chose her over all of the other children in the world.

When she’s a bit older, perhaps 4 or 5, you can explain the difference between a biological parent and an adoptive parent.  Let her know that she actually had two different mommies.

Her first mommy took care of her when she was very, very tiny, inside of her tummy.  Then you brought her home from the hospital after she was born to live with you, because she was so extra special.

When you move back to the area where your niece lives, it can be positive for your daughter to get to know her birth mother-explaining to her that your niece was her “tummy mommy.”   However, in the event that your niece has personal or family problems, you’ll need to navigate that relationship carefully.

There’s an excellent book that helps kids understand adoption.  It’s called “Adopted and Loved Forever” by Annette Dellinger.

Thanks for writing Susan.  If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click on the “Questions” tab on the Family Expert page.

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