The baby girl we adopted is now 6 years old and lately she's been saying things like "You're not my real mom." and asking more and more about her birth family. I knew this would happen eventually and I'm not taking it personally but it does make me a little sad.
I do kind of wonder if this is about her adoption or about me being pregnant. Is there a book that specifically visits this stage of an adopted child's life?
We are friends with her birth family and visit them sometimes though they don't live locally. My DD thinks of them as family friends but does not know they are her biological family. We had planned to tell our mutual friends about the adoption connection when DD was born but the social worker insisted that we don't. She though DD should tell her own story and that people might judge the birth family harshly for giving up a child. DD will happily tell anybody anything. She is so outgoing! I don't think I can get her to understand at this age the difference between secrecy and privacy.
Does it have to be a secret?
From the outside, it looks to me that you could be setting yourself up for a pretty awful situation here. She knows the birthfamily, but doesn't know they're hers? That seems like a situation built on bad advice from that social worker. I know there are exceptions to every rule, but I thought the "grow up knowing your story" was pretty universal at least. Adding in the graphic and harsh adult details is something you do over time, but withholding the basic information of who they ARE seems like a mistake. Think of how betrayed she could feel when this comes to light...and the older she is when it happens, the more charged that could become. At her age, you are most definitely keeping her in the dark about something (I'm guessing?) she should know.
As for her outgoing nature and keeping things private...I think the whole idea is that if she doesn't mind sharing, she should be able to share. If there is something really awful...like a rape or abuse...that can be carefully described by you in age-appropriate language ("adult mistakes" or "adult problems" or "bad decisions"), but everything else is HER information and she has a right to share it if she wants to. If her personality tends toward openness, then it's hardly fair to keep her in the dark so that her birth family or your family doesn't have to deal with something awkward. Deal with it now, when she is so open and willing. Much better, I'd guess, than waiting a year or two when children have so much more social awareness and start to assign shame, or secrecy, or any of the other pre-teen emotions. Your willingness to be open, to bring it out into the open, could serve as a model for her on how she views her own origins and her links to both families. By keeping it secret much longer, I'd worry that she'd pick up on your hesitations and worries and internalize that in some way ("is there something wrong with my adoption? with my family? with me?")
My ds is 6 (my dd, who is adopted, is 4.5), so I think I have some grasp of the ages you're talking about. I think ds would be more than ready to understand a weighty story about his background. I also think 6 is a pretty challenging age overall... ds is obviously going through some sort of sassy, impulsive stage where he can fly off the handle for reasons I'm not even sure he knows (we're finding there are triggers like tiredness or hunger)...I hear a lot of strange, dramatic things ("you're a horrible mom and I wish I had a different one!" for example) come out of his mouth. When he's upset and unhinged, he'll say just about anything. Tricky age...the friends I've talked to have said their kids all experienced it right around 6, and that it's something a lot of kids go through before a big cognitive leap at about 7. Not sure if that's part of what you're experiencing with your dd?
Books wise, the only book I have that deals with a young elementary child feeling upset or conflicted is "We adopted you, Benjamin Koo." I think he's in first or second grade when he starts to realize he and his family aren't typical, and (if memory serves) it talks briefly about him having a tough year, being angry with his parents, and reaching out to a social worker at school. All of that is just a few pages, though. It's a good book--based on the real experiences of a little boy and partially (?) written by him, too. There's Horace, too...about a kid who feels he doesn't fit with his family and decides to run away. Sounds not great, but it's actually a wonderful book.
I hope none of this sounds too harsh. Truly, I don't know your family's particulars, or why the social worker gave such strongly-worded advice. There are exceptions to every rule. It just seems to me that bringing this out in the open is going to get more, not less, difficult with time. Not just for your family, or her birth family, but especially for your daughter. If the birth family is going to get judged for giving up a child, they're going to get judged. It's not your daughter's fault, and she shouldn't grow up in the dark in order to spare the feelings of her birth family. From the outside, that looks as if you're sacrificing your daughter's well being (in terms of her having a healthy, full understanding of herself) in order to make things easier for adults. I suspect that it will be better in the long run to look out first for your daughter's needs, then let the adults involved adapt to whatever difficulties and fall out the openness creates.
