This is by far, the question I hear most often when working with families hoping to adopt an infant. My answer is always the same: “The day you bring your child home.”
Granted, this answer may be a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I’m completely serious.
Children should never remember being “told” that they are adopted. The “telling” should not be an event, but a process. Let’s face it, nothing good ever comes after, “Son, sit down. Your mother and I have something to tell you.” So why would we want a conversation about how a child entered a family to begin that way. The other problem with the “event” method of telling is that every single thing you’ve told your child up until that point becomes a lie…or at least suspect. What have you told her about bringing her home from the hospital? What about that family tree he had to do in 2nd grade? And where did she get that red hair anyway?
Let’s face it…the ENTIRE rest of the family knows your adoption story. Your brother doesn’t think that you just popped out a week old baby one day, does he? So, EVERYONE knows your child’s story, except your child. And can you just imagine Great Uncle Archie spilling the beans after too much Christmas cheer one year?
Instead, your child’s story should be a part of history that he never actually remembers learning about…it just IS.
When people bring children into their family through birth, they never remember being told that they were born; they just know it. The same should be true for children who enter into their families through adoption. Just as children by birth have grown up hearing stories about what their mom craved while she was pregnant, how long she was in labor, who they look like, etc., our children need to have that same kind of history and family lore. The fact that it’s “different” is just that….different…not better, not worse and certainly not something to hide. Each birth child’s story is different, and each adopted child’s story is different.
So…as you’re cuddling with your child, during bedtime prayers, during story time or any other time that you’re marveling at how much you love this little person and how lucky you are to be her mom or dad, share part of their story. “I’ll never forget the day Susie Social Worker called and told us about you. That was the happiest day of my life!” “This is the first picture I ever saw of you. I looked at your little wrinkled nose and told your dad you looked just like him!” See, just different, but still beautiful…and EASY.
So…when do you tell??? NOW!