We have brought up adoption with our son since he was born. Of course, we knew he wasn’t really going to understand what that meant at such a young age. However, we didn’t want it to be some big secret, and he would find out about it at some magic age down the road. So, we made it part of our vocabulary. In fact, we talk about it regularly, and when he is ready to talk more, we will be open to it. Some children will want to talk about it and some will not.
He just turned four, and we have a very open relationship with his birth mother and her family. We have spent holidays, vacations, and weekends with her and her family. He knows her by name. We have told him that he grew in her belly because mom can’t grow babies in her belly. Does he really understand what that means? Thanks to the movie “Boss Baby,” he thinks babies come from a factory! Oh, this is going to be a fun conversation to have with him!
When will he actually start to understand what it means to be adopted? I think it is the old question. I also think it is going to be different for every child. Some children grasp concepts quicker than others. Some are more mature than others, or more curious than others. I first think he will actually have to understand where babies come from, the correct way. Until he completely understands that, he is not going to understand what adoption means.
In a recent conversation with our son, he was looking at a picture of an African American family and asked, “Why are they black?” As we were explaining to him that they are African Americans and God made them with darker skin, he looked at his skin and said, “I have brown skin.” Yes, he has brown skin. Yes, he is biracial. It is the first time he has even noticed that his skin is not the same as everyone else around him. I think as the curiosity continues, he will start to ask more questions about being adopted. If not, that is okay.
I think for most children, age four is when they start to recognize that not all people look the same. It is probably because this is when most start school. They also start to have a “social circle.” Some friends around them that they can see do not look like one another. It is also when children start to ask more questions and yearn for learning. What a great opportunity to talk to your child about the adoption story.
Just as every child is unique, so is their adoption. Some are stories from birth. Some are stories from another country. Some are from foster care. Let your child start the dialog. Let the child initiate the conversation about the adoption; it is their life after all.
At what age did your child start to grasp that they were adopted?
Jessica Heesch is an avid runner and fitness guru by choice, occasional writer by coincidence, loved by an amazing husband, and mother to an incredible boy, Jackson, by the gift of adoption.