Adoptive Families Blog

How to Tell Your Child They Were Adopted (and How Not To)

Posted by Lifetime Adoption on September 26, 2018

tell-child-adopted"When should I tell my child they're adopted?"

"What if they don't understand or it makes them sad?"

"How should I tell my child that they were adopted?"

These are some of the most commonly asked questions asked by hopeful adoptive parents, struggling to find the right answers. Today, Lifetime shares the best way to share your child's adoption story with them!

The old belief was that a child shouldn't be told about his or her adoption. Their adoption was a family secret; something to be ashamed of. This was difficult to practice in real life and also dishonest. It's hard to maintain a lie this big forever because extended family may knowingly or unknowingly let the cat out of the bag or the child may grow up and find an adoption decree! Adoptive families should not withhold their child’s history from them. It’s a part of their life and not disclosing this to them is like lying.

darryl-melissa-daughterFortunately, in modern adoption, adoptive parents are encouraged to celebrate their child's adoption story. It's best for adoptive parents to talk about adoption from day one, even from infancy. Young children might be told that they grew in someone else's tummy and were placed in your home as soon as they were born. The point is that you should give the child a chance to embrace the idea of adoption from a very young age.

It is unrealistic to expect a very young child to grasp the idea of adoption right away. You may have to repeat it a few times throughout their childhood until they understand what it really means. This will be an ongoing conversation with your child, not just a "one-time" affair. Experts believe that it is best to share information little by little, almost like a building block. As the child grows, he or she will be able to understand difficult concepts and their questions and this conversation will change.

The information you share should be appropriate to the age of the child. Avoid sharing information that will make your child resent their birth mother or think less of them. It is natural for the child to get hurt or upset as he or she tries to grasp the implications of adoption. But if you talk about adoption in an open, honest, and caring way, it will significantly minimize any hurt. If you don't know the answers to certain questions, admit it. Just let the child know that it is okay to talk about adoption and that you are willing to answer any questions related to it. This will greatly build the confidence of the child in you and make it easier for him/her to digest the information shared.

talking adoption with kids-1

A wonderful resource for learning how to talking about your child's adoption story is the adoption webinar "Talking about Adoption With Your Child."

In the webinar, you'll hear from two experienced adoptive mothers share what worked to help their child understand their own unique adoption story. Tune in and get tips on where to start, and how to make adoption a topic that’s open for discussion as a child grows up. 

You can watch "Talking About Adoption With Your Child" at

Topics: Open Adoption, adoptee, explaining adoption to children