When Will You Tell Him He’s Adopted?

Yesterday I briefly touched on some of the questions I’m often asked.  But, I intentionally left one out, because I think it deserve an entire post of it’s own.

When Will You Tell Him He’s Adopted?

This question is a new question for me.  It’s just been asked on two occasions both in the last two weeks.

Each time, it’s surprised me.  In fact, I’ve fumbled with my answer because to me it is so blatantly obvious – we talk about it with him in the room, so clearly he already knows.  Obviously as a baby he doesn’t have the cognitive ability to understand.  But, his adoption is common knowledge to everyone in our lives, so it’s not something we could hide from him even if we wanted (which we don’t).

There is no secrete.  And there never will be.

Baby MPB should never have a moment in his life when he wakes up and learns that he’s adopted, rather he should just grow up knowing that this is part of his personal narrative.  Yes, when he asks how babies come from and then asks if he grew in my tummy, we may have to explain things a bit more then other more traditional families.  But, we’ll just explain it exactly as it is.

Honestly, we don’t spend our days talking about his adoption, you may notice I don’t even write about it all the time.  The fact is, the three of us (plus our dog) are a family, and that’s our daily focus in life, not how we became a family.  That said, we are honest about it with others and with him as he starts to understand.  In my mind, to be anything but honest would present adoption as something to be ashamed of, and that’s just not okay.  Honestly, I couldn’t even begin to imagine how scarring that could be for someone to find out later in life that they were adopted – in my mind it would feel a bit like the Truman Show when he looks up into the sky and realizes the entire life he’s lead is fake.  I just cannot see how that would be a good thing for anyone and that’s not something we could ever do to our child.

Further, Baby MPB was brought into our lives through Open Adoption, as in we know his birth mom and she knows him.  We have pictures of them together, we keep in touch with her and value our relationship with her.  We even plan to visit her as soon as we can afford the trip.  Ultimately, he will always know who she is.  And, we want him to know this.  We chose open adoption in large part because of this fact – I don’t have any of the research handy to quote, but research definitely indicates that open adoptions are healthy for the children as they grow into adults, in part because there are no secretes and they have access to their biological family members and information like medical history.

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28 Comments on “When Will You Tell Him He’s Adopted?

  1. I love your approach to this. I don’t think that I will ever be there myself in life, but I feel like if we ever find ourselves adopting that we may have the same feeling about it. It’s nothing to be ashamed of, and I feel like it’s probably better to know where you come from your whole life than to be surprised by it when you are older. Of course I have no personal experience with adoption, nor do I know a lot of research, that is just my thoughts/feelings on it.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Answer: He already knows…

    You can weave a story of how he came to join your family, an origin story if you will. We went to X and … add in a funny/unexpected bit and end up at home… tell it when you think about it, special occasions, whatever seems normal, tell it when you put him down now so it’s his story. Mine was the best of the three by far…because it had a funny/unexpected bit…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, exactly, he already knows. It just seems like such a weird question because they are asking it with him in my arms, clearly it’s not a secrete!
      And yes, we share bits of his origin story, but only the bits that we are okay with sharing, clearly. 🙂


      • It’s a very common question – you’ll be asked many times…

        I was actually talking about his family story about how he came to be in your family, the one you guys share with him – not to people who ask. Mine was the stepping stone to have gaps filled in as my age / understanding grew…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I really think you are making the right decision with this. Honesty is the best policy. And like u said, you are family, it doesnt matter how it happened.
    My hubbys mom was adopted and never told him until a casual convo a few years back. She had been drinking and blurted it out. He didnt even say anything-I had to. Point of the story is, he was so hurt she never told him. He may have wanted to explore getting to know his biological grandparents (he said), etc.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for sharing – I can only imagine how much something like your husband’s experience could hurt an individual. And the last thing we would ever want to do is hurt baby MPB or cause him to feel ashamed of his start in life – clearly, he is loved by everyone in his life so keeping it a secrete just seems weird and wrong to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. That seems like a strange question to me, too. Maybe because my aunt and uncle took a similar approach starting 45 years ago when they adopted their kids. At that time, most adoptions were closed, and probably a lot of kids were NOT told they were adopted. But my cousins were, from the very beginning. It was celebrated. So, in my mind, that’s just how it’s done. Obviously, as an adult, I now realize that every family is different and has different views of how and when to tell a child about their history, but for me, being open about it from the start is sort of the default “normal” thing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I also believe that being open and honest is the best approach. Introducing the truth should probably be based on his developmental stage. Tell him just as much he can understand and as his asks questions answer them honestly with a positive perspective.
    My two cents 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, it sounds like we think in a similar way. Developmental stages will play an important role in some more detailed aspects of his story. But, he will always know how we came to be a family and we will always celebrate our family story. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can’t believe anyone would ever suggest keeping that information from a child. I can’t remember a time I found out I was adopted, I suppose because my parents always talked about it and there was no mystery. They answered our questions and talked about it when we wanted to. It’s really strange for me to think some people don’t tell their children they’re adopted. It’s especially easy to tell in transracial adoption as it’s not like we look like our parents!

