Well, he didn’t. He never just ‘found out’.
I have always been terrified of the vision when my son turns into a young adult, packs his backs and shouts as he is walking out “I’m going to meet my ‘real family’!”
Don’t get me wrong, I will always support him in finding out about his birth family (that doesn’t mean it wont hurt me, but it’s not about me, its about him) but I wish and hope if we ever get to that point then he will be able to talk to me about it and we can do it properly and safely.
So when did he know about adoption? Well the day he came home. This may sound a bit rash but I felt it was important to start as we meant to go on. Cub came home at just over a year old. We took photos as every adoptive family does of our first meeting, first time he slept over in his cot, the first time we went out as a family (I only wish I had our milestone cards for all these firsts, but I didn’t think of this idea until much later!). A few weeks after Cub came home we had these photos put up in a large frame, along with a picture of his new pets and a photo of his foster carers. This frame was placed on the wall outside his bedroom and en-route to the bathroom. Every night after bath we would look at these pictures, talk about his foster carers, about the first time we met, our first trip out as a family. We would say how much Mummy and Daddy loved him and how long we waited to find him.
As time went on, fortunately my sister was expecting her second baby. We mentioned the bump and the baby growing inside. I talked about my tummy not working and told Cub that he grew in Janes* tummy but she wasn’t safe to look after him so he went to his foster carers to keep him safe until Mummy and Daddy were ready to come and get him.
We have kept that same tact as he has grown up. Cub now talks about my tummy not working and that he grew in Janes tummy. He has said that you need to be safe to be a Mummy and Daddy and that we keep him very safe.
I like to believe that I will be honest from the very start and answer any questions he has to the best of my knowledge, whilst also being very mindful of his age and what is appropriate.
We tend to talk about adoption when it is just him and me, whilst in the car, at bedtime or occasionally in the trolley in the supermarket! All intimate occasions when you can’t escape! Also most of the time Cub has asked a question and then I have gone from there.
Cubs life story book has always just been on his bookshelf, he went through a stage where all he wanted to do was read it before bedtime. I did end up saying that it wasn’t a great time to go through it but I didn’t stop him. Yes, this lead to an unsettled period with anxiety at night time, but I felt it was something he had to work through and as quickly as he wanted to read it he moved onto another story for bedtime and it hasn’t left the shelf since.
Whilst looking through the life story book he just flicked through, looking at pictures and wanted to know all about himself. Where he was born, how heavy he was, what the weather was like. He then briefly stopped at the picture of Birth Mum and then went straight to the picture of us when we were in court. I explained it all and told him what we did on that day.
We have lots of photos around the house and on my phone and computer and he loves watching a screen saver. We talk about the pictures and we are very fortunate to have photos of him from his time in foster care, so we talk about where he was and what was happening.
Other times we have mentioned adoption have been on the anniversaries: the day he came home, the day the big judge said we could be together forever and the week around letter box contact.
I always ask Cub if he wants to draw a picture for letter box contact. I talk to him about why we are writing and who to. I ask if he has any questions or wants to tell Jane anything. At the moment he doesn’t want to engage, but as time goes on I am sure he will have questions.
We have also used books to help talk about adoption. We started off asking our library to get some in before we bought them.
We bought The Teazles Baby Bunny by Susan Bagnall, its a very child friendly way to talk about adoption and introducing social workers for the younger children.
Another book we got from the library but at the time decided Cub was too young at the time was All About Families by Felicity Brooks & Mar Farrell
This book talks about all kinds of families which is wonderful, IVF, same sex, single parents, children living with grandparents, children with siblings or without and step parents. It really is wonderful but I would say for the over 5’s. I have just bought this one today as cub is getting older and I feel its important for him to not only understand that he is adopted but also understand and accept all types of families.
The next book is one I do need to buy and is by Rosemary Lucas, a fellow adopter. The book "Family Fairies" imaginatively refers to social workers and foster carers helps adopted children to understand the role these people play in making dreams come true by bringing families together.
There are many more books out there about talking to your child about adoption. However I have found a lot of them to be American and not appropriate to our story and circumstances.
I think the main point I’d like to make is honesty is the best policy, as long as you keep in mind the age and safety of your child.
Obviously we don’t want our children to worry about birth families and also need to keep them safe so there maybe some information that is not appropriate to tell them at the moment.
Don’t forget that post adoption support are there to support you and your child through any questions they have and how to tell talk to them about sensitive issues. Please don’t wait until you’re struggling or worrying, give them a call.
Thank you for reading, I hope its some help and I’d love to hear any tips or advice you have been given.
*Names have been changed to keep identity safe.