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How I Taught My Son About His Adoption

Teach My Son About Adoption

When I was young, and dreaming of my someday family – adoption was not in the forefront of my mind. I always admired the concept, but to me it was just so … exotic. It didn’t seem like something you could actually do. And of course, it never crossed my mind that I might not be able to have children… That is of course, until I was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. After that, whether or not I was willing to acknowledge or accept it, I had this nagging feeling that I wouldn’t be able to get pregnant. Even still, never imagined I would actually get to go through the miracle of adoption. But I did. My son is adopted. And let me just start by saying, that we don’t take the subject of teaching our son about adoption lightly. It’s a topic very near and dear to our hearts that will mostly likely be on his mind, in some way or another, for the rest of his life. We recognize that, but there are other truths we believe know to be true as well. Our son is not, and will never be defined by his adoption. If I have anything to do with it, the fact that he was adopted will be but a small drop in the bucket of amazing things that make him D. However important it is to me that he not dwell on this one little drop in his bucket though, it’s just as important that he learn and understand where he came from. So today, I wanted to share with you, how I taught my son about his adoption.

How I Taught My Son About His Adoption

Adoption Infant Dom

As Hubbalicious and I embarked upon our adoption journey, having mostly no clue at all what we were in for… we did know, in the back of our minds that one day, this conversation would be at our doorstep. Neither of us wanted to keep adoption a secret from our would-be child. Of course, that was taken out of our hands anyway, when we adopted a Liberian baby… but we wouldn’t have had it any other way. We have an open adoption with his birth mother and that’s the way we preferred it from the beginning. But how do you go about having that conversation? You think about it, and ponder all the ways to spill the beans… but the truth of the matter, is that it’s not just one conversation. Or at least in my opinion, it shouldn’t be. And on top of that, you never know when your child will bring it up or in what way. So planning a conversation was hardly logical for us. That being said, we did have an idea of what we wanted him to know and how we wanted to explain it to him.

Teaching Adoption

Since the very first day we brought D home, we’ve talked openly with friends and family (or random strangers, as situations sometimes have it), in front of D about the fact that he was adopted. We might say, “he looks just like his biological sister” (he really does). Or, “yes, isn’t that a cute blanket? His birth mother sent that to us.” So in casual conversation, D has been “learning” about adoption his entire life. That was deliberate. It was a conscious choice we made from day one. I don’t want him to remember ever sitting down and learning for the first time, that he was adopted. I want it to be something that he’s just always known. It’s just something that is. It’s a part of him, it’s a part of us. It’s part of what makes our family a family. So the hard part comes when he starts asking questions about those things that just “are” and desiring a deeper understanding. I’m not sure he’s there yet, but he is starting to question basic things.

My Family - Adoption

For instance, my sister is pregnant with baby #4. And this time around he’s old enough to wonder what that means. He knows that his most recent baby cousin came out of Lindsey’s tummy. So he wonders if this baby will come out of Lindsey’s tummy too. We told him that yes, Lindsey has a baby in her tummy and he’ll be born soon! (It’s a boy!)

He accepted that as a given that totally made sense and we all moved along. He must have been chewing on that for a little while though, because a few days later he approached the subject again, and our conversation went like this:

D: “Mommy, do you have a baby in your tummy?”  (*I resisted the urge to smack him take this personally, knowing it’s been a topic of conversation lately.)

Me: “No, honey. Just Lindsey has a baby in her tummy. Remember we talked about Mommy’s tummy being broken?”  (This has been our way of explaining to him why Mommy has an ileostomy. He loves to look at it and try to expose my bag to others in public. It’s super awesome. – See?  No secrets.)

D: “Oh, yeah. Does your tummy hurt?”

Me: “No, it doesn’t hurt. It just doesn’t work that well anymore.”

D: “Oh, okay. You feel better?”

Me: “Yes, baby I feel just fine.”

