Birth family is always such a touchy subject. People often ask me if my little man knows his birth family. Does he know his story? Will you tell him? How will you tell him? When will you tell him? WHAT will you tell him?
My little man has a complicated past. But at least he has a past… I’ve spoken to so many people who don’t know what to tell their little ones as they were abandoned. Would you tell them the truth if the truth was such a hard pill to swallow? I don’t know…
Our little people need to know their stories though. The good, the bad and the ugly. Maybe not all of it straight away, but in an age appropriate way.
And you need to be ready to tell them their stories, to answer their questions.
My social worker told me to start telling him he was adopted straight away, to talk about his birth family and to tell him his story from the day we got him. He was 3 days old… Um, really?!?!
She was right… Start by telling them before they can understand to make YOURSELF comfortable with telling the story to them. You need to have told it so often that when a question pops up one day then you aren’t caught off guard.
Most children start asking questions at about 6 or 7 years old. This is when they wonder who they are and what this means about their previous family. When they joined your family, what happened with their previous one? Other children at school will also be wondering and asking questions. This can be a tough one! Our job is to get our kids ready for these questions, their own as well as their friends’ questions.
- Be honest, give facts.
- Answer only what they ask, you don’t have to give more information that exactly what they are asking… yet…
- If they don’t ask by age 7, volunteer information, you will know when your child is ready to know more just by watching their emotional signals. Initiate these conversations with: “I was thinking about your birth mom today,” or “Do you have any questions about your birth family?” Get a feel for what’s going on in their heads by asking, “Aunty so-and-so was wondering if you get your beautiful hair from your birth mother or father. What do you think?”
- Or use books, music and movies to help tell them their story.
- Be ready for their questions and be comfortable answering them.
- Keep a box of keep sakes, use these age appropriately – show them photos of birth family, siblings etc.
- Make a Lifebook – tell them their story in this book. Later on in life make a more detailed book together.
- If you have personal issues and feelings for your child’s birth family, keep them to yourself. Don’t judge them, its not your job. Try to stay positive about them.
- Tell them what you know and be willing to admit if there is something you don’t know. Offer to find out if possible.
- Most birth parents are normal people who were in a tough position or situation and couldn’t parent a child at that time in their lives. They made a choice, it had nothing to do with the child nor was it something the child did or said. Make them understand this.
- Talk about the birth parents often, it helps all members of your family get used to it and lets your child feel comfortable asking you questions about them and the past.
- Know that some children wont feel comfortable talking about their past and their birth parents, and some might be very comfortable. Respect this.
My little man’s birth parents had issues with drugs, I wont however tell him that until he is old enough to understand. Until then he will be told that they were sick. Drug addiction is an illness, so I’m not lying… This would then one day be a way of discussing the danger of drugs with him as well. Your story might be similar or have similar ways of discussing it.
Over the next few days I will post about age appropriate discussions, what to say at which age. Also, discussing this at school. Watch this space…