Should I tell my child they are adopted? What is the right age to tell my child they are adopted? Will it affect their Mental Health?
Adopting a child into a family is a big step.
It is a ray of hope for all those who are not able to have children naturally or choose not to.
How parents handle the topic of adoption can impact the child.
In most cases, children are adopted from infancy and often not aware of their adoption. In such situations, the major dilemma that comes to the minds of the adoptive parents is whether they should tell their child about his/her adoption or not.
This one declaration can change the life of the child and also affect their health mentally.
Now&Me in conversation with Psychologist Meghna Prabhu, a counselling psychologist, talks about how parents should handle the topic of adoption in a way that its impact on the mental health of the child is minimised.
1. Should I tell my child that he or she is adopted?
The answer to this question is always “YES”. If your child gets to know about the adoption from any other source other than the parents, then it could break their trust. It will also make them wonder if they are really wanted and loved and feelings of insecurity come in. Why was it a secret? Is it something bad? How parents react or handle the topic of adoption is extremely important in the child’s understanding of adoption.
If you talk about adoption openly, your child will view adoption a normal, healthy and happy thing. However, if you are hesitant, then the child will feel as it is something wrong, or something that should be hidden.
2. At what age should I tell my child that he or she is adopted?
Well, you can always start telling them at the age of around 4 years, you could tell them little by little as they grow up. Start by telling them how much you wanted a child and all the struggle you went through to finally have them in your lives. Share bedtime stories of children being adopted into happy homes full of love and joy. Avoid fairytales like Cinderella which give a very negative view of non-biological parents. As they grow older you can share more with them.
3. What if I tell my child about the adoption when they are older and better able to understand?
When children are young, the sphere of influence is the parents and close family, as they get older that sphere of influence increases, to neighbours, then school, etc. Which is why an early age where you have more control of the narrative your child hears about adoption is always better. As the sphere of influence increases, you don’t have control about what information your child is receiving from others.
4. What if other people say negative things about adoption to my child?
You can’t control what others say, which is why what you say to your child and how you react is important. If you make the child feel secure, chances are it won’t matter to them what others think.
5. What if my child’s friend asks or says something about the adoption?
Tell them you wanted a child and you got so lucky when you found your child. As long as you are positive about it, they will be too.
6. Will my child feel different if I tell them they are adopted?
They will feel different, but it doesn’t have to be in a negative way. When I was told about it, I loved that I was different, I felt that I was chosen and my parents weren’t stuck with me. I felt lucky and special.
7. I want to adopt a child but I’m very anxious about what others and society will think. What should I do?
In such cases, I would recommend going for counselling before adopting a child. They are people who say, “if we had a biological child we wouldn’t need counselling so why now?”
Well, I think even parents who have a biological child would benefit from counselling. It prepares you mentally and emotionally to some degree for how your life will change after kids.
8. My child wants to know about their biological parents...
Every child has these curiosities at different stages, having an open and honest discussion is helpful. You can also speak to a counsellor at this stage, as your child should be prepared for what they find out. Even though most adopted children will have this question, not all will really want to find out. A lot of children feel happy and secure with their families and don’t always want to know about their biological roots.
“As a counselling psychologist, my focus is on providing support and understanding to my clients by helping them work through both their internal world and the problems they face in the external world. I have worked with a diverse set of clients ranging from adolescents, young adults and couples. My aim is to equip my clients with skills which help them improve their relationship with themselves and those around them. As an adopted child myself, my focus and passion is towards helping potential parents preparing and deciding to adopt a child, and working with concerns and challenges faced by adopted children” - Psychologist Meghna Prabhu