That was it. After just a little more clarification, he seemed ready to move on and he didn’t ask any more questions. I’m a big advocate of letting your kids take the lead on what they are ready to hear. In my church, we have a principle called “line upon line, precept upon precept.” Which to me, basically means, learning things step by step and in the right order. Building upon your knowledge and understanding as you grow and mature. And in this case, it means teaching him as he’s ready, in age appropriate ways. And once again, the topic remained on his mind. We had another conversation a couple days later. This time, Hubbalicious was in the car with us.

D: “Mommy, your tummy is broken?”

Me: “Yep, but it doesn’t hurt, remember? Mommy’s bag made it feel all better!”

D: “Oh, yeah! Did I come out of Lindsey’s tummy?” (*Hmm… it looks like we’re doing this right now.)

Hubs: “No, only Lindsey’s babies come out of her tummy.”

Aunt Lindsey - Adoption

As he looked at us perplexed, wondering why Lindsey’s babies come out of her tummy, but he didn’t come out of mine, we could see he was ready to hear more. We hadn’t planned this conversation, and we definitely didn’t feel prepared. But in our hearts, we had always known how we wanted him to learn of his adoption, so with a prayer in our hearts, we just dove right in. This is what we told him:

“Buddy, do you remember how we told you that Mommy’s tummy doesn’t work very well? Well, we wanted to have a baby so badly, but Mommy couldn’t carry one in her tummy. But lucky for us, Heavenly Father knew that you were supposed to be ours. He knew you were the perfect boy for our family. And since he couldn’t send you to Mommy’s tummy, He sent you to grow in *Mary’s* tummy. Wasn’t that nice of *Mary* to carry you in her tummy so that you could come and live in our family?? We prayed for you to join us for so long before you got here! And we love you soooo much. We are so happy she did that for us, so that you could be ours.” (**I’ve changed the name of his birth mother in order to protect her privacy.)

My Family - Adoption

He was quite happy with that explanation and even seemed to understand it. So far, he hasn’t said anything else. Except, he did reiterate that he grew in *Mary’s* tummy a few days later, which impressed me. I realized he did understand and remember what we taught him that day. It just reaffirmed to me, that he was in fact ready to hear it. As he grows and questions more, we’ll have to face some more difficult truths. But those will come in time, when he’s old enough and ready to understand. Line upon line, precept upon precept.

The most important thing, is that he knows how much we love him. And wow, do we love him. That he knows how grateful we are, for the way miraculous way he came into our family. And we are so grateful. Eternally grateful.

And that’s how we taught our son about his adoption. It doesn’t have to be a purging of all the gory details at once. Take your time, let them soak up the information bits at a time. They’ll lead the way and let you know when they’re ready.

Leah Sannar Blogger for Crohn's Disease


PS: Were you or someone you know adopted? How did you/they learn about their adoption? Was it always open? Was it closed? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.

Find this and other awesome posts at my favorite link parties: The Diary of a Real Housewife, Dwellings-The Heart of Your Home, The Shabby Nest

34 comments… add one
  • Francesca @The Hungry Homemaker Blog August 5, 2015, 10:45 am

    This was a beautiful post! I think you handled it perfectly! He is a beautiful blessing and so lucky to have such a loving mother.
    Francesca @The Hungry Homemaker Blog recently posted…7 Layer DipMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 5, 2015, 11:02 am

      Thank you Francesca! He really is such a blessing. :)

  • Rebecka August 5, 2015, 12:08 pm

    I love that his adoption isn’t a secret, it seems like it would be harder for a child to digest if he/she were to find out on his own at an older age. We currently have two children from my tummy but my husband and I have also talked about adopting or fostering in the future.
    Rebecka recently posted…Tic Tac, Tic Tac ToeMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 5, 2015, 12:14 pm

      Thanks Rebecka! That’s so great that you two are considering an adoption! I hope you’ll snag a copy of my brand new e-book. There are lots of helpful hints in there that I learned along our journey. :o)

  • Alison August 5, 2015, 12:18 pm

    He is so darling. That can’t be easy to navigate and you seem to be doing it beautifully.

    • Leah Sannar August 5, 2015, 12:49 pm

      Thanks Alison, it has always been something that plagues me because I just worry about how he’ll feel. I sure hope he knows how much we love him!

