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We adopted our six year-old son at age one. When he asks questions or makes comments about the first year of his life, or when he was "in momma's tummy," we have never lied to him. We tell him we didn't know him yet because he used to live with a different family when he was a baby. However, this information always goes straight over his head, and he shows no further curiosity. It's like the idea seems completely absurd to him, so he ignores it.

I had a friend who found out when he was 18 that he was adopted, and the sudden revelation really shattered his sense of identity. I had hoped to spare my son much of the same difficulty by being open about it from the start, but it seems he is headed toward it suddenly "hitting him" one day anyway.

Should I sit my son down with this express purpose and hammer the idea until he understands? He has very strong ADHD-like behavior, so we occasionally have to do this for other concepts. Or should we continue answering him truthfully but not pressing the matter? Is there a certain age or stage at which he will be more receptive to the information and we can expect natural curiosity to prompt him to ask us more questions?

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I have no reference or experience to back this up, so a comment instead of an answer: my instinct is that sitting him down and trying to really impress upon him the concept seems like it would be detrimental. I suspect that the friend who learned when he was 18 was effected as much by the fact that he was ignorant of the fact for 18 years as anything else. –  Beofett Sep 5 '13 at 20:22
You may get some hints from these: amazon.co.uk/Favourite-Childrens-Adoption-Books/lm/… and littleparachutes.com/subcategory.php?sid=16 I especially like the "My parents picked me" book –  Rory Alsop Sep 5 '13 at 21:38
I'd imagine partly why it was hard for the 18 year old friend of yours, was that he also had to contend with being deceived for all those years. When it does sink in for your son, he'll at least know you've been honest, even if he wasn't fully ready to accept what you were telling him. –  balanced mama Jan 3 '14 at 0:15

1 Answer 1

Not that I have any experience with that particularly fun topic or research data to back it up, but just from my experience dealing with young kids that would be my 2 cents...

I think it's a bit early for the concept to sink in. I don't know at what age this would start to be appropriate and to have significance in his eyes, but I'd say you could probably wait a few more years. I'd wait until 8 years old, maybe even later. Though after that I would indeed worry about the shock being stronger.

It's a bit of catch-22 really, as if you say it a bit too early it doesn't matter and hit him at all and it'd be probably bad to try to hammer it, and if you say it a bit too late then he'd have defined some identity and get hit harder than you'd want to. But you know that already...

It's like the idea seems completely absurd to him, so he ignores it.

That seems rather normal to me. Some 6 year old will have a good understanding of what a pregnancy really is, others see it in a quite abstract manner. They may just get that siblings were supposed to be in mommy's tummy and other kids were in their mommies' tummies, but some won't have that clear-cut an idea about it. Surely some get it better and sooner than others, but some also simpyl mimic behavior from their usual templates: adults surrouding them, kid books, cartoons, etc... It may look like all the chips are in place for them to understand, but it's still rather superficial.

Also, you can't expect him to really focus on the matter, as it doesn't have much importance for him at this age. It's a stage where a child is still mostly defined, in terms of identity, by his surroundings. He doesn't question his "self" now. He's got his family and friends, that cocoon around him is all that really matters. But he's personality should be almost set in now, and his identity will follow-through soon.

Anyways, I'd wait a bit longer, until he's had time to get more information on the topics of both birth, adoption, parenting, etc... Surely at some point you'll start to notice that he apprehends these on a deeper level, and you'll sense that the time has come.

Until then, maybe instead of addressing the issue directly you could simply push him in the right direction by using stories for kids that approach the matter. It may still "fly over his idea" at first, but it'll also quickly raise questions and make him more curious about it.

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