Given that you're pregnant, maybe your daughter just needs reassurance that you consider her your "real daughter." The next time she says you're not her really mom, reassure her. "Well, you're my real daughter."
I'm not sure what the secrecy thing is about. It's your daughter's family. Tell her. If she tells everyone, oh well. I've heard kids should hear the entire adoption story by the time they're 8. If you wait until after that it just becomes big drama.
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The birth family's life is stable (happily married parents and several sibs) and their lot has improved since DD was born. I think this could possibly make them look worse. I always feel very protective of them and try to respect their feelings. I'm always a little surprised that people are surprised that I care.
I had been thinking that 7 would be the time to tell her about this because, having worked with kids, they do seem to get better at grasping more abstract concepts.
I brought this up in another parenting forum and all the parents of 6 year olds told me their kid is doing the same thing. LOL. I'm not so worried about that part now.
Also- as an adoptee whose parents got pregnant after my arrival- please watch for people saying some strange things to your dd.
How wonderful your parents got to have a real child!!!
I could go on and on about the ridiculous things that were said to me by uneducated family friends etc.
They may already be saying them to her which is why she is acting out.
Oh- and please quit keeping secrets. there is nothing to be ashamed of. If there is... well really???? Deal with that first but don't keep secrets- its really not a nice thing to do and adoptees do not like being lied to about things like this. At all. She is asking- now is the time to tell- if you don't you are lying to her. You are not protecting her by doing this or anyone else. She should be the number one priority.
In all honesty I can't believe you did not tell her when she was ya know- 2. Lying is so outdated- please stop.
She has always known she was adopted. That has never been an issue. My daughter knows some basic information about her adoptive family but not their names. I feel this falls under privacy not secrecy. (secrecy = soap opera crap, x is sleep with y, etc. privacy = medical information, personal anatomy, pin numbers)
I have read a great deal of information about adoption but have not really come across this situation. I firmly believe in telling your own story but I don't think I would like a child to tell mine. They just aren't going to get the details right. There are people who know both the birth family and my family. The names my child would reveal would have meaning.
Many people have told me what they think of parents who give their child up for adoption. I've been appalled at some of the guesses. Maybe putting a face to a story would make it less mysterious but I don't feel like that's my job. If the birth family wanted to tell I'd be all for it.
This is a very very unique situation and in my opinion does call for some thinking through. Make sure everyone is being respectful to the actual situation and not paint things with a broad stroke in terms of 'all adoptions' or 'all adoptees' should think or go a certain way. Thanks for your understanding!!
I know exactly what you were talking about. I did not misread it as you suggested in your private message. As an adoptee I am telling you how I would feel as a small child if my parents did what you are doing. No reason would be good enough for me for keeping that information secret. You can dismiss my comments if you want to but I feel very strongly that you should rethink your strategy.
I know you are in a tough spot of trying to protect her birth family- but in all honesty what you are doing is hurting your daughter, yourself and your relationship with your child now and in the future. I mean at what cost are you willing to protect this other family? I, of course know nothing other than what you posted here- but I do know quite a bit about being an adopted person... I have been one all my life and I communicate with many on a regular basis.
Your daughter is seeking for a treasure- to know who her birth family is- you know where the treasure is- and you are not telling her.
You can avoid her wondering forever about this which is quite traumatic-
would you not want to avoid your daughter going thru that if you could- and you can.????
>?>? I am not trying to be argumentative only helpful giving you the viewpoint of an adoptee. Please don't think I am attacking you I am not- I am trying to stand up for your child. If my parents had knowledge like you do and were hiding it from me- I surely would hope someone would have spoken up for me.