  • Rae August 5, 2015, 3:17 pm

    My husband and his brother were both adopted (they aren’t biological brothers, either) and because of that, my husband has talked about one day adopting, too. My husband was told he was adopted when he was 5, one of his cousin’s told him he wasn’t real family, apparently he was unfazed by this. His brother was 10 or 11, and didn’t handle it as well. He didn’t understand why his biological parents gave him up and as a result, they had a rough couple of years with him acting out because they weren’t his “real” parents.

    • Leah Sannar August 5, 2015, 3:29 pm

      Wow, thanks for sharing your story Rae. Yes, as an adoptive mother, those are all fears that swim in the back of my mind. I guess we just have to do the best we can and make sure D knows how much he’s loved. I hope you and your husband have a chance to adopt someday. It really was quite an amazing experience. I hope my e-book helps with some tips!

  • Kathy | MomWifeWoman August 5, 2015, 6:05 pm

    “Buddy, do you remember how we told you that Mommy’s tummy doesn’t work very well? Well, we wanted to have a baby so badly, but Mommy couldn’t carry one in her tummy…” This paragraph is almost word for word what we tell our boys. It’s honest and something children can wrap their minds around. Your little guy is adorable. Adoption is wonderful, isn’t it!
    Kathy | MomWifeWoman recently posted…Parents’ Guide to KindergartenMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 6, 2015, 1:04 pm

      Well, I’m sorry that your “tummy is broken” like mine, but yes! Adoption has blessed us in so many ways. I can’t even imagine our life without our little D. Thanks for stopping by Kathy!

  • Mama Munchkin August 5, 2015, 6:45 pm

    I was happy to read this. I have three bio kids and two adopted. My adopted son is from Ethiopia and came to us at age 4… so he knew his story- better than we did in fact. I am actually planning a birth family trip back this fall which I am nervous and excited about. My daughter is only 22 months and not a talker. I have an open adoption and her birth mom is in the states. I often wonder how it will be different explaining her story since she has been with us since the moment she was born. You did an excellent job explaining it. And, you are right answer their questions but don’t tell them more than what they need to know at the time. They will ask more questions later. Kids are good at that ;)
    Mama Munchkin recently posted…Travelogue Day 19- Colosseum & Ancient City TourMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 6, 2015, 1:03 pm

      They definitely are!! Someone I admire gave me great advice one time, when she said – Just tell them what they want to know. There’s no reason to go way further into detail, because if they aren’t asking about it, then they probably aren’t quite capable of understanding it just yet. When D started asking these questions, that advice made total sense and I was glad to be able to lean on it. :)

  • Jaclyn August 5, 2015, 10:05 pm

    Beautiful post! Beautiful story! I think that was the perfect way to tell him his story … Why? Because you’re his mom and mom’s always know what’s best for their children! One thing I’ve learned about raising a little one is no matter how you “dream” of doing it, the best situations are always the ones that you just “roll with.” Really love this post!
    Jaclyn recently posted…3 Elements to My Successful Year of BreastfeedingMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 6, 2015, 1:01 pm

      Thanks Jaclyn. I don’t always feel like I know best, but I for sure know that we love him the most! So that has to count for something right?? Thanks for your comment.

  • Alice August 6, 2015, 9:38 am

    Leah, it was really nice to hear how you are sharing with your son his adoption story. My husband and I are taking the same approach. Now that our son is 5 the questions and realizations are even more in depth. This last year he completed preschool and one show and tell day at school he brought is adoption story book and shared with the whole class how he became part of our family. It was a chance for him to share the positive nature and love we have been teaching him since birth about his birth parents. There were lots of questions from his teachers and we found it a great opportunity to share positive open adoption stories. It is really great you are sharing. As a social worker in adoptions I hear every day the struggle to become a parent through adoption and then get to see the rewarding days when it finally happens and birth and adoptive parents find each other and arms wide open accept a child into the unique triad of an open adoption family. Thanks for sharing you story.

    • Leah Sannar August 6, 2015, 12:59 pm

      Wow, that is so great Alice! I would love for D to have that opportunity someday. I have always worried about how he’ll feel towards his adoption. I think maybe I’m just being worrisome, but I really hope that it never causes him any pain. Adoption has blessed us in so many ways.

