This week, I received a question from a reader that applies to nearly every adoptive family in the foster care community. How much do you share with your children about the reasons they are adopted?
Here is an excerpt from the message I received:
Hi there! We have recently completed our first adoption of a 3-year-old child. They came to us through foster care 10 months ago, and I am trying to find a way to explain to them why they came to be with us… any suggestions? We cannot currently have contact with their birth family for safety reasons, though we want to revisit the possibility as time goes on.
I thought about writing a little book about their story – but how do you remove the age-inappropriate aspects (teen pregnancy, mental illness, drug addiction, suicide, incest, gang life and criminal activity, mafia ties, etc), while still giving them a reason for having had to leave their birth family, and not trivializing it all to the point that when they are old enough to know more they resent you for not being open enough in the past? Big giant question, I know – just hoping for some insight from someone who has adopted a young child through foster care. It’s hard to know what to say.
We are in the same situation with our Stinkpot. This was my reply:
At four years old, I tell Stinkpot about being brought to us by a lady one night & that he cried all that night. I know that his drug-addicted birthmother loved him but just couldn’t kick the habit. When he gets to a point when he might ask, I’m just going to tell him that bio-mom couldn’t take care of him. If pressed, then I would explain how she had some problems that didn’t allow her to take good care of him. Depending on his age, I will probably use it as a teaching moment about drug abuse when he is old enough to understand it.
Your children are young & as they get older they will probably not remember much so I wouldn’t fret over it too much. Just be supportive & don’t talk badly about their birthfamily. I have a relative with an incarcerated parent that used to say: “I’m a bad person, just like my dad.” Don’t let that happen to your child!
What advice would you give about sharing a child’s traumatic past with them?
I would love to hear from former foster children and what you wanted (or didn’t want) to know?