    Liked by 3 people

    • I’m with you, I just cannot believe people would think we’d keep it a secrete. And to have two people think we would just made it all that more odd to me.
      Anyways, I think we plan to have the same type of approach that your parents had! 🙂
      P.S. did you get my email a few weeks ago?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, sorry I was so slow to reply! For some reason I had missed it so good you reminded me! Hope all is well with you – been off a few days as it was the bank holiday here so I’ll be catching up! X

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I think telling from the beginning that he/she is adopted is the best option, you can tell them that he/she is special and that you are very pleased that you were able to adopt him/her, and also tell them if they have a father/mother/siblings….what a child need is LOVE and feeling wanted

    Liked by 1 person

    • It sounds like we are thinking the same way! And I think you are so right when you say “what a child needs is love and feeling wanted” – our son will always know his story and how everyone involved in his life loves him and wants what’s best for him.


  8. I love your answer 🙂
    When we adopt I plan on doing the same, no secret!
    I nannies two boys for years who were adopted & there was not a time I was over they didn’t want to show me their Birth Story their mom had made them.
    It had pictures of their birth families, how they met them, etc. it was truly beautiful

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Good for you! On one hand, I have a friend who her children know that their birth dad is not their real dad and that real dad has adopted them. This has not been a secret. On the other hand, I have another friend who refuses to tell her oldest daughter (even though the daughter has questioned it several times over) that her dad adopted her from birth dad. I think the latter will make it harder for their daughter, especially since she’s already questioning. Either way, I understand that it’s ultimately up the parent but I love your approach! Open and honest.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for sharing your experiences. I’m totally about the open and honest approach, I just couldn’t imagine refusing to tell our son about his birth and his entire family – I’m always of the opinion that more people loving a child can only be a good thing.


  10. Great approach (not that you need my approval!). My Aunty adopted both her sons 35+ years ago and I remember that was her approach back then. She had stories she read to them (and us!) too. I always felt their approach was really cool. 👍😀

    Liked by 1 person

  11. We have a 5yo who was adopted and have taken the same approach. This last summer she met her birth mom again but this was really the first time she was old enough to understand the concept of “birth mom” or “adoption”.

    I was surprised at how well she responded to that side of the family and thought we were done dealing with a big milestone. But it has been a few months and reality is sinking in. I think it was harder on her than we realized. She has had some behavior issues and constantly asks “did you think about me?” “You forgot about me, didn’t you” and such when she comes home from school.

    I wish that adoption and all things surrounding adoption were so easy to deal with, but emotionally, there are going to be several hurdles to overcome through the years, regardless of when our babies find out they were adopted. Although, I really do think open adoption is far better than keeping secrets.


  12. I have experienced that kids love hearing their own stories – over and over again. So my first daughter loved to hear how it was pouring rain when she was brought from the hospital in Addis Ababa to the orphanage, and how the umbilical cord was still attached to her when she arrived. And how Sister Mariska took care of her. My younger daughter loved to hear the story about how she also came to the same Sister Mariska two years later.
    These are their stories. They are not better or worse than any other child’s. They are what they are,

    Liked by 1 person

  13. I know that people have very different reasons as to why they want to keep their child’s adoption a secret, but as someone who didn’t know that my step-father wasn’t my biological father until I was 16, keeping a huge “secret” like that is one of the cruelest things you can do to a person. It’s kind of inevitable that they find out, whether at 8 or 80! I feel like you guys are doing the coolest thing for BabyMPB. knowing who he is and pieces of where he came from will be so important as he grows up. I just met my biological father baout 7 years ago, and just in the first few exchanges, i learned so much about myself. This is so wonderful!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. This is how it will be for us too! My BIL adopted my Sister’s oldest when he was a baby and they’ve kept it a secret from him this whole time and he will be 18 on Monday. It sucks and it’s stupid and my mom and I fear his reaction when he finally founds out. Anyways, yeah… I not tally agree with you!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I agree that it should simply be part of your conversation. Parents who choose not to tell their children they are adopted, have a secret that cannot be sustained. They end up with children who think something is wrong with being adopted since it had to be kept secret. If we have biological children, they have a birth story, a story behind their naming, and a history of their relationship with their family. Adopted kids need the same things. Our children always knew they were adopted because they were older than toddlers when it happened. We all went to court together to hear the official pronouncement and we got pictures with the judge. We wrote a story for each of them and add to it every once in a while. We also write down a list of funny things they’ve said and done when they were little. At our request, their bio-mom wrote their birth stories and sent them to us. That’s not always possible, but it can be nice to have. When they reach preadolescence, they love to hear their story over and over. It gives them a sense of history and belonging.

    Liked by 1 person

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