Contrary to what the movies portray or the general trend in thinking is among the larger society, breaking the news is not about a moment where the child is informed that he or she is adopted, but is an ongoing process that starts from the day when the child comes home. It is a continuous journey, and to begin with one needs to set the context right from the start not only with the child, but with family and friends.
There are few measures that need to be addressed while breaking the news of adoption to your child.
Preparing your family and immediate social circle of friends prior to the arrival of the child.
Many people have pre-conceived notions on adoptions, and prospective parents need to be fully prepared for the onslaught of questions raised by family or friends. Some of them may be completely insensitive, and may have incomplete information on adoption. Bursting myths at the initial stages is important as this eases the process of bringing the child home. Prospective adoptive parents must be armed with correct information on adoption and respond effectively.
There should be no trace of guilt or regret when insensitive and uncomfortable questions come about in a discussion. Constantly engaging, educating and sensitising family members and friends will bring about a change in mindsets.
Preparing the larger society
When the child enters pre-school, preparing the child is vital as he or she is stepping out of the comfort zone, and for any child it would be a challenge and a hurdle to cross from a secure environment to an unknown entity. At this stage, probably children would not have the full grasp of adoption in full entirety, but we need to prepare them and make them feel secure and comfortable with themselves.
Engaging with the school is important as and when it is required. There is no need to provide excess information, but avoiding or withholding information could be detrimental to the child’s growth potential from an emotional and learning perspective, which applies to children through both adoption or biological route.
While entering junior school the processing of information by children is not same as when they were toddlers. They begin to comprehend and understand family and social structure. So, in this scenario, the questions will be varied, and the most beautiful aspect of this age is that they will ask questions, which may be uncomfortable for us as parents to confront. They will be direct and honest with their questions, and part of their queries may even be coming from peer groups in school.
Your response will have to be crisp, direct and with absolute clarity, so that the children feel comfortable and have a sense of security while we address their queries. If they sense some guilt, fear or anxiety, or get the impression that we are withholding information, then it would set forth a pattern, which can become an issue at a later stage in their lives.
Middle school and High school
The foundation that was built in the early years plays a crucial role with children on what they have comprehended or assimilated in their growing years. It will take shape in their understanding of adoption. One must continuously engage with one’s child at this juncture, as the next stage of adolescence is when they will grasp the concept of adoption. When they are entering early adulthood and building their own identity, there could be a possibility of more questions coming your way about their roots. Forming identity is central to any child’s emotional growth, and this is true of any child entering young adulthood irrespective of whether they are biological or adopted children.
This period of growing up is when hormonal changes are occurring. Secondly, there is intense peer pressure, and so we must be able to discern between teen-adolescence concerns and adoption-related ones.
Always seek counselling when in doubt, and adopt a balanced approach and a natural style of parenting without inhibitions. We do make mistakes while parenting, and there is no difference between biological and adoptive parenting styles. The only cardinal rule to which it is important to adhere is never to deride the biological circumstances of the child. A sense of empathy is required towards the birth parents. Compassion as well as firmness in equal measure is crucial to the child’s emotional wellbeing and life skills as they grow into adults.
Tips to create an ongoing dialogue
- Make them comfortable with the concept of adoption by creating photo albums of home coming and celebrating home coming day with family and friends.
- Answering queries of the child without hesitation and fear.
- Sharing information, which is age appropriate.
- Making the concept of adoption natural and not something to be ashamed of or hidden.
- When in doubt don’t hesitate to seek advice or help from counselors or other adoptive parents.
- Involving the larger society (family, friends, medical community and educators) at every stage of adoption is crucial to the overall development of the child.
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