  • Julia August 6, 2015, 7:22 pm

    Great article. You can tell how much you love your son.

  • liz August 6, 2015, 7:40 pm

    Hi, I’m from Blog Loft. This is a beautiful post, and you are a beautiful family! I know 2 brothers, both adopted, who have also just “known” they were adopted for most of their lives. Oh and my stepmother has an ostomy – so I am familiar with that too. Your blog is wonderful!

    • Leah Sannar August 6, 2015, 8:48 pm

      Wow, look at all we have in common! That’s awesome, thanks for sharing! :)

  • sacha August 7, 2015, 12:58 pm

    This is a beautiful and inspirational post…will share on G+ and Pinterest. thanks for sharing.

    • Leah Sannar August 7, 2015, 1:50 pm

      Thank you Sacha, that’s so sweet! My son is easy to write about. :)

  • Nakeya August 8, 2015, 10:56 am

    Wow. Thank you for sharing this story. I love the way you have been open with him for the very beginning. And openly talking about it to people around him so it can be something he has grown to know from Day 1 is an awesome approach. You are your hubby are awesome and great parents. I’m so happy I saw your blog post on the Blog Loft FB group.

    Nakeya recently posted…8 Must Haves For a 7 Day CruiseMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 8, 2015, 11:28 am

      Thanks Nakeya! I love Blog Loft, everyone there is so helpful when I have questions! It was scary at first, to learn to just be really open about D’s adoption. But when we really explore how we want our son to feel about it, being open was the only way to go. :)

  • Marilyn August 8, 2015, 1:21 pm

    Leah, I love your church principle. One of my cousins was adopted when I was growing up. My aunt would not allow anyone to say the word adopted. In the end, someone just blurted out “is that the little boy that Aunt J adopted”. He was hurt and perplexed. I admire your honest and how you sharing with him how God designed him just for your family. Many blessings…..

    • Leah Sannar August 8, 2015, 6:20 pm

      Aw, my heart hurts for what your cousin experienced. That’s definitely what I’m trying to avoid,I never want him to feel like his adoption is a “taboo” subject. Thanks so much for opening up and sharing that story with us. :)

  • Tori Gabriel August 10, 2015, 11:10 am

    Wow, that must be quite a difficult topic to talk about but you are handling it amazingly. I have two daughters but we were told that it would be “medically inadvisable” for me to have anymore (I also suffer Crohns). I have thought about adoption but wouldn’t know how to explain to our third child that he was adopted but his sisters weren’t. You guys are amazing.
    Tori Gabriel recently posted…10 moments only parents will understandMy Profile

    • Leah Sannar August 10, 2015, 6:13 pm

      Aw, thank you Tori! We have worried also about having one via surrogacy.. what that would feel like to D. I hope that, if we go that route, we’re able to make sure he knows that biology really means nothing to us. :)

  • Amber August 13, 2015, 12:57 pm

    Both of my cousins are adopted from China. I’m not sure how they were told about it, but we just know that we are glad they’re here now. Both are very intelligent, so they probably learned about their adoption from an early age. :) So glad you were able to explain to your son on the spot! I don’t know if I would have been able to do that.

    • Leah Sannar August 14, 2015, 1:03 am

      Thanks for sharing your story Amber! We’re so grateful D is here with us as well. :)

  • cleanlifehappywife August 27, 2015, 9:21 am

    I loved reading this! My father was adopted as an infant and his adoptive parents also chose to talk about it from day one. It was never a secret and there was never a day when they sat him down to “drop the bomb”. He was (and is) so secure in his adoption and the love that his parents had for him. He never felt out of place or like he was a mistake or “wasn’t like everyone else” like some adopted children describe feeling. I think that always knowing and having it as part of his story from day one played a huge part in that! I loved reading all about your story!! :) I’ll be back!

    • Leah Sannar August 27, 2015, 9:39 pm

      Thanks for sharing your father’s story! It helps me so much to know that others have paved the way and found success. I’m so glad your father feels at peace. I hope and pray the same for my little D.

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