Parenting advice to equip adopted kids with answers to insensitive peer queries.
One of the biggest challenges is how to help a child cope with those insensitive questions from peers (as well as adults). You know the ones: You’re ADOPTED!!!! Why?, Where are your real parents?, Didn’t your real parents love you?, Are you ever going back to your real family? Here are tips to help you through some of those challenges.
7 Tips to Help Adopted Kids Handle Tricky, Insensitive Peer Questions
Start those adoption chats early. Begin using the term “adoption” during your child’s early toddler and preschool years to help you feel at ease. Just look for natural ways to bring up the topic such as a friend who is pregnant, a book, or a program on television or movie about adoption. Believe it or not, one of the biggest mistakes is that many parents try to shield their child from knowing the truth about their adoption too long. Of course, they do so out of love, but waiting until “the best time” or “when he’s later and can understand” actually makes those tougher questions like “Why did you parents give you up?” harder for the child to handle and assert.
Create an open-door policy. Peter L. Benson, lead researcher of one of the largest studies on adoptees says that, “Quiet, open communication about adoption seems to be the key” to helping kids thrive and take their adoption in stride. Your child needs to know he can come to you in ease and comfort with any question and at any time. And your child always needs to hear this information from you in a context of love and commitment.
Reassure your child that his feelings-whatever they may be–and quest for information about his past are normal and that you will do whatever you can to fill in those details. That kind of calm, reassuring helpfulness – letting the child know you’re “there” anytime and there’s nothing he should ever feel uncomfortable about asking you will help.
Stick to what has been asked. While you should be honest, only give your child the information he needs to know at the time. Too much information is overwhelming. Remember, this is an ongoing conversation instead of a one-time marathon. Keep in mind that your answers will often be the same ones your child will use to respond to peer queries.
Be age appropriate. Use words and language that your child suitable to your child’s age and ability to understand. Research at Rutgers University found that all kids develop a gradual meaning of adoption in these predictable stages and regardless of whether they are adopted or not. It helps to know those stages.Leaving out certain facts due to the age of your child is okay.
Keep painful stuff in the closet. Painful details about your child’s past (such as sexual and physical abuse, a parent’s criminal background, the birth mother’s alcoholism or drug-addiction or that the pregnancy was caused by rape) should be kept confidential. Besides you and your parenting partner, only the child’s doctor or mental health professional need to know those details for now.
If anyone asks (like a nosy relative or friend) simply say: “When Kevin is old enough he can choose to share about his past. We have all the information we need.” Then say no more and protect your child. Every once in a while a “It’s none of your business” may be just fine as your response to a rude adult. Tell your child he can always say, “I don’t know. Ask my Mom.” Or “If I don’t want to know, why should you?”
Don’t hide it from your child. Keeping the adoption “secret” – or trying to “hide it” from a child only connotes to a child that there was something to be ashamed of when he does find out. The central fear of adopted children is that they will be “given up” again. Your child needs assurance–both now and forever—that your relationship is permanent. (”Yep, my parents are stuck with me forever” is fine peer response.”)
Develop comebacks for insensitive questions. Let’s face it, kids can be cruel and seem to be getting crueler these days. So one of the best things parents can do is arm adopted kids with the right vocabulary or a couple great comeback lines so they’re ready for those guaranteed insensitive peer queries. The trick is to anticipate what kind of questions may be asked, then help the child master the “right” delivery of the line through rehearsal.
Stress that the child does not have to give out any information he is not comfortable giving. A simple yes or no is just fine sometimes. Keep in mind, it’s usually not what the child says, but how you say it that’s key to success. So you’ll need to rehearse those comeback lines again and again until your child feels comfortable delivering them to peers.
Written by Dr. Michele Borba